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    • We both loved the way Sheila Harper presented herself - not to 'tell' or 'advise' us on what to believe or not (like many trainers do in a sometimes intimidating manner) but to allow us to think...
    • It was superbly facilitated and directed with dog handling, case studies, and in-depth perspective being important.
    • Sheila is not into "Sit", "Down", "Stay". The concentration is on having a positive and gentle development with your dog - you are a team - so that you can both enjoy...
    • I have been to presentations before where your attention starts to wander and where you can’t wait for the course to end. I was completely focused on this course for the whole 2 days; there was...
    • “What a weekend that was! Will life with my dog ever be the same again? I hope not! I now have some tools for a new start with my first ever dog who, at 14 months, had lost his trust in me...
    • “I soon realised that my inexperience really didn’t matter, as what we had come to learn about was new to everyone. We all had a similar motivation for doing the course. To do the best...
    • “A wonderfully stimulating and well organised weekend. It exceeded my expectations both in content and presentation.”
    • “I admire Sheila’s passion, calm positive energy and tireless motivation for teaching and sharing her profound, pioneering and unique philosophy and knowledge of dogs and owners.”
    • “I learned a great deal and ‘Bod’ was so relaxed and stress free due to your fantastic organisation. I do so appreciate how much hard work and thought goes into the preparation of...
    • “At that time, I still believed in Pack Leadership, dominance, control and obedience. Sheila opened my eyes and mind to the possibility that there was a different way to work with my three...
    • “I wanted to say a big thank you for the hard work and time put into the courses and for the patience and understanding of where I am at and what I have still to learn. It could be quite...
    • “We haven't been able to stop thinking about what we learnt and we're hungry for more. We bought half a dozen books to keep us going!”

    Course Structure

    Course StructureThe IPACS is best known for its unique practical approach to handling and canine behaviour. However, theoretical aspects of behaviour and psychology form the basis before practical work is undertaken. It is a multi-disciplinary course normally taken over a 1 ½ year period, leading to an in-house certificate of attendance.
    Upon completion of the IPACS, students wishing to work towards a formally recognised Open College Network (WMR) accreditation may then attend four intensive two-day study blocks. Submission of a portfolio is required based upon the content of the IPACS course which is then assessed by an independent, impartial body. This intended to address the demand for course nationally recognised in the UK, and that also has standards that are identifiable within other EU countries.

    The programme is divided into two parts, and completion of both parts leads to accreditation if required.


    Part 1: The IPACS Foundation Programme

    The programme comprises ten areas of study, each of specific subject content in its own right, with a strong behavioural emphasis. Areas of study are structured so that canine communication is studied at an early stage along with an introduction to health, and stress in particular, as these are all critical to student development and understanding. The programme then focuses on teaching awareness and competence in handling skills and moves into delivering a foundation of understanding canine behaviour and psychology, including learning theory and canine development. Following this the programme broadens into delivering knowledge to the public through teaching and concludes with a focus on behaviour counselling, requiring a thorough understanding of previous areas of study. Each area of study builds on knowledge and skills drawn from previous areas.
    Although each area of study comprises self-contained topic areas there is a progression, building upon behaviour and training knowledge acquired. It is important that students complete the entire course in sequence and particularly the first two blocks which are mandatory.
    Students missing a particular area of study may have another opportunity to make up the gaps in their knowledge at a later date, but 85% attendance is required in order to receive a certificate of attendance. Wording on the final certificate may reflect which areas of study have been attended.
    Current students come from a variety of backgrounds: from pet owners to professionals working full time with dogs. As practical work is a fundamental part of the study, student numbers will be strictly limited in order to provide individual guidance. Where handling is required students without dogs may be able to handle the dogs of other students or those of the staff with adequate notice. Practical work will need to be applied between areas of study, including observation.
    From personal experience we realise that a well-trained dog is not necessarily a well-behaved dog. We aim to build skills, trust and relationships in both dog and handler in order to ensure a better quality of life, and therefore superficial exercises such as the "sit, down, stay" or other traditional type of training are not a part of this course.

    Part 2: The Accreditation

    Attendance: 4 blocks of 2 days each, total 8 days (each block to be held approx. 3 months apart in order to allow for work to be completed)
    Pre-requisite: Students must have completed the IPACS programme and gained a certificate of attendance in order to be eligible for OCN accreditation. Attendance is usually in the UK. However, if enough students from a specific country are interested in the accreditation then it may be possible to offer accreditation within that country. In this case, at least 12 participants are needed to make the OCN course viable. Teaching blocks for accreditation may be available in Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands.


    Course Content

    To complete the whole course students must attend each area of study.
    This is the proposed outline of the course; however the sequence may be flexible with changes made at our discretion.

    1: Body Language & Communication

    (Study type: Theoretical bias)

    • Canine observation
    • Understanding the escalation towards signs of fear, defence & “aggression”
    • An introduction to ethology and instincts
    Main Tutor: Sheila Harper

    2: Life Balance
    (Study type: Theoretical bias)

    • The physiology of stress
    • Recognition and causes of health & behaviour issues
    • Influences on physical & mental health
    • Getting back into balance
    Main Tutor: Sheila Harper

    3: Practical Handling Skills
    (Study type: Practical bias)

    • General handling and awareness
    • Lead work
    • Handling for problem solving
    • Preventing aggression & defensive behaviours
    Tutors: Sheila Harper & Winny Boerman

    4: Relationships & Natural Abilities
    (Study type: Practical bias)

    • The dog’s senses
    • The dog’s viewpoint. Life rewards
    • Confidence building, creativity and environmental enrichment
    • Nose work and mental stimulation
    • Building relationships
    Tutors: Sheila Harper & Winny Boerman

    5: The Holistic Approach
    (Study type: Theoretical & Practical)

    • Assessing dogs
    • Movement, nutrition, health issues
    • Complementary health
    • Handling for administering therapies & general care
    Tutors: Sheila Harper & Winny Boerman

    6: Learning Principles
    (Study type: mixed, practical with case studies)

    • Questioning the purpose of training
    • Critical evaluation of what is really being learnt
    • Practical applications of learning theory
    • Understanding rewards: their use and abuse
    • Implications of operant conditioning
    Tutors: Sheila Harper & Winny Boerman

    7: Life Stages
    (Study type: mixed, practical with case studies)

    • The role of the breeder
    • Social and behavioural development
    • Associated issues
    • Puppies, adolescents, mature dogs, and older dogs
    • Programmes for quality socialisation
    Tutors: Sheila Harper & Winny Boerman

    8: Teaching and Life Skills
    (Study type: mixed, practical with case studies)

    • Teaching and people skills
    • Curriculum content
    • Planning and running classes, expectations and compromise
    • Needs of dog and owner
    Tutors: Sheila Harper & Winny Boerman

    9: Behaviour Problems
    (Study type: mixed, practical with case studies)

    • Causes, indications and consequences of behaviour problems 
    • First steps towards solving problems
    • Canine skills for conflict solving
    • Behaviour modification and the holistic approach
    • Therapy and rehabilitation
    Tutors: Sheila Harper & Winny Boerman

    10: Behavioural Case Studies
    (Study type: mixed, practical with case studies)

    • Stopping techniques
    • Counselling skills and information gathering
    • Case histories and their systematic evaluation
    Tutors: Sheila Harper & Winny Boerman