We’ve reached the middle of June in this most unusual of years. Remember January? It seems like it was a decade ago. The crispness of those short winter days is far, far behind us. The heat of the North Carolina sun is now beginning to feel ever warmer on our skins. The days are longer. Cornfields are growing taller. The increasing need for water, or any other refreshing beverage for that matter, is becoming greater. There’s something about the summer that brings us all together (as much as you can be brought together in this socially-distanced world we currently live in).
Of course, mid-June also marks a very important time of the year here at the School for Dog Trainers – it signals the graduation for a class of Master Dog Trainer students.
This week, Class 53 becomes the latest group to graduate from our Master Dog Trainer program. This challenging six-month course puts students to the ultimate dog training test. It offers them hands-on experience of working with dogs of all breeds, sizes and temperaments, in addition to providing them with the understanding and theory they require to become well-rounded dog trainers after completing the course.
This semester, students – and instructors – have faced additional challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic led to several procedural changes at the School, with classroom lectures and practical demonstrations giving way to Zoom sessions. These unique challenges have truly made Class 53 one to remember.
As graduation approaches, we’ll take a look at the thoughts of some students as they prepare to finish their studies at the School for Dog Trainers.
Students from all walks of life
As we often see at the School for Dog Trainers, Class 53 comprises a group of people with different backstories, arriving from across the country and beyond. Every student has their own reasons for enrolling in the Master Dog Trainer program and their own ambitions to fulfill after completing the course.
There is truly no barrier when it comes to entering the world of dog training – but to be successful, you do need an open mind, a willingness to learn, and an enthusiasm for working with man’s best friend. This class saw students both young and old, all with a variety of experience of working with dogs. Some students left behind their previous career to embark on a new one; Amee, a student in Class 53, left her corporate job after almost two decades to pursue her passion of working with dogs and their owners.
We also welcomed several veterans who embarked on studies at the School for Dog Trainers. As student Dennis explains, “the school is veteran friendly and works with veterans on GI Bill and other VA programs that help veterans fund their education.”
This diverse mixture of students formed the basis for six months of studies, learning about every aspect of dog training.
A comprehensive curriculum
The Master Dog Trainer program is a challenging six month course which covers all facets of canine theory and hands-on dog training. The program not only provides students with the skills to train dogs professionally; it also offers business and marketing knowledge to help them succeed in their dog training career after graduation.
The training curriculum for the Master Dog Trainer program includes all of the material from the following programs:
- Canine Training & Behavior Modification Professionals Program
- Police K9 Instructor Program
- Search and Rescue Dog Trainer Program
- Service Dog Trainer Program
Students are graded on their classroom work and performance in their practical assessments. Learn more about the curriculum for the Master Dog Trainer program here.
Class 53’s comments on the School for Dog Trainers
Which parts of the course did students enjoy the most?
“I was most excited for scent work. I find it very interesting that dogs can use their nose to find drugs, explosives, and people, and that people have individual scents that dogs can smell out.”
Seth, Class 53 student
“I enjoyed the amount of hands on experience I gained working with future Police K9s.”
Kim, Class 53 student
“I looked forward to the working dog part of the course because I think the work the dogs do is amazing. Ever since the beginning of class when we had the working dog demos, I was hooked.”
Dana, Class 53 student
“I love the school. Every day I wake up and I’m excited to see what we will be doing and what we will be learning.”
Justin, Class 53 student
Which aspects of dog training did students find most valuable to learn about?
“Now, I have a more balanced training method and I know why we train the way that we do. I better understand how a dog thinks, so I can train better. I have learned to read a dog. I thought I knew that, but boy was I wrong!”
Mike, Class 53 student
“Having hands-on experience during training will help you later when it’s time to execute for real. Having different dogs of different breeds, ages and sizes keeps you from being complacent with just one learning one way.”
Maurice, Class 53 student
“I truly love the service dog aspect and now, having some truly amazing skills and knowledge under my belt, I feel I can actually utilize all of my dog training skills to reach far beyond my dreams.”
Krista, Class 53 student
“Prior to coming here, I did not know anything about training tools, such as a prong collar, e-collar or even a clicker. It has been amazing to see how, when used correctly, efficient they are when training dogs.”
Ben, Class 53 student
“Every day I learn so many new things and how to apply them to life at home with my own dogs.”
Amee, Class 53 student
What did students think of the instructors at the School for Dog Trainers?
“I have learned so much from every single one of the instructors here. It is the amazing wealth of knowledge they offer.”
Gabe, Class 53 student
“The instructors are truly approachable and accessible and masters of their craft.”
Joe, Class 53 student
“The instructors, trainers, and staff at Highland have years of experience, the knowledge of dogs, the passion and dedication that sets the tone for the students to adequately apply general rules and successful approximations.”
Wendy, Class 53 student
“Everyone is approachable and always willing to break down difficult tasks to make them more understandable and easy to teach. Our class is turning into a family!”
Becca, Class 53 student
What are students' overall impressions of the course?
“I have learned a lot of fine details of dog training that I did not expect to. I came into the program with an open mind of just wanting to learn more to further my career goals, but with no specific expectations in mind. I never thought I would have learned the things I have.”
