We have been online helping people with disabilities to learn training techniques that build strong trusting relationships with their service dogs in training since 2015. Our free assistance dogs videos and blog date back to 2008. Dogs selected as service dogs are sensitive, intelligent beings who are assisting their humans to live a fulfilled life. As sensitive animals, we want to cultivate learning as a positive, motivating experience, not one where avoidance of corrections adds to an already difficult job. We use positive, ethical training approaches with both human and dog. In our philosophy, the human partner is responsible for the emotional and physical well-being of their service dogs and provides the training structure and environment that sets up their dogs for success. In return, the dog learns to function as a willing and eager partner to assist his or her human at home, in public access situations and life.
"Building owner trained service dog teams with trust and confidence to navigate life together."
SDTI Founder, Online Instructor - Donna Hill B.Sc. B.Ed.
After a lifetime of dogs of a variety of breeds and mixes from hounds and terriers to gundogs and herding breeds, Donna began learning how to train dogs in earnest when Jessie (the black and tan dog pictured here) was a pup. She discovered how easy and effective clicker training was to teach new behaviors and saw the potential for using it to help people train their own service dogs and started her first Youtube channel of 'how to' videos. These videos are being used globally by several organizations training service dogs including prison programs.
She expanded that to a second Youtube channel for training everything else as she ran into issues with her fearful dog and when doing other sports and tricks.
When she realized the inaccessiblity of information about dog body language, she started her Facebook Observation Skills for Training Dogs 2011 group for owners and trainers. The group is now archived as more and more trainers are now including this important knowledge in their classes!
Due to her interest in animal behaviour, Donna pursued a degree in zoology (B.Sc.) at the University of British Columbia with a specialty in animal behaviour and ecology. She also took as many psychology classes as she could fit into her science degree! People watching was her passion at one point. She followed that with a second degree in Education (teaching B.Ed.) at UBC and took several courses in special education for people with disabilities. That she applies when teaching the human half of a service dog team.
Donna has self-published an audio book "You Don't Have to Be a Dog Whisperer: 14 Principles of Dog Training" 2006 and DVD "Foundation Skills for Assistance Dogs" 2011 and "More Foundation Skills for Assistance Dogs" 2013. (These are no longer available.)
Over the years, she has volunteered at the SPCA, boarding kennels and doggy daycare. She has fostered, evaluated and trained pet dogs for rescue organizations. She earned her "Human Dog Leadership Inc" Certificate in 1998 and has certification in dog CPR and first aid since 1994 under 3 different programs. She also has CPR and First aid training for humans. Over the years, she has spent many many hours at the dog park observing dogs interact. She has delivered many in-person dog seminars at home and across Western Canada.
In her online and in-person teaching, Donna has the ability to break training into the smallest steps so both handler and dog can succeed. In her own videos, she highlights the mistakes she made so that others can learn what to change to be successful. She teaches students what TO DO based on principles that can be applied across behaviours. She is creative and comes up with a variety of different ways to teach the same behavior (all of them positive) as well as use commonly available materials to teach behaviors.
Donna stays current on the "public access test" PAT equivalent in British Columbia: "Guide Dog and Service Dog Assessment Test" for owner-trainers and their dogs. Passing this test and receiving the BC Ministry of Justice laminated card is strongly recommended for owner-trainers in BC.
Donna has taught small children to seniors, able-bodied to physically disabled, and those with autism, emotional disabilities, hearing impairments and other special needs. She has developed training manuals for naturalists and teachers and taught in-person train the trainer workshops across Western Canada. As a former facilitator for nature and history education organizations, she practices what she preaches. In 2016, Donna won "Hero to the Animals Award" by Smart Dog Training Systems for her support of service dogs for people with disabilities.
Donna has offered several webinars at Dog I-box. As a Fenzi Dog Sports Academy instructor, Donna realized the potential to reach out to even more people with disabilities with an online school. Her goal is to build an online community of people who are training their own service dogs to improve their lives. So here we are!
Donna is a co-founding professional member of Vancouver Island Animal Training Association, 2010 founder and volunteer of Vancouver Island Assistance Dogs 2009 and a supporting member of International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) (working animal division). She holds a 30 hour "Supervisor" certificate and completes at least 50 hours of continuing education credits each year voluntarily and is a lifelong learner.
Donna is nationally certified as a Heritage Interpreter (using informal fun teaching approaches for history and nature topics). She believes learning should be fun and easy! She has extensive experience in curriculum development, and has developed and taught continuing education classes at school district, college and university level. Donna enjoys 'talking dog' with everyone, and gardening, hiking, kayaking and enjoying nature with her husband and two dogs on Vancouver Island in BC Canada. She volunteers at least 150 hours each year helping people with disabilities. She lives with several anaphylactic allergies.
Donna has taught the following animals-just for fun!
people, dogs, cat, horse, goat, conure, 2 gerbils, mouse, 2 bettas (fish), bullfrog, wild crayfish (to pull a string)
Donna has learned from:
Dr. Susan Friedman
Dr. Ian Dunbar
Dr. Patricia McConnell
Dr. Raymond Coppinger
Dr. John Pilley
Dr. Susan Schneider
Dr. Adam Miklosi
Dr. Claudia Fugazza
Most recent continuing education:
The Virtual Dog Training Conference 2021 (presented and attended)
Clicker Expo Live 2021
IAABC & FDSA Lemonade Conference May 2020
For owner-trainers to professional dog trainers, Donna is available for web consults on anything service dog-related. Scroll to the bottom of the 1 to 1 web cam page to book an hour session.
In-Person and Fast Track Online Instructor - Jenn Hauta
Jenn Hauta joined Service Dog Training Institute in 2017 as an in-person instructor for classes in Nanaimo, BC and online coaching.
Jenn has a great skill at breaking behaviors into the smallest bits so the learner can learn quickly and painlessly, be they canine or human learners! Jenn is compassionate to people and dogs alike. She is great at finding analogies that the human students can understand and relate to. Her passion for animals led her to start professionally pet sitting in 1995.
Jenn worked at an animal shelter for 5 years, which gave her the opportunity to work with a variety of dogs and cats with a multitude of training and behaviour needs.
In 2010, Jenn watched a trainer using a clicker to train her dog. This trainer was Donna, and she inspired Jenn to pursue learning as much as she can about humane, reward based, science-backed training and dog behaviour.
Jenn is dedicated to ongoing education to better help her clients, and has completed courses such as the Trainer Foundation Course through Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training and Behavior, and a nine day intensive Chicken Camp Course taught by Terry Ryan (learning to train chickens makes for better dog trainers!).
Jenn is the first Fear Free Certified Professional, and licensed Family Paws Parent Education presenter on Vancouver Island. She is also a Puppy Start Right Instructor and has taken the Trainer Foundation course through the Karen Pryor Academy. She uses the Humane Hierarchy to guide training and behaviour modification decisions.
Jenn is also very proud to be a professional member of Vancouver Island Animal Training Association and the owner and head trainer of Fairy Dogmother Training & Pet Care where she specializes in dealing with human reactive and dog reactive dogs.
Jenn also attended University of Ottawa for an immersion program and Vancouver Island University in the Liberal Arts program.
Computer Support - Bruce Angus B.Sc.
Bruce is our 'go to guy' for anything involving the website and technology for SDT Institute.
He has trained and competed in canine sports and has earned a number of masters-level agility titles. He is a retired healthcare professional with training in counselling, public presentation, and adult education. Bruce has a unique interest in dogs and working with people. Through his professional work and involvement with dog training, he feels it is very important for owners to understand the emotional needs of both their canine companions and themselves. This will lead to healing.