Raising Canine

Understanding Learning Theory & CPDT-KA Prep Course

Course Information:


Approved for 9 CEUs through CCPDT and IAABC

This course is designed for those preparing to sit for the CPDT exam, as well as those just beginning to study learning theory and those wanting a deeper understanding of how animals learn. All sessions are live, so you’re able to ask questions to clarify any fuzzy areas or concepts you have a hard time with. The goal of this course is to give you a solid foundation in the fundamental concepts of how animals learn.

Hi Sue -I took your Learning Theory webinar several weeks ago in preparation for the CPDT examination. I am happy to say that I passed with 94% and I am certain that your course helped me reach my goal. Thank you so much for providing the course, it was informative and you were patient, kind and extremely knowledgeable. I will certainly recommend this course to my colleagues who are now preparing to take their exam.

Kirsten Rose, CPDT-KA
Professional Dog Trainer

All times are Central time.

Sessions 1 & 2
Saturday, February 17, 2024 – 12:00pm-3:00pm
Sessions 3 & 4
Saturday, February 24, 2024 – 12:00pm-3:00pm
Session 5 & 6
Saturday, March 2, 2024 – 12:00pm-3:00pm

This webinar will not be recorded or available as an audio webinar; however, it will be available for one week after the live session for those unable to attend the live session. This program is repeated every spring and fall — twice yearly just before the CPDT-KA exam.

I am preparing for the CPDT and this course was awesome – a great overview of all the terms and acronyms and types of learning. The more I hear these terms and get examples of them, the better. Your course also helped me identify and process what my mentor is saying to me.

Susan, you explained things in the most simple manner. And hearing them from you makes them all sound so easy. You did a great job of using language I am using at my level. You made the course very personal and intimate. I felt like I had met you and the other participants in person.

For sure I will recommend this class – especially if sitting for the CPDT. Also, great refresher course (that you don’t have to travel to) for those needing CEUs.

Prairie Lee
Rocking K9 Companions, LLC
Choteau, MT


Hi Susan – I passed my CPDT-KA test! 74 of 80 in Learning Theory (93%). Thank you again for the excellent Learning Theory course. The best part is that I remember what you taught! And to finally understand quadrants—YES! Thank you for making everything you taught so clear, interesting and fun. Looking forward to your webinars!

Wags and Woofs,
Kathleen O’Sullivan, CPDT-KA

Session 1: Science
Nature vs. Nurture
Common Language
Learning Defined
Humane Hierarchy

In this session, we’ll talk about why science is important; what it is and what it isn’t. We’ll also discuss the reasons for, and the importance of, a common language. We’ll discuss evolution and nature vs. nurture and exactly what learning means. Finally, we’ll discuss the Humane Hierarchy as adopted by the Council for Professional Dog Trainers. All of these concepts are important to understanding the learning concepts that come next.


Session 2: ABCs
The Quadrant
Functional Assessment & Analysis
The Stages of Learning
The Client’s Role

In session 2, we’ll discuss the operant learning quadrant and the ABCs (antecedent, behavior and consequence) – the smallest unit of behavior that we, as behavior consultants, can measure. We’ll discuss why this concept is so important to really being effective at modifying behavior and how you can create an effective behavior modification plan by using a functional assessment format. We’ll also discuss the stages of learning. By understanding the different stages, we are better able to train to a higher level of fluency. Finally, we’ll discuss the client’s role in behavior modification. Clients are, by far, the biggest frustration trainers have. As consultants, we need to understand the issues that clients are facing, how we can help them, and why it often appears that they are sabotaging our efforts.

Session 3: The Quadrant

We’ll spend most of session 3 covering the infamous operant quadrant. This section will help you really understand what it is and how to use it in your work.

Sessions 3 & 4: Respondent Learning, Operant Learning Part I
Using & Measuring CCSkinner

Respondent (or classical) learning may be the most difficult concept to wrap your brain around. However, once you understand respondent learning, it can become one of the most powerful tools in your toolbox. Respondent learning is always happening – if you are learning, you are acquiring knowledge through respondent learning. Once we understand it, we are able to harness it and use it to our advantage. Within respondent learning lies many of the unforeseen problems that often crop up when using operant learning techniques – such as overshadowing and blocking!

