After all, who doesn’t love dogs?

Meet Lisa Tenzin-Dolma, founder of the International School for Canine Psychology and Behaviour (ISCP).

Online education has grown by leaps and bounds, particularly in the last couple of years, but this compassionate and visionary woman, whom I deeply admire, recognized the trend back in 2009 when she founded the ISCP, offering several certification options in studying canine behavior and emotional healing. One of the great advantages to taking your expertise online is how you can have students all over the world; Lisa has students and grads in more than 18 countries!

Enjoy our fascinating interview with a true pioneer in e-learning!

Q. Lisa, you are doing some amazing things in support of animals, particularly canines. Can you give me some background on your journey and what brought you to this place?

Thank you, LindaJoy! Well, we had several dogs while I was growing up, and we had other animals living with us, and also had some temporary guests — rescued injured birds, a giant-sized rabbit, a chameleon when we lived in Malta, and a monkey came to stay when we lived in Malaysia. Animals were part of my life and family.

Q. How did you learn about canine behavior? What kind of research had you participated in to give you these unique insights?

I’ve always been fascinated by human psychology and emotional intelligence, and this interest transferred easily to dogs. After studying dog behavior independently for a few years, I decided to study formally and qualified with a distinction in Canine Psychology. I then developed the Sympatico method, taken from the Italian “simpatico,” meaning “in sympathy with, in harmony with” as a way of helping dogs and their guardians to develop trusting, harmonious relationships.

After graduating, I assessed and worked with hundreds of rescue dogs, as well as working with private clients, because I feel passionately that all dogs deserve every possible chance to be placed in a good home. Every dog has a great deal to teach us, and it’s incredibly rewarding to see a dog with a sad past finally settled on a forever sofa.

Meet Skye, the beautiful canine who has found his forever home with Lisa.

Q. Tell us about your online Canine Behavior Course and certification.
(which, in the American spelling lacks the “u”.)

At the time when I decided to open a school, early in 2009, very little research into force-free, “positive” methods was available to the public, and the prevailing attitude was still very much that of subscribing to the “dominance, alpha” wolf theory, even though this had been scientifically disproved after the previous studies into wolf behaviour were found to be flawed. Sadly, despite what we now know, the old “alpha” theory is still rife and it causes so much damage to the relationships between dogs and their guardians. So, that’s what led to my decision to set up a school for dog guardians and prospective behaviourists, to teach courses that have a sound scientific foundation and spread awareness of the effectiveness of force-free methods.

It took me over two years to write the ISCP course textbook and gain worldwide approval as a training college and global education provider, and the ISCP opened in September 2011. We now offer several options for study.

The full diploma course qualifies our graduates to work professionally with dogs, and our diploma level students and graduates are a mix of dog guardians who wish to gain in-depth understanding of their dogs, MSc and PhD graduates in animal behaviour who want to expand their knowledge of dog behaviour and psychology, and founders of and volunteers for rescue charities who use the course to help them successfully assess and rehome the dogs in their care.

For students who prefer to gain a good level of knowledge without embarking on the full diploma, we offer the certificate and intermediate level courses in canine behaviour.

Dale McLelland and I also wrote a short course called “The Dog’s BFF Award” that gives the basics of what dog guardians need to know, such as why force-free methods work best, life stages, canine body language, teaching good manners and social skills, and responsible dog guardianship. A lot of rescues have made it mandatory for prospective fosterers and adopters to complete this course before bringing a dog home.

We also offer a course called “Emotional Healing for Dogs” which guides students through ways in which they can assess and address emotional issues through combining gentle, natural Bach Flower remedies and behaviour therapy.

Now, almost five years on, we have students and graduates all around the world. Everyone shares ideas, research and their more complex case studies through our private Facebook group, so a wealth of experience and information is available and easily accessible, and we hold monthly webinars that are recorded for future students to have as an additional resource.

Listen to Lisa in this interview on how she rescued and trained Charlie, a beautiful Romanian feral dog.

Q. What prompted you to offer an online course? It’s a very progressive move and not one that many people with expertise like yours understand as a way to leverage their knowledge?

An online course felt like the best way forward because I knew this would have a wide reach and would be easily accessible. Most people have internet now, and I’ve found that many people find it easier to study online in the comfort of their homes than to find the time to go out to take in-person courses. It’s straightforward, it’s convenient, and you can study whenever you have free time instead of having to travel and fit in with a course tutor’s schedule.

Distance learning has enabled me to link our members across the globe, and it’s working wonderfully. All you need is an internet connection and an understanding of English language and you’re instantly connected with other like-minded people around the world. It’s such a great way to accumulate and share knowledge, and it’s opened up new horizons for our students and graduates.

We also have ISCP affiliates, experts in dog behaviour who take part in our group discussions and share their wisdom. This is hugely beneficial for everyone, and some of our affiliates offer additional courses (such as neuroscience) to our students, which further help to expand everyone’s knowledge.

Q. How has your course benefited and/or profited you personally and professionally?

It’s been an enormous benefit in many ways. Personally, I’ve met a great many people through the ISCP who are as passionate as I am about truly understanding and helping our canine companions and their guardians. I find that very inspiring and motivating.

Professionally, opening the school has led to involvement in other dog-related organisations. It prompted me to set up the Dog Welfare Alliance, which brings together professionals and the public around the world to educate guardians and promote force-free methods, and which supports, promotes and funds rescue shelters which need help. Because of the ISCP I was invited to become Chair of The Association of INTO Dogs, a members-only organisation for professionals. I’d been a member for over eight years, and it’s an honour to be moving the organisation forward. Since becoming Chair just over a year ago, I’ve succeeded in my application for INTO Dogs to join the Animal Behaviour & Training Council (ABTC), the main body for animal welfare, training and behaviour organisations in the UK. We’re the first non-founder member to be invited to join the ABTC, and this has led to additional accreditation for our members.

Then there are my books. I’ve had four books about dog psychology, behaviour and training published since the launch of the ISCP.

Q. Please comment on the international reach of having your Canine Behavior course online and if you use a variety of teaching methods (print, video etc.)

A. The ISCP has truly become international. We now have students and graduates in the UK, Northern and Southern Ireland, USA, Canada, Chile, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Iran, India, Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

Our teaching methods are internet-based. New students receive their course files and course textbook by email, and we also send out a paperback version of the course textbook by post. Coursework essays are submitted by email to each student’s assigned tutor, and I also read and save all the essays, and tutors return the essays with their comments and feedback. The three certificates that are included in the diploma course are sent by email, with the shiny new diploma also sent by post.

The private Facebook group gives our members opportunities to get to know each other, share ideas and knowledge, and our rescue members also liaise with each other through this and independently. The monthly GoToWebinars are recorded and shared so that members can watch these at any time. These take the form of PowerPoint presentations, videos and discussions about a wide variety of dog-related subjects. We include webinars on the human end of the leash, as well, because it’s important to understand and relate to the people who are caring for the dogs we work with.

Q. How do people who have finished your certification use this knowledge? What is some of the feedback you are getting?

A. Some graduates use the knowledge just for their own dogs and for their friends, but most of our graduates set up their own businesses as canine behaviour specialists. Our rescue members use their knowledge for the many dogs in their care, and pass it on to their trustees and volunteers. We offer a 50% discount on the diploma course fee for rescue students on the understanding that they share the understanding they have gained so that more dogs can be successfully homed.

The feedback has been 100% positive, which makes me very happy — clearly the system we’re using is working well! All of our students are very enthusiastic about the courses, and everyone tells us that the high level of support and feedback they receive from their assigned tutors and from the group throughout their studies is of enormous help. We teach positive reinforcement for humans as well as dogs, so the encouragement given helps everyone to feel motivated and valued.

Q. What recommendations would you make to someone who is thinking of doing a course as a way to monetize their expertise in any field they have mastered?

I’d recommend that you check out as many available courses in your chosen subject as possible, find out how useful the qualifications will be for your career, and then choose the course that best fits your needs, your goals and your ethos.

Ask whether the course materials are regularly updated, and whether you’ll have additional access to support and guidance through the education provider. These points are important because up to date materials and individual guidance are invaluable when you’re planning your career path. The course you choose should provide a sound investment for your future.

How to contact Lisa for more information:

If you would like to find out how to have your own online course with international appeal and reach, send us an email to lets@designmycourse.com and we can set up a free half-hour consultation.