Tina, Class 53 student
“As with most Veterans the transition out of the military was a difficult one for me. Dog training has allowed me to find a passion again and continue to be motivated with attainable goals.”
Ben, Class 53 student
“This school has really exceeded all of my expectations. It has taught me so much. I’m always excited to see what we are doing next.”
Lori, Class 53 student
“For those of you considering dog training in the future, I highly recommend Highland Canine Training, LLC, School for Dog Trainers. You will gain the knowledge you need to succeed from the very best trainers in the country.”
Magdalena, Class 53 student
“Coming here, I was a bit nervous because I had known everyone was going to be older than me. Although, I was able to take a breath when I realized people were so easy to connect with because they shared the same passion as me. Here, the trainers treat you as equal and are ready to jump in and help you the second you ask for help.”
Meadow, Class 53 student
“I have learned so much more than what I thought was in store for me when I first started classes. I learned far beyond what was in the curriculum; teamwork, communication skills, and overall patience with both people and dogs. I believe everything that I have experienced and learned that Highland is going to facilitate me reaching my goals as a dog trainer and business owner.”
Jamie, Class 53 student
Adapting to the reality of a global pandemic
Despite COVID-19 requiring changes to the usual methods of delivering lectures, the leadership team at the School has been extremely impressed with the performance and attitude of Class 53.
“From the beginning, it was the goal of Class 53 to set the bar high – but not in the cutthroat, ‘only the elite survive’ type of way,” says Lead Instructor, Greg Vaughn. “Instead, I saw true camaraderie, strong class leadership, and an undefeatable sense of humor. Despite personal hardships, a literal global pandemic, and the occasional uncooperative poodle, I watched Class 53 evolve, improve, and grow closer with each passing obstacle.
Although we are nearing the end, I know that the friendships made during these short six months will last well into the future. I have no doubt that the members of this class are going to be successful dog trainers based on what I have seen here.”
The effect of the global pandemic wasn’t limited to students. The School staff had to introduce new ways of delivering the program’s comprehensive curriculum, utilizing video-conferencing platforms like Zoom.
“This has been a truly unique semester for all of us,” says Jason Purgason, President of Highland Canine Training, LLC. “Nobody could have foreseen the impact of a global pandemic on our day-to-day activities here at the School. I am proud of the way our teaching staff responded to the challenge, demonstrating leadership by delivering our curriculum against the backdrop of these unusual circumstances.
There’s no doubt that our student body has risen to the occasion, too. Their passion and enthusiasm – as well as their skill and talent – will take them far in this industry.”
If you follow School for Dog Trainers on Facebook, you’ll see we showcase one student each week in our Student of the Week feature.
Usually, our students provide us with points of information regarding their backstory, motivation and reasons for enrolling in the Master Dog Trainer program. This enables us to publish the feature. However, as graduation approached, Kim Cain decided to turn the feature on its head – and talk about the story of her past six months at the place she affectionately refers to as #mydisneyland.
“I am bypassing this opportunity to talk about me, my past and how I got to this school. I think it is more valuable to share about these past six months.
It is really hard to put into words what I think about the School and training I have received. On social media I refer to the school as #mydisneyland. Why? Because Disneyland is the “happiest place on earth!” Disneyland is full of fun rides, adventures, and characters! Disneyland may have Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Pluto, but we have Tosca, Gator, Kipper, Mav, Thelma and Kody. Disneyland has rides and arcades but we’ve had Service Dog adventures, Working Dog adventures, crazy practical exam adventures, and for us there has been the COVID-19 adventure.
Throughout all the adventures, class 53 has held strong. The students are of diverse backgrounds, ages, sizes, and locations, but we are bonded in our passion to work with dogs and we enjoy seeing all of our fellow students succeed. This class worked together to create a complete learning environment. We shared wins and challenges. We helped each through practical exams, fears, and the difficulties of school via zoom. Whether it is through training service dogs or police dogs, class 53 is a group of passionate people that want to help others via canines. I am thankful to be part of this class… I have made friendships that will last a lifetime.
While the students have played a tremendous role in #mydisneyland experience, so have the instructors. They all love what they are teaching and it shows. Their passion is contagious and their humility is endearing. They encouraged us through our challenges by sharing their “lessons learned.” Each of us experienced training tasks that came easy, and tasks that were challenging. The instructors didn’t judge- they approached us with compassion and encouragement. They were always behind us, pushing us beyond our comfort zones, and helping us grow in knowledge and confidence. This group of instructors are a united family. They work together, they support each other as well as the students. This type of cohesiveness starts at the top of the leadership chain. It has been an incredible learning environment even through the challenges of COVID-19.
It is crazy that we graduate next week. Thank-you Class 53 students for making this last six months so incredible. I am confident each of you have both the tools and the opportunity to begin successful careers. Thank-you Highland Canine; I will move forward with knowledge, confidence and passion. I will miss #mydisneyland, however, it will now evolve into #myclevercain9.”
We could think of no better way to finish that article than to reflect on Kim’s words above. We wish all the students of Class 53 a wonderful graduation and all the best for their future in the dog training industry!