Vanessa Kursan, owner of Evolve Dog Training in Vancouver, has always been an educator. A former educational therapist, Kursan fell in love with dog training 14 years ago when taking her puppy to an agility class. “I became inspired to understand how dogs learn and embarked on a new educational journey to become a dog trainer myself,” says Kursan. “As an educator, I always believed that any punishment or stress inhibits learning, and that realization led me down the positive reinforcement learning path.”
Kursan’s commitment to dog welfare and humane dog training resulted in Evolve Dog Training recently earning BC SPCA AnimalKind accreditation. “My goal is to improve the quality of life for dogs using kind, humane science-based methods,” says Kursan. “By giving our dogs the opportunity to respond in a positive way to their surroundings, we can help them navigate our world as they journey through life with us.”
The BC SPCA created the AnimalKind accreditation program to help find and refer to companies with high animal welfare standards and skilled trainers who only use humane training methods.
“Dog training is unregulated in BC,” says Nicole Fenwick, manager, research and standards for the BC SPCA, “which makes choosing a dog trainer a challenge. Dog guardians face the risk of working with a trainer who uses outdated techniques that cause fear and pain to dogs before they find a humane trainer who uses science-based methods that are proven to be effective and better for dogs.”
As part of the dog training community, Kursan sees the benefits of AnimalKind accreditation. Kursan says, “Maintaining standards and raising the bar is critical in providing parameters for best practices in any industry. The principle of force-free and positive reinforcement training is one of the pillars in the alignment of my values with AnimalKind. This platform allows me to educate and passionately support this on a daily basis.”
The BC SPCA wants to encourage dog guardians to choose humane dog trainers like Kursan when considering their options. “It is important for dog guardians to be able to easily find reward-based dog trainers who understand the role evidence-based training methods have in strengthening the human-animal bond,” says Fenwick, “We are happy AnimalKind accreditation contributes to the work Evolve Dog Training does for dogs and their guardians.”
For Kursan, the ultimate reward is seeing the impact her work has on dogs and dog guardians. Kursan says, “The best part is how inspiring and reinforcing it is for me to help people connect with their dogs. As my clients build their skills, their relationship develops through connection, trust and patience. This is one of the greatest gifts I can give. After leaving my job four years ago as a teacher to pursue dog training full time, I can honestly say that I am doing what I was meant to do.”
The BC SPCA launched the first set of AnimalKind standards – for wildlife and rodent control companies – in 2018. Through a partnership with the UBC Animal Welfare Program, the BC SPCA, Vancouver Foundation, and the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies provided funding to establish the program. AnimalKind standards for dog training – the second set of standards developed, were launched in January 2019.