We basically acquire new knowledge through one of two processes – respondent learning or operant learning. Both of these processes are crucial to our business. Respondent learning is extremely powerful and useful; however, operant learning is our bread and butter. Most clients are expecting us to use some form of operant learning when they hire us. And, unlike respondent learning, operant learning is very easy to understand and use. However there are many subtleties to operant learning, and understanding these concepts is necessary to be a good trainer. We’ll devote this session to understanding the operant learning, reinforcement and chaining.

Session 5: Operant Learning Part II

Extinction holds a unique place in learning theory – some argue that it is actually punishment because it reduces behavior, but others say it does not belong within the quadrant. We’ll explore this intriguing concept a little further. Along with extinction go extinction bursts and resurgence. These concepts are absolutely crucial to effectively reducing the frequency of behavior.

We’ll also discuss primary and secondary reinforcers, which are a continuation of (and require an understanding of) both respondent and operant conditioning. Within this topic we’ll discuss higher order learning and shaping, and why these concepts are useful to trainers.

Finally we’ll discuss punishment, which is such an important and prevalent concept in animal training. Owners attempt to use punishment regularly; unfortunately, because they are not schooled in learning concepts, they are generally not punishing their pet, but abusing it. Punishment certainly has a role to play in behavior modification, but it is very important to understand exactly what it is and how to use it. We’ll also re-visit the humane hierarchy during this session, because the hierarchy can inform us as to when we should bring in punishment. Finally, we’ll look at how we can use the ABCs to determine the best approach to resolving problem behaviors.

Session 6: Everything else!
Reinforcement Schedules
Practical apps & learning how to reduce behavior through R+
Respondent counter conditioning
Operant counter conditioning
DRx schedules: DRI, DRA, DRO, DRL, DRH
Discrimination training
Using LT & training principles to solve problems

Wow! I am SO loving your Learning Theory seminar so far! I’ve heard this jargon a lot in my trainer group, but now I’ll be better able to follow what they’re saying.

Diane Troup
Santa Clara, CA

Hi Sue – Just a quick note to tell you Thank You for the wonderful seminar. I would “never” have understood all I needed to without your help.

I read, Culture Clash (again), Exerl-erated Learning, Brenda Alfoff’s thick bible (again) on aggression, Outwitting Dogs, and Power of Positive Dog Training (again) all before your class (these were on the recommended reading list)…read them all. Not ONE book helped me as much as you did! Each touched on Learning Theory but none packaged it up in a neat little bundle like you did.

So from the deepest part of my heart…thank you, thank you, thank you!! Sue….you did a good job and I will recommend you to everyone. Thanks!!

Linda Mangun
Jungle Camp Pet Resort & Spa
Aubrey, TX

Postscript from Linda:

Linda Mangun…passed her test…thanks to you!!! Without your encouragement and lessons, it would have been impossible. But, with your class and your “positive motivation,” I did receive my letter and can now use my new title. Thanks Sue!!

Linda Mangun, CPDT-KA
Jungle Camp Pet Resort & Spa
Aubrey, TX

This seems like a contradictory statement – reinforcement, by definition, cannot reduce behavior. Or can it? We’ll discuss ways to use positive reinforcement to address unwanted behavior. We’ll also discuss how using respondent conditioning can be such a quick and powerful tool for changing emotional behaviors such as aggression and anxiety.

A good understanding of these techniques can go a long way to resolving behavior problems in an extremely productive way.

This is an interactive course, and you must have a computer with a microphone to participate.

You get all this for only $180.00!

Pre-requisites OR Target Level of Knowledge: n/a
Instructor: Susan Smith, CPDT-KA, CDBC
Continuing Education Units (CEUs):

CEUs are available for this course; however, the participant must be present and complete homework to receive the CEUs. This is not a webinar, but an on-line course and there are significant participation requirements.

e-mail about CEUs for other organizations

Course Length: 9 hr
Original Air Date: Airs live twice yearly just prior to the CPDT-KA exam
Course Cost: $180.00

Contact Information: sue@raisingcanine.com
Frequently Asked Questions

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Refund Policy: The course fee will be refunded, in its entirety, so long as the enrollee requests a refund in writing no later than the 14th day after the course is purchased.