Friday 15 November

7.40am – 8.15am

Working with Children and Dogs – Robert Fairhead

Learning Objectives:

  1. How to talk to children about dogs
  2. How to empower children around dogs
  3. How to keep children and dogs safe from each other

Talk Outline:

In 2006, I gave a talk to children at my son’s childcare centre about dogs. I divided it into three parts:

  1. How to approach a dog
  2. How to look after a dog
  3. Dog training and tricks

I showed the children photos of happy, fearful and angry dogs and explained they must ask permission from their carer and the dog’s owner before approaching a dog. I used my well-trained seven-year-old lab, Harry, as the demo dog for the talk. Unsurprisingly, the training and tricks part proved most popular — followed by patting Harry afterwards, the children remembering to ask permission.

The next year, Harry and I revisited the childcare centre. Having learned of the NSW Government funded Safe Pets Out There (SPOT) program, I modified my talk to include “asking” permission of the dog. And I took a toy dog to act out body language scenarios from the excellent book, “Can I pat that dog?” by Susan McLaine, Karen Damiani and Margaret Power (Angus and Robertson 2004).

The talk proved so popular that after my son started school, I ran it for several years as a school-holidays activity for Sydney’s Centennial Park.
Again, the tricks were the most popular part of the talk, especially a flag race between Harry and my son (who never lost!) — and patting Harry afterwards. Of course, I closely monitored the interaction and patting. Harry was a settled, mature dog, and well-used to boisterous children. He seemed most comfortable sprawled on his mat, accepting tummy pats from the children and treats from me.
I also realised the children, some of whom were afraid of dogs, felt more comfortable with Harry down on his mat and not up in their faces. And showing the children how to command Harry to go Down with voice and hand signals seemed to empower them to be less scared.

Harry passed away in 2011. By then, we had “retired” from school-holidays activities. And it’s not something I’ve taken up with my current lab, Jet, who I adopted as a two-and-half-year-old reactive dog in 2013.

But, I still use the lessons from my “Can I pat that dog?” talks when introducing children to Jet, particularly the Down command. (Sometimes I need to reinforce it with a secret hand signal behind the child’s back.) And I have kept in contact with the director of my son’s old childcare centre. She tells me they still use the copy of “Can I pat that dog?” I gifted them after my visit to talk to children about the safe way to approach dogs.

Fear Free Pets – Laura Ryder

Fear Free provides online education to veterinary professionals, the pet professional community, and pet owners. Our programs provide professionals and pet lovers with the knowledge and tools to not only look after a pet’s physical wellbeing but their emotional wellbeing, as well.

Veterinary Professionals Course

Visits to hospitals are declining—stress and anxiety associated with taking a pet to the veterinarian is a significant reason why. Fear leads to trauma for our patients, and as a result, pet owners visit their veterinarian less often or not at all, instead opting to seek advice and products from other sources. Fortunately, there is a solution that can resolve this downward trend – Fear Free veterinary visits.

Animal Trainers Course

Veterinary Professionals and Trainers have the opportunity to team up to achieve their goals, and help relieve dogs fear, anxiety and stress that often accompany visits to the vet or during health care at home.

Groomers Course

Going to the groomer is similar to going to the vet – dogs are usually up on a table, sensitive body parts are being handled, in a facility filled with sounds and scents. With their own Fear Free course, groomers are empowered to greatly reduce pets’ stress when in their care.

Shelter Workers and Volunteers Course – NEW COURSE AND IT IS FREE!

Empowering Shelter Workers to apply key strategies and techniques to reduce negative emotional states that are commonly experienced by shelter animals – including FAS and frustration – and increase their enrichment opportunities.

Fear Free Happy Homes

Website dedicated to educating pet owners – it is jam packed with resources and is FREE!

As a member of the Fear Free Speakers Bureau, I have the opportunity, when presenting, to offer a 20% discount to pet industry professionals on the Fear Free courses.

