2011 Conference Program

The 3rd annual

Art and Science of Animal Training Conference

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

8:30 am

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Join us for half a dozen presentations by some of the top minds in animal training. As well, at the end of the day we’ll have a panel discussion with all of our speakers plus a few more special guests. Many of our speakers from the previous two conferences will join us again this year. However, we also have several new speakers who we will be welcoming this year for the first time. You’ll be excited about what these trainers have in store for us this year!


Program

Dr. Paul Andronis (Keynote Speaker): Evolutionary Theory and the Analysis of Animal Behavior: Some Implications and Applications

Steve White: “Raising the Bar:” A practitioner’s guide to systematically improving six dimensions of fluency

Ken Ramirez: Conservation Connection – Training to Save Wildlife

Phung Luu: Shaping Behaviors: Error-reduced teaching and Behavioral Development. Finding the Balance

Kay Laurence: Creative Criteria

Alexandra Kurland: Hierarchies of Reinforcement

Abstracts

Dr. Paul Andronis (Keynote Speaker): Evolutionary Theory and the Analysis of Animal Behavior: Some Implications and Applications

This presentation will address three questions: 1) whether there are useful correspondences between processes of evolution and processes of behavior change; 2) if so, what exactly are these points of correspondence, and what important differences might nevertheless exist; and 3) what can our scientific knowledge about evolution contribute to our understanding of how to establish, maintain, and change behavior in practical settings. Some relatively recent issues from our growing knowledge of evolutionary biology may suggest systematic solutions for animal trainers to problems involving the effective and efficient establishment of complex and adaptive patterns of behavior in everyday settings.

Steve White: “Raising the Bar:” A practitioner’s guide to systematically improving six dimensions of fluency

A practitioner’s guide to systematically improving six dimensions of fluency. This talk will provide an overview of a video-facilitated approach to achieving precise, robust behaviors in any environment.

Ken Ramirez: Conservation Connection – Training to Save Wildlife

The science and application of learning theory is growing in use and popularity. From training the household pet to caring for the largest exotic animal in the zoo, applied behavior analysis has led to better behaved pets and to improved animal care for animals all over the world. Creative trainers are always finding new ways to apply behavioral science; in the last several decades trainers have used advanced training skills to give back to nature and contribute to a wide range of conservation initiatives. Ken will share his training experiences with several unique conservation projects as well as those initiated by other skilled trainers. Conservation training is an exciting new direction for experienced trainers to put their skills to use. This presentation will demonstrate remote training with an endangered species of sea lion, specialized training for the introduction of several exotic species to the wild, how training was used to save over 60,000 sea turtles as part of the recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill recovery effort, and several other fascinating projects that relied on the application of training skills!

Phung Luu: Shaping Behaviors: Error-reduced teaching and Behavioral Development. Finding the Balance

When shaping behaviors, our goal is to teach with reduced errors and with fluidity. Understanding the natural stages of development of animals while shaping behavior is critical to a successful training program. Striking a balance between the two provides us with opportunities to teach behavior at a level where the learner performs with a high rate of success while minimizing potential frustration and aggression. The most behavioral robust and well rounded individuals form their foundation during early stages of development. Capitalizing on that critical window of learning, animals are targeted for skills based on identified future roles. This presentation will demonstrate procedures and provide examples of error-reduced teaching strategies with positive reinforcement used in combination with appropriate developmental stages in birds. The resulting effect of such program is a learner that learns while committing minimum errors, gains confidence, demonstrates high willingness to participate in training sessions and decreased opportunities for undesirable behaviors.

Kay Laurence: Creative Criteria

Increasing criteria is one of the key skills of developing a learner and constructing a behaviour. Too often the trainer is focused on achieving the end result and not the process of developing the learner. This can result in a loss of confidence, frustration and a potentially damaged behaviour. No matter how much reinforcement is invested in the final behaviour, if the learning route was stressful then it shows in the final behaviour. Many complex behaviours need to be learned through a range of skills, each with their own criteria pathways, and complimentary to each other. At times we rush towards the final behaviour, particularly when it is in sight, and neglect to fully consolidate each step, seek evidence of the learning achieved before we more onwards. We often need to be creative to find other ways to split the criteria, and sometimes this can be achieved by side stepping and not progressing directly.

Alexandra Kurland: Hierarchies of Reinforcement

The concept is simple enough: the behaviors we teach can be used as reinforcers for other behaviors. But do we as trainers really understand what this means and do we use behaviors deliberately, systematically to reinforce other behaviors? The concept of hierarchies of reinforcement provides a systematic process for building added reinforcement value into simple behaviors. These value-added behaviors can then be used to accelerate learning. This process reduces training stress; helps prevent unwanted behaviors from creeping into chains; creates greater consistency and enthusiasm; expands the variety of reinforcers that are available; and overall leads to performance excellence.