2012 Conference Program

The 4th Annual
Art and Science of Animal Training Conference
Saturday, March 10th, 2012
University of North Texas


Program

Dr. Joe Layng (Keynote Speaker): How we talk about and teach what we do

Alexandra Kurland: Give me a break: How to give breaks without giving breaks

Phung Luu: Using modal action patterns to influence behavior

Kay Laurence: Target, lure or free-shape? What difference does it make?

Bob Bailey: Looking for advanced dog training? Try “simple dog training” for a change — it really works!

Steve White: Your results may vary: The how and why of choosing training tools and techniques

Ken Ramirez and Steve Aibel: Lessons from the aquatic world

Abstracts

Dr. Joe Layng (Keynote Speaker): How we talk about and teach what we do

The relation between how we talk about training and what we actually do when training is of concern to animal trainers, particularly those who train the trainers. Procedures discovered in the laboratory have provided the basis for many training methods. However, the terminology used often creates confusion. In the laboratory, investigators restrict the conditions under which their subjects perform. Yet, the world outside may not be the same as the world inside the laboratory and may require differences in what we do and in the ways we communicate what we are doing. This presentation will describe some of the differences we encounter when we move from the laboratory to the real world and suggest some ways to talk about these differences when we are training animal trainers. The purpose of the presentation is to improve the training of trainers by pointing out these differences and showing effective instructional strategies for teaching trainers.

Alexandra Kurland: Give me a break: How to give breaks without giving breaks

I don’t like breaks, but breaks are good for learning. My clicker trained horses don’t like breaks. They want to keep playing. Breaks are good for learning. How do we give a break without giving a break? Breaks seem to accelerate the learning process. What is the evidence from horse training that breaks are useful? Breaks do not have to mean an actual break from the training process. What constitutes a break? How do turn the behaviors we are teaching into conditioned reinforcers which can be used to create breaks? Short breaks can signal a shift in criterion. What is the most effective way to use breaks in the microshaping strategy. Questions raised: Is there a difference in performance when an actual break from behavior is given or the activity simply shifts to another behavior? What types of behaviors make the best “Breaks?” Is there a difference between species in the effectiveness of different kinds of breaks?

Phung Luu: Using modal action patterns to influence behavior

Modal Action Patterns (MAP) are genetic liked behaviors that are typically exhibited on a frequent and predictable basis triggered by releasing stimuli.  This presentation will explore MAP in animal behaviors and how we may effectively influence behavioral change with a better understanding of the system.  We will examine procedures for how we may influence MAP, as well as how to utilize MAP to modify behaviors.  A review of releasing stimuli and examples of successful behavioral change among animal species will be shared.  A thorough understanding and application of the system may help to increase compliance behaviors and decrease aggression or undesired behaviors in some of the most challenging animals we work with.

Kay Laurence: Target, lure or free-shape? What difference does it make?

You need this behaviour now, does getting the end result take priority over the route you choose? Does the choice reflect your personal preference or comfort zone? Looking at the method of acquisition and the possible effects on the resilience, durability or generalisation of the behaviour

Bob Bailey: Looking for advanced dog training? Try “simple dog training” for a change — it really works!

Simplify, simplify, simplify- splitting behavior and the power of protocol!Most trained behaviors are “macro;” they are made up of a constellation of small behavioral “pieces” called “responses.” In my experience, the training world may be divided roughly, but not always consistently, into two camps – those who mostly split behavior into smaller and smaller responses and those who tend to see, and attempt to train, the whole behavior, with less concern for the individual response elements making up that behavior. This observation gave rise to my decades-old coined terms “splitters” and “lumpers.” It is perhaps counter-intuitive to many that “splitting” of behavior and training in many steps can actually simplify training, while attempting fewer steps, or “lumping,” can increase the complexity and difficulty of training decision-making. Suitable splitting of behavior can lead to more efficient training plans and protocols as well as to more precise behaviors. Examples of splitting, lumping, plans and protocols will be presented. 

Steve White: Your results may vary: The how and why of choosing training tools and techniques

There is no Holy Grail of animal training. The perfect method that works optimally with every animal and owner does not exist. There is only a set of principles to guide us in our training and lifestyle decisions. There are so many ways to apply the principles that owners and trainers struggle to decide which method to choose. Too often clients are shown only one way to accomplish a training task, and if they are not immediately successful they may not only abandon the task but also the system and trainer. Like it or not, four intertwined considerations drive training decisions. They are needs, ethics, effectiveness, and ease of use. Using a four-pronged model, practitioners can pick tools and techniques that best fit clients’ needs and their own. By empowering clients to choose techniques that work best for them, you can increase client buy-in, participation, and long-term compliance. In the end the biggest winners with this approach are the animals with whom we share our lives. 

Ken Ramirez and Steve Aibel: Lessons from the aquatic world

Marine mammal trainers have successfully trained aquatic animals for many decades. Breakthroughs in the use of positive reinforcement in the training of dolphins, whales, sea lions, walrus, otters and many more have been documented for years. Because of the frequency of training and the longevity of many marine mammal programs, there are valuable lessons that every trainer can take away from the experiences of marine mammal trainers.The marine mammal community has worked together in a cooperative effort to introduce, refine, and improve basic training techniques for many years. Ramirez of Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium has invited colleague Steve Aibel from Sea World San Antonio to join him in sharing several basic ideas and concepts that are key to the success of training any animal. These concepts will include Balance of Reinforcement and Balance of Sessions as well as look at the importance of a few other key strategies needed to help train young trainers.