Karen Pryor Academy: The Most Efficient Path to Becoming an Animal Trainer

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Veterinarians, technicians and other dog enthusiasts often ask me about the most efficient way to learn about animal training or to become a trainer. Currently, my best recommendation is the Karen Pryor Academy and others agree. Just ask veterinary technician Debbie Martin, a KPA graduate and co-author of Puppy Start Right: Foundation Training for the Companion Dog.

Martin was no beginner when she took the KPA trainer course in 2008. She had been teaching puppy socialization classes in the veterinary hospital where she was employed starting in 1997 and, for three years, she had been the animal behavior technician for Veterinary Behavior Consultations, LLC, a mobile veterinary clinic with practice limited to animal behavior where she assists Dr. Kenneth Martin, her husband, during in-home behavior consultations

Says Martin, “The KPA program helped take me from being a good trainer to one that can tackle nearly any training challenge. It filled in all the gaps in my training knowledge, making me a more efficient and deliberate trainer.”  In November of 2009, Debbie became a KPA faculty member. She now provides workshops for the KPA Dog Trainer Program in Texas and Ohio.

In 2010, Debbie was among the first veterinary technicians to qualify for and pass the Academy of Veterinary Behavior Technicians certifying exam for specialty in animal behavior.  She is one of only 12 Veterinary Technician Specialist (VTS) in Behavior.  Currently, Debbie is the president for the Academy of Veterinary Behavior Technicians and a member of the SVBT (Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians). Debbie is a member of APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA).

Wondering what the KP Academy is all about? Here are some of Martin’s answers to common questions about the program.


Q. What is the Karen Pryor Academy? 

A. Karen Pryor Academy was founded by Karen Pryor Clicker Training and launched nationally in 2007 with training centers throughout North America.
Karen Pryor Academy was born of the many requests the company received from dog trainers to help set standards for good training and teaching practices, and to help trainers become more financially successful.

Q. What's the KPA philosophy? Do you have a mission statement or vision statement?

A. Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training & Behavior is an educational institution that teaches modern animal training through innovative programs designed for both experienced and aspiring teachers. They advance the field of force-free training through community and peer collaboration, and they help their faculty and alumni become more successful through close business partnerships.

Q. Karen Pryor Academy Mission statement:

A. The KP Academy mission is to create excellent teachers and trainers, provide a better vehicle for spreading clicker training among professionals and pet owners, create processes for increased professional collaboration and ongoing learning and advancement in the field, and create better economic opportunities for professional trainers.


Q. Why was the Academy starated? Aren't there a lot of dog training schools out there?

A. As a group of clicker trainers, we had a common body of knowledge. After ClickerExpo conferences, attendees who came for this knowledge wanted to go out and teach, and Karen Pryor Clicker Training wanted to encourage that. So, the company sought to empower trainers by providing them with excellent skills and concepts delivered by a top-notch faculty.
I and many Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Professional Program graduates have said we appreciate having “everything all in one place.” Even though I was an experienced trainer before enrolling, I felt that I was “missing some of the pieces” in modern operant-based training.  Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Program became the glue that held everything together for me and helps makes even the experienced trainer a better trainer.

Q. What makes KPA's curriculum different from other dog training schools?

A. We teach our students to be skilled trainers and excellent teachers using force-free methods. We believe that great teachers possess both a solid knowledge of the science that governs learning, and honed practical abilities in both training animals and teaching other people to train animals. The Academy builds on decades of scientific research and practical development by behavior analysts, ethologists, clicker trainers, and TAGteachers around the world, culminating in a curriculum that is unlike anything else out there.

The program focuses on teaching foundation skills and concepts rather than just following recipes for training specific behaviors. Right from the earliest lessons, students are tasked with creating training plans that describe in detail how to reach a goal – whether that’s training a specific behavior or solving a training “problem.” Furthermore, through TAGteach methodologies, we teach students how to employ the same positive training principles to people as well as animals.

The Dog Trainer Program combines the best of both worlds by incorporating distance learning with hands-on workshops. It employs different teaching modalities and allows us to reach people who thrive in a variety of learning styles. Our assignments, exercises, and feedback are designed to reinforce the students as they learn, so that they are encouraged to delve even deeper into the skills and concepts.

The program also provides smart business advice and marketing support to ensure that our graduates are as successful as they can be. The business curriculum is focused on teaching dog trainers how to understand the economics of a training business, how to analyze the marketplace, and how to manage growth. Karen Pryor Academy helps graduates leverage their marketing efforts with their corporate marketing programs, so that we work together. KPA also include a fully developed beginner dog training curriculum that graduates can use to teach classes to pet owners. Karen Pryor Academy has reached out to the veterinary community to help veterinarians locate certified trainers they can be assured will provide a positive and professional experience in learning with the pet owner and the pet.

Q. How does KPA ensure quality?

A. The course provides some guiding principles to draw from, such as setting learners up for success, looking for opportunities to reinforce behaviors you like, and proactively managing and modifying undesirable behaviors. There are many written, hands-on, and online assessments throughout the course to ensure that a student stays on track.

The strict graduation requirements ensure that only students who receive a 90% or better on their teaching and training assessments will pass. KPA graduates all sign a pledge to teach using only force-free principles. After graduation, the Assurance, Commitment and Education (ACE) program ensures that participating certified graduates continue their education and teach in accordance with the KPA high standards through annual client surveys and continuing education credits.

Q. What's the cost, and the time investment?

A. Tuition is $5,300 and scholarships are often available. Substantial scholarships are available for Veterinary Technicians that are members of the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians (http://www.svbt.org) and aspiring to become eligible to sit for the Academy of Veterinary Behavior Technician examination to become a Veterinary Technician Specialists in Behavior (http://www.avbt.net).
The entire course takes approximately six months to complete. Students spend an average of 10 hours per week on course work and training exercises, and then attend a series of four two-day intensive workshops, one every six to eight weeks.
The course is challenging and is a commitment in time and money, but our graduates feel that the investment is well worth it. Our students from related fields, such as veterinary medicine and zoo behavior management, concur that the science, skills, and principles they acquire are immensely valuable in their areas of expertise.  One graduate calls the program, “The best investment in money and time I've spent for my dog training career and education.”


Karen Pryor Academy also offers entry level courses such as the Dog Trainer Foundations and Puppy Start Right Instructors courses which are online only courses.  My husband, Dr. Kenneth Martin, and I are the authors of the Puppy Start Right for Instructors course.  Prior to acquiring my veterinary technician degree, I was a preschool teacher.  I was naturally drawn to the idea of puppy socialization and development early in my technician career.  In fact, teaching puppy socialization classes was where my interest in specializing in veterinary behavior began.  The need for excellent preventive programs to help construct the best foundation possible for all dogs is what prompted us to develop the Puppy Start Right Instructors course.  The course prepares veterinary staff members or dog trainers to teach puppy socialization classes including a complete curriculum with supplemental materials to assist with teaching a puppy preschool class.

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3 responses to “Karen Pryor Academy: The Most Efficient Path to Becoming an Animal Trainer

  1. Great article. KPA is the best in North America, for sure. The next step we need is to make animal training a regulated profession.

  2. Hello Mr Yin, i would like to become a dog trainer, but i have only less money. Do You think there could be a chance anywhere? I would even change my country and work hard for it.
    Regards, Simone, aged 41 years old.

  3. HI,
    I’m trying to find out what it takes to become a dog trainer. I live in Dallas, Tx and have noticed a few job openings at Petco for Dog Trainer / Apprentice but it recommends this training program. I have no experience except from my own personal dogs. Any info would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!!!

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