The Positive Paws Project: an early enrichment and development program for puppies,
in partnership with local schools – Brenda Calkin

Learning Objectives:

  • Basics of how to set up a puppy enrichment program in a kennel environment utilising enthusiastic High School students.
  • To showcase the benefits to our puppies of early positive socialisation through age appropriate activities and handling to create more robust puppies ready to start their learning journey with their volunteer Puppy Raising families at 8 weeks old
  • To demonstrate how the Positive Paws Project is a mutually beneficial experience for the students and pups involved, providing the opportunity for the students to gain confidence, put theoretical learnings into practice & experience the workplace; and in some instances gain invaluable vocational experience to help guide further study choices.

Talk Outline: Guide Dogs NSW/ACT started a program in May 2017 in partnership with local schools to provide socialisation & enrichment to puppies in a kennel environment.

The program aligns with a range of educational and curriculum outcomes for the children participating and provides positive socialisation to new experiences to our puppies at a very important time in their lives.

The presentation offers insight into the program activities, shares detail of the associated lesson plans and discusses the perceived benefits to puppies and volunteer puppy raisers. Also discussed are the numerous benefits and surprising outcomes for the schools and individual children participating in the program.

12.40pm – 12.55pm

Effective Communication: reassessing how we teach and reinforce our clients – Petra Edwards

As positive reinforcement dog trainers, we are very good at identifying the target behaviour, breaking things down, delivering high rates of reinforcement and identifying which reinforcers are most valuable and effective in which contexts. We tend to be patient, compassionate and understanding with the animals we work with, but there is always room to improve our communication skills and re-evaluate their effectiveness with our clients and colleagues. Providing constructive feedback that is targeted in its purpose of reinforcing behaviour change can make a big difference to how successful we are as trainers. We know it’s not about training the dogs, but teaching people new, and sometimes complex, mechanical skills and knowledge to change their dog’s behaviour. This APDT short offers a friendly reminder of TAGTeach principles as quick and easy concepts to adopt in a class format, and explores the importance of clear and constructive feedback (positive or otherwise) in working with clients and setting them and ourselves up for success.

Learning objectives – attendees will be able to:

  • Identify language that can provide more constructive feedback
  • Use TAGTeach principles (e.g. focus funnel and focus points) to effectively communicate and prioritise behaviour change with clients or colleagues
  • Identify appropriate reinforcers for clients
  • Evaluate the success of communication using future behaviour

Saturday 16 November

7.40am – 8.15am

Networking Opportunities with Breeders – Sarah Forge

Learning Objectives:

  • How to find breeders
  • How to gain trust and find a common ground
  • Find your authoritative voice
  • How to inform and educate
  • Get collaborative and business opportunity ideas

Talk Outline:
How many times have you heard people complain about breeders giving bad advice? Usually comments about “breedists” (who think their breed need to be handled a special way) are met with eye rolls and push back from trainers that all dogs learn the same, so it doesn’t matter, and that breeders, or the dogs guardians are ill-informed. That may be the case, but as we know, labelling people and telling them they’re wrong doesn’t encourage behaviour change. It also doesn’t lead to collaborative opportunities or more business. And it doesn’t help more dogs.
I’d like to share with you my own journey into networking with breeders and the opportunities this has given me, and the other organisations I’m involved with to create a positive change.

Canine Behavioural School – a force-free training model for the future – Kate Denman

Learning objectives

At the conclusion of this activity, participants will be able to:

  • Identify how CBS recruits, manages, and reinforces volunteers and maintains commitment/enthusiasm.
  • Recognise how our internal education program provides a pathway to international certification.
  • Define how CBS’s continuous improvement process provides a professional model that can be applied to other schools.
  • Describe how CBS’s curriculum provides much more relevant learning to pet dogs and their guardians than traditional ‘obedience’ training.

Brief outline of the presentation 

Canine Behavioural School is unique in South Australia.  Staffed entirely by volunteers, it provides affordable, force-free training to nearly 120 dogs and their guardians every Monday night throughout the school term (i.e. four times a year).  In addition, the school is very much focused on being a teaching school for dog trainers, developing the skills and knowledge of all its volunteers through the internationally-recognised Aspiring Instructors Program and continuing education.

This talk will provide a brief overview of the school, with the focus on:

  • Expansion of the school from its origins to where it is now, offering 14 classes per night on Monday nights for four school terms per year.
  • Volunteer demographics (approximately 30 volunteers) – managing volunteers, and maintaining volunteer commitment and enthusiasm over a range of roles.
  • Professionalisation of the school (constitution, polices/procedures, force-free pledge, kindness charter, industry lobbying).
  • The Aspiring Instructors Program (supported, structured learning with the chance to earn the PPAB CTT-A), mentoring, workshops and continuing education subsidy.
  • CBS syllabus (four training levels focusing on building better relationships, advocating for our pet dogs, real-life skills like cooperative care as well as basic manners), our Train at Home Guide (manual) and the Pet Dog Ambassador Program.

It is hoped this model could be more broadly rolled out across Australia (perhaps with the support of APDT Australia and/or PPGA) in order to provide affordable force-free training as an alternative to traditional ‘obedience’ training, which is outdated and unhelpful, but unfortunately cheap and widespread in South Australia.

Developing pet friendly veterinary practice: what do we know? – Petra Edwards

Dogs fearful of their vets can pose a risk of injury to the veterinary staff, can make accurate diagnoses difficult and may influence how often guardians take their dogs to the vet. This APDT Short explores what the research tells us about how dogs experience their veterinary visits. This includes how big the problem is and the risk factors that might help predict fear at the vet from Petra’s current research (Edwards et al. 2019), and also a summary of what we know about where the problem occurs in the clinic, and the evidence around strategies that can help.

Learning objectives – attendees will be able to:

  • Describe the prevalence of fear of the vet in dogs
  • Understand the role the risk factors identified play in contributing to fear at the vet
  • List several aspects of the dog’s veterinary experience that might increase and/or decrease the likelihood of a fear response during a consult

12.40pm – 12.55pm

Responding to Stress: Beyond Flight, Flight and Freeze – Justin Palazzo-Orr

Learning Objectives 

For the benefit of ones-self and others to:

  • Develop a greater understanding of common responses to stress;
  • Differentiate between more and less helpful responses to stress;
  • Identify common response to stress in ones-self and other humans and non-human animals;
  • Reduce adverse effects of stress on health and well-being for ones-self and other humans and non-human animals; and
  • Develop strategies to promote positive responses to stress for ones-self and other humans and non-human animals.

Fear and stress are normal and healthy processes that helps us survive. However, the same reactions which can help us in life-or-death situations can cause problems in our day-to-day life. You’ve probably heard of Fight, Flight, and Freeze. But what about Fidget, Flirt, Fantasy, Focus, Fixate, and Flow? Developed over years of working as an actor, fight director, animal trainer and organisational development manager this presentation will give you a new perspective of how you, your clients, and your animals respond to stress.

Sunday 17 November

7.40am – 8.15am

Reactivity Training : How to make it work – Kaye Hargreaves

We are facing an apparent epidemic of “reactivity”, with anxious and over-aroused dogs being unmanageable in many ordinary social situations. Despite the increased knowledge and skill amongst trainers over recent years, reactivity training is disappointing in that it takes a long time and has limited effectiveness. I have identified essential keys to success, along with the problems which undermine training efforts, lead to setbacks and result in limited effectiveness.

I have developed a Comprehensive Reactivity Training Program, which includes:

  • Pre-requisites and Foundation skills
  • Individual work with decoy dogs
  • An intensive course of controlled exposures, and
  • A follow up course in which we make the transition to the challenges of the real world.

The six Keys to Success are:

  1. To train using deliberate controlled set-ups
  2. To get the science right
  3. To identify and understand triggers
  4. To understand and recognize thresholds
  5. To bring about the most effective level of attentiveness and eye contact in the dog
  6. To avoid set backs – accidental encounters which undo your training efforts

Most importantly of all, in order to accomplish this, trainers and instructors must achieve a very high level of competence in using science-based training concepts, along with detailed and nuanced observational skills and ability to adjust their training in accordance with the body language and communication of the dogs in training, from moment to moment.

Learning objectives

  1. To understand the importance of levels of arousal and relaxation of the dogs in Reactivity Training.
  2. To understand the importance of antecedents – in particular, providing a controlled training environment in which appropriate exposures to triggers can be set up.
  3. To understand the difference between the three types of threshold and how each one is used in Reactivity Training.
  4. To understand the role of the instructor in increasing the observational skills, timing and mechanical skills of handlers, together with the competence needed to accomplish this.
  5. To understand the relationship between changing the dog’s underlying emotions and bringing about reinforceable, preferred behaviour.

Solving Separation Anxiety following four principles – Moira Hechenleitner Vergara

Solving Separation Anxiety Following Four Principles

Are you tired of trying to help dogs overcome separation anxiety without seeing major changes? Do you avoid taking separation anxiety cases because deep down you feel this condition can’t be resolved?

This presentation will highlight how addressing four main components of the training program can successfully help dogs overcome this disorder.

Learning Objectives:

-Identify what separation anxiety is and how it looks through footage

-Learn the four main components of the separation anxiety training program and their importance

Livestock Guardian Dogs in Suburbia – Erin Williams


There is an increasing prevalence of Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) as companion dogs in urban environments. This has given rise to new problems for owners and trainers in successfully integrating these dogs into suburban lifestyles.

Most trainers need more knowledge and understanding about these breeds in order to develop more effective skillsets to manage and train them. In addition, they need to be informed enough to educate their often less informed clients/owners about their LGDs.

There have already been, and there will continue to be, serious outcomes for these breeds in suburban environments. We only need to look at the widespread negative situation in the US to understand what could take place in Australia unless we address this problem at the pointy end.


LGDs are independent thinking dogs of the unique primitive working dog breed group. Due to their unique characteristics, behaviours and strong work motivations, it can be a challenge to apply appropriate and effective training and management techniques for these breeds.

The audience will be offered some real-life examples of successfully integrating LGDs into suburban environments and working with LGDs in companion group training classes.  The audience will be provided with commentary from the presenter to help them to identify and understand behaviours specific to LGDs under these conditions.


  • An opportunity for members to acquire knowledge and understanding of these breeds and their anticipated behavioural differences in these environments.
  • Trainers develop an understanding of how to adjust/modify their expectations and their training programs to achieve a more salient result.
  • Veterinary staff understand the need to adapt their expectations and modify their patient management procedures to ensure best practice standards.

“Firstly, the expectations of the trainer should always fit the capability of the dog.

It is where our expectations clash with the dog’s capabilities that we can do harm.”

12.40pm – 12.55pm

Can dogs be trained to communicate preferences? Sharon Louise Carroll

Learning Objectives 

At the conclusion of this presentation, attendees will be able to:

  • Discuss existing studies describing methods for animals to communicate preferences to human caregivers.
  • Explain the advantages and disadvantages of offering dogs the opportunity to communicate their preferences.
  • Describe a potential method for training dogs to communicate a preference.
  • Identify at least 3 situations where preference communication could be utilized in dogs.

Outline of Presentation 

Each day trainers use their knowledge and skills to reliably create specific behaviours in dogs, but what if we could also use our knowledge and skills to offer meaningful choices to dogs based on their own preferences.

What if dog’s could simply answer us when we ask “would you like your jacket on or not?”

Studies have been conducted in several species to investigate this topic. This presentation will discuss existing studies, and the potential to train dogs to communicate their preferences in a clear and structured manner. Offering dogs this level of communication is an exciting step in improving the human-dog bond.

* Enquiries are welcome from researchers and trainers who may be interested in becoming involved in a new research trial related to this topic.