21 Mar

Looking back: Our 11th annual conference

On February 23 – 24, 2019, we held the 11th annual
Art and Science of Animal Training Conference.
Here are our favorite highlights from the event.

A World-Class Event

Our 200 conference attendees came from 31 US states and six foreign countries, including Canada, Denmark, England, France, Italy, and Mexico. Attendees included dog trainers, horse trainers, bird trainers, veterinarians, zoo and aquarium professionals, and passionate pet owners.

2019 Anderson Award Recipient

We honored English dog trainer Kay Laurence as the fourth recipient of the Edward L. Anderson Jr. Award. Kay’s creativity has given the training community many new ideas, from microshaping to GENABACAB. We also recognized Kay for her training philosophy, which is always focused on the dog’s welfare and on creating considerate human-animal interactions.

In her award acceptance speech, Kay said that we should continue to ask, “Is this the only way? Or, could I do better?”

You can read more about why we honored Kay and what she shared with us in her speech in this blog post.

Two Days of Thought-Provoking Lectures

This year’s conference had two themes, behavior chains and cues. Our presenters explored the science behind both of these topics and ideas for practical application.

Our keynote speaker, Dr. Alliston Reid, shared with us his research on how animals learn chains and behavior skills. We left at the end of the weekend with many new things to think about!

Discovering More About Behavior

During our Friday evening reception, our ORCA students from the University of North Texas shared poster presentations of their current projects. In addition, three of the ORCA students gave presentations during our private day of talks on the Monday after the conference. The conference is an excellent opportunity for the students to develop professional skills and to gain feedback on their projects.

This year’s conference left the students with many questions related to chains. How is a chain different from other sequences of behavior? What implications do these differences have for teaching and maintaining behaviors? What are the best ways to build (and break) chains?

Our students already have many ideas for new projects. It will be very interesting to see what they discover during the next year!

A BIG Thanks to Our Conference Sponsors

We are so thankful for the organizations that helped make this year’s conference possible: The Anderson Foundation, Karen Pryor Academy, and My Training Store.

Because of the generous support of these organizations, sixteen ORCA students were able to attend the conference for free. The conference is a great opportunity for the students as it allows them three intensive days of learning and conversation with behavior analysts and professional animal trainers.

The Conversation Never Ends…

Our conference attendees certainly enjoyed our new conference venue. The second floor of the hotel proved to be the perfect spot for late night discussions and debates. Every night, our speakers and attendees chatted away about the day’s talks until past midnight.

Further reading:

  • Horse trainer Katie Bartlett posted extensive notes from the conference on her blog. You can find them here.
  • During the conference, Hannah Branigan interviewed our keynote speaker, Dr. Alliston Reid, on her “Drinking From the Toilet” podcast. You can find the podcast episode here.
  • Alexandra Kurland interviewed Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz on her Equiosity podcast during the conference. Part 1 of the interview  is available here and Part 2 is available here.
  • Dr. Jessica Lockhart and Dr. Mindy Waite recorded an interview with Ken Ramirez as part of the CAAB Chat postcast. You can find their conversation here.
  • A photo album from the conference is available on Facebook.

Save the date for our 12th annual conference:
February 22 – 23, 2020

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2 thoughts on “Looking back: Our 11th annual conference

  1. It’s 2019, why are people still recommending negative reinforcement? You’re having a whole speech on the topic, where they promote it. Seriously?

    You have to introduce an aversive stimuli to use R- and P+. Science has shown time and time again that is harmful to animals’ welfare. Meanwhile good animal trainers are training without aversives all over the place. Please, update the information you present.

    • Hi Dan,

      Thanks for stopping by to visit our blog. I appreciate your concern. Our keynote speaker in 2020 did lecture about negative reinforcement. However, the purpose of the talk was not to recommend negative reinforcement. Instead, he discussed some of the early experiments on negative reinforcement, as well as the implications of these experiments and how better understanding these experiments can help us better understand animal behavior. Even if you plan to train just with positive reinforcement, it is still important to understand how negative reinforcement works.

      I would like to encourage you to visit and read the blog post that we recently posted on our blog. It has some information about our February 2020 conference, including notes from some of the talks and several podcast episodes that relate to the topics that were discussed at the conference.



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