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Contact: Ellen Naumann
Follow your dog: How a little black dog led his trainer to the world and the web
Grisha Stewart Follows Her Dog Again and Launches Animal Building Blocks Academy
Anchorage, Alaska. -- Grisha Stewart’s dog training expertise is in high demand worldwide. Her mission is to change the way people interact with their pets and each other. She advocates empowerment for our animals, which creates a level of cooperation in care that is beyond basic positive training. Realizing that despite her grueling International seminar schedule she was still limited in her reach, Grisha has worked tirelessly to create Animal Building Blocks, the new go-to spot for all things behavior. But she also created ABBA for more personal reasons.
Stewart adopted her dog Peanut in 2003. At that time, the world had not yet caught up to reward based methods for behavior issues. Peanut had many lessons to teach. First, Stewart learned that acquiring a puppy during a critical development stage may lead to a lifetime of behavior issues. The cute little puppy who snuggled up to her was frozen in fear out in the world. She learned that methods that were widely subscribed to, even the positive ones, were not enough for her dog.
Based on the research that existed at the time and a lot of practical trial and error, Stewart developed Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) in 2009, as a tool to rehabilitate and prevent reactivity in dogs. BAT evolved further along the way, with a major revision in 2014 to a more empowered version. One of the major messages of the current version of BAT is to “follow your dog.”
Stewart did just that, and Peanut once again lead her to a new way to help animals. Working with a senior dog in a seminar in Belgium, it struck her that Peanut’s time was limited. As he aged, leaving him for almost half of every month became harder and harder to balance with the importance of getting her message out. She also knew that limitations of time and space meant that couldn’t reach everyone just by traveling to them.
Her desire to stay closer to home and reach more people sprouted the idea of reaching more people via her own online school. Stewart was already hosting online behavior forums and teaching online behavior classes. The idea of ABBA as a school with video and social media took seed. She wanted the personal connection of being able to talk with her students without the need for frequent flyer miles and lonely dogs.
It took three years to bring her full plan for the school to fruition. Knowing that live BAT education was still needed, she took the time to prepare two other experienced BAT trainers, Joey Iversen and Carly Loyer, to teach her seminars around the world. She developed a plan for the online school on her frequent flights around the globe. During her annual sabbatical in December 2014, she brainstorm precisely what her school would look like.
In April 2015, Animal Building Blocks Academy launched to the public. Within the first month, 700 people had already signed up for accounts at the new school, which focuses on practical skills and problem solving for life with pets.
“I’m excited to help people around the globe understand animal behavior more deeply and to give them a social network exclusively for discussing how to create a cooperative relationship with our animals. By understanding what motivates behavior, we can solve and prevent a lot of problems. Making some key changes in how people treat animals can have an amazing effect on how easy it is to live with one another.”
Visitors and members to the academy website learn through videos, online courses and Stewart’s unique, live Q&A sessions. The site complements working with a local trainer and to help those without access to science-based, quality trainers in their area. Twice weekly, she answers questions for the site’s members live by video. “The Q&A sessions give me an opportunity to chat with the students and answer questions about their own family pets or challenging cases. We are all in the living room together; it’s an aspect of the site that I really enjoy.”
Premier trainers and behaviorists from around the world join together with pet owners, shelters and rescue groups to educate and be educated on Animal Building Blocks Academy.
The academy has additional support for trainers, veterinarians, and other professionals at the Pro membership level, including a public directory listing for Pro members who meet Stewart’s high standard for empowered training and care. Pro members get all of the student benefits plus other exclusive features. ABBA frequently brings in respected authorities in a variety of disciplines for live interviews, including neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux, Ph.D., behavior analyst Susan Friedman, Ph.D. (BehaviorWorks.org) and Australian zookeeper Louise Ginman.
“The Pro Q&A gives our members access to top experts in fields of animal and human behavior. It’s an amazing opportunity for our Pro Members to interact directly, and have their questions answered without leaving their homes. I am honored by their participation.”
Stewart’s philosophy is that quality care is about more than training without force. As caretakers, she says, we have the opportunity to facilitate two-way communication, empower animals to meet their needs, and teach them how to participate in their own care.
While there are other online pet schools, the Animal Building Blocks Academy has a unique contribution due to Stewart’s experience, philosophy, practical focus, and interactive learning model. “There can never be too many quality education programs for people seeking to improve the lives of animals in their care,” said Dr. Friedman, who runs her own 8-week online course for professionals in the animal field, called Living and Learning with Animals, as well as a parrot caregiver course. “Under Grisha Stewart’s experienced leadership, Animal Building Blocks is sure to make an invaluable contribution to anyone seeking innovative training in the art and science of humane, effective behavior change.”
Stewart is a staunch supporter of animal rescue. Her first official training experience came from volunteering to socialize shelter dogs at the Seattle Humane Society, where she also met Peanut. She feels that if more tools were available for behavior modification and care, more animals could be saved, and puppies like Peanut could have a better start. To educate and improve the quality of life for animals, she donates ABBA memberships to rescue organizations around the world by request.
School address: http://grishastewart.com/abba
Membership information: http://grishastewart.com/signup/
Pro Member Q&A (with experts’ bios): http://grishastewart.com/qa-pro/
Press Kit: http://grishastewart.com/for-media/
Grisha Stewart is Certified Professional Dog Trainer and author specializing in dog reactivity and cooperative care. She is the founder of Ahimsa Dog Training center in Seattle and Empowered Animals, LLC in Alaska. She has a Masters in mathematics with additional graduate coursework in psychology and animal behavior. Stewart has released two books, a dozen DVDs and lectures internationally on the subject of dog behavior and training. She and her husband live in Palmer, Alaska with a sweet lap cat and a spirited old dog.