Passport to Joyful Training

Positive reinforcement training is fun for both the learner and the teacher. Clicker training can surely be considered “Joyful Training.”

To be an excellent trainer requires intense concentration and includes many disappointing training moments along the way. Frustration is a part of any trainer's experience, whether it be directed at his/her own mistakes or at the learners’ mistakes. Sometimes frustrations can result in losing some of the joy in the work we do.

In this relaxing, light presentation, Michele Pouliot will review how trainers can continue to appreciate and preserve joyful moments while working with learners (both animals and human). Through video clips and storytelling, this presentation is meant to feel familiar and bring a smile to your face.

Finding the joy can be challenging at times. As an example, training working-dog responses that are crucial to a person's safety (even survival) can be stressful when training doesn’t progress as planned. Those errors must be taken seriously, while other mistakes or “learner antics” provide regular opportunities for laughter and appreciation of individual learners.

Preserving “Joyful Training” makes someone a better trainer and teacher. Reminding ourselves that we still have access to the original joy experienced in the first clicker training “light-bulb moments” is a healthy part of the training process. Let this lighthearted presentation place a stamp in your joy passport.

Michele Pouliot

Michele Pouliot began her animal-training career through her love of horses. Immediately after high school, she attended the Pacific Coast Equestrian Research Farm, studying under the tutelage of Linda Tellington and Wentworth Tellington. After graduating at the school’s highest level, Michele remained as an instructor until beginning her next position, managing an equestrian center in North Dakota. It was there that Michele acquired her first dog—a move that would change her life and career.

With dog-training pointers from a former riding student, Michele became fascinated with her dog’s willingness to learn; she spent all of her spare time training him. It was then that Michele’s path changed toward a career in dog training, which progressed to guide dog training.

In 1974, Michele Pouliot began her career as a licensed guide dog instructor when she joined Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB), the second-largest guide dog school in the world. In addition to personally training more than 350 guide dog teams over 20 years, Michele contributed to major change in the organization by leading the adoption of clicker training in the formal training of guide dogs and in the development of puppies raised for guide dog work. Michele also developed the education program for GDB’s blind clients learning to clicker train their own guide dogs.

Michele has been a pioneer and leader in the guide dog industry worldwide. Since 2005, GDB and Michele actively support and assist other guide dog schools in crossing over from traditional training methods to positive reinforcement and clicker training techniques. To provide further education to more individuals, GDB and Michele have held 5-day Guide Dog Clicker Conferences for international guide dog professionals. In 2016, the International Guide Dog Federation presented Michele with a Lifetime Achievement award for bringing clicker training to guide dog programs around the globe. Michele retired from her 42-year career with GDB in 2016 but continues to provide workshops around the world for guide and service dog organizations.

Michele has also been very active and successful in canine dog sports. She was heavily involved in competition obedience for 20 years, winning four Obedience Trial Championships with her personal dogs. Michele also competed in tracking and in the sport of agility. In 2005, Michele discovered the new sport of Canine Musical Freestyle and, with help from her first freestyle partners Cabo and Listo, became a leader in two years. Her current performance partners are Déjà Vu and Saké. Michele and her dogs have attained more than 10 Championship and Grand Championship titles and are winners of national and international freestyle competitions. They are known for entertaining routines with very creative behaviors. Michele and Listo made history in the World Canine Freestyle Organization as the first team to ever receive perfect “10” scores in both Artistic and Technical categories! They repeated this incredible achievement 23 more times with six different routines. Michele travels extensively giving seminars on clicker training for dog sports and for effective clicker training in general. She is well known for clarity in her teaching, her enthusiasm for training, and her love of animals.

Michele loves to spend time at home, in Oregon, with her dogs and her horses. A member of the ClickerExpo faculty since 2008, Michele partnered with Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) to create an online Canine Freestyle course. The course has received rave reviews from students and is popular even with clicker enthusiasts who are not involved in the freestyle sport.