2013 Conference Program

The 5th annual

Art and Science of Animal Training Conference

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013
University of North Texas
Denton, Texas
9:00am – 6:30pm


Program

Dr. Susan Schneider (