Kathy Sdao is an applied animal behaviourist who has spent 30 years as a full-time animal trainer, first with marine mammals and now with dogs and their people. As a graduate student at the University of Hawaii, USA in the 1980s, she was part of a research team that trained dolphins to solve complex cognitive puzzles. She received a Master’s in experimental psychology and was then hired by the United States Navy to train dolphins for applied open ocean tasks. After that, she spent five years as a marine-mammal trainer at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington. There, she expanded her training skills by working with beluga whales, walruses, porpoises, sea lions, seals, otters and polar bears. After leaving the zoo world, Sdao and a colleague created Tacoma’s first dog day care facility, Puget Hound Daycare, where she first began teaching clicker-training classes for pet owners.
Since selling Puget Hound in 1998, Sdao has owned and managed Bright Spot Dog Training. Services include consulting with families about their challenging dogs, teaching one-on-one training lessons, and coaching novices and professionals to cross over to positive reinforcement training. In addition, Sdao has trained animal actors, written for The Clicker Journal and the Seattle Times, consulted with Guide Dogs for the Blind and Susquehanna Service Dogs, served as a subject matter expert for the Delta Society’s Service Dog Education System, and taught at the instructor training courses hosted by Dogs of Course. She is proud to be one of the original faculty members for Karen Pryor’s long-running Clicker Expos and has taught at 32 of these popular conferences since 2003.
Sdao has travelled extensively across the United States, Canada and Europe, and to Australia, Israel, Japan and Mexico, educating students about the science of animal training. She has taught nearly 250 seminars, workshops, conference presentations and webinars, enjoying these opportunities to share her passion for the incredible power of positive reinforcement training, confirmed over decades of working with dozens of species. Her first book, Plenty in Life Is Free: Reflections on Dogs, Training and Finding Grace, was published in 2012.