Updated: Jun 22
In August 2020, I began requiring completion of the Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Foundations Course as part of the criteria for purchasing pups from me. Since then, many people have completed this course, including people all over the US that will purchase pups from a different breeder but would like to be well prepared to train their puppies. Current owners of LGDs have completed the course as well in an effort to better understand their dogs.
The course is written with the companion dog owner in mind; the science in the course can be broadly applied but some of the training activities in the course need to be modified a bit to accommodate what is true for how LGDs learn, particularly with regard to what motivates them and how long their training attention span is in comparison to what is true for companion dogs. So, I wrote the training manual you see the cover for above.
This training manual is almost 60 pages long and covers, step by step, what is true for LGDs throughout the course. There is also additional LGD information, including links to about thirty of my blogs as they are relevant to what the course is covering at that point. The cover above is designed for the manual as it will be printed through Amazon, in the next month or two. Right now the manual is available through me (just e-mail me please) for $30.
The first blurb on the back of the manual was written by Terah Steffens. She is our most recent prospective puppy buyer to visit the ranch, and she is new to the Foundations course. I asked her to give me her thoughts on where she is in the process. She responded with the text below. Thank you Terah!!!!
"How else could I explain my experience with climbing into the world of livestock guardian dogs than to start at the beginning. My husband and I raise our own meat animals and have been doing so for the past 9 years. We do this for the connection and the quality of the food we produce.
This past year we have been faced with horrible predator issues. Mainly coyotes, a lot of them. When I say a lot I mean enough to impress a trapper, enough to take down lambs, enough to dig down in the dirt to get to 26 layers and not leave more than a handful of feathers. The amount of animals we were losing made my heart sink and my stomach turn. Enough was enough. We could electric fence the whole property, set out traps, reset traps, check the electric fence, reset more traps, did we check the fence?! We could drive ourselves insane and tired trying to keep up with the predators that now had a great idea where dinner was waiting.
We were trying to wrap our minds around how we could continue our lifestyle without losing animals. And then my husband said “What do you think about livestock guardian dogs?” What did I think? I had no clue about any of it. What I did know was they were the answer to our problem. And so my research began. I just thought I was going to get online, buy a dog, stick it out in the pasture, and be done. Boy was I wrong! Little did I know I was about to dive into this beautiful world of partnership with these big, beautiful, white dogs.
There I was online and I come across Benson Ranch. I didn’t know where to begin so I emailed Cindy, the owner. I told her I needed help.
There are those that just want to buy a dog and put it out in their pasture and then there are those that understand there’s more to it and buy from Benson Ranch.
I remember the first conversation I had with Cindy. She told me she may not even have dogs for me this year. That I may need to wait. But…my problem was now. At that moment I realized this wasn’t a “put a band aid on a gash” temporary fix. This, this becoming a partner and owner of LGDs, was a lifelong adventure.
Good things take time. Good, solid relationships and partnerships take time and effort.
Cindy wanted me to fill out a series of “What if” scenarios. I was intrigued and curious. After the “what ifs” came a questionnaire. Never have I had to fill out a questionnaire so detailed for a dog before. My curiosity grew. This ranch actually cared for the well being of their animals, the success of their animals, and the success of the trainer/buyer. It wasn’t about if I could write a check for the right amount. I understood I was working with an incredible place.
It didn’t surprise me that I was asked to sign up for and complete a foundations training course. Digging into that course shifted something inside of me. I was becoming aware of a better way to communicate with my companion dog, my husband, my children, and friends. The KPA focuses on positive reinforcement which is really the only thing we are all asking from each other: to love and be loved. This could sound like a lot of fluff but this is the way to go if you’re looking for a loyal guardian dog. The KPA Foundations Training Course teaches you the language that Cindy and Kathy are teaching these LGD’s…starting at 3 weeks, mind you!
It didn’t surprise me that I was asked to visit the ranch. I can’t get out of my head the image of their long driveway, beautiful fence, and my first sight of one of their Maremmas. I get goosebumps just thinking of it. My feet touched ground and they didn’t rest for hours. I was on the grand tour and the highlights were the dogs. With each new introduction I felt as though I was in the presence of these knowledgeable creature. The dogs could tell me more about their property than any internet research would lead me to.
It doesn’t surprise me that there is a list of things for me to do to become a better person before I can bring home dogs from Benson Ranch. As silly as it may sound I believe these dogs to be magical, touched by the magical hands of Cindy and Kathy.
The Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Foundations Course is essential! I wish I had known about it prior to bringing home our companion dog 6 years ago. I am thankful Cindy has made it a requirement in the process of purchasing from Benson Ranch. It has changed me as a trainer, teacher, mother, wife, and friend. The course has shown me how important positive reinforcement is and how well it works. This is a life course.
Reflecting back on my visit to Benson Ranch, I am so glad I had a few lessons from the KPA course digested. I was able to see the training in process, notice the signs, read the body language of the dogs, understand why things were done the way they were. I was able to step into this wonderful world of partnership with these incredible guardian dogs! I was able to approach the dogs with confidence, take part in their training routine, and realize how important a strong training foundation is for them as well as for myself.
Without the KPA course I would be lost in this new world of LGDs. Thank you, Cindy, for introducing me to the course and to this beautiful LGD world you have created!"
To enroll in the course, or just learn more about it, please go to the ljnk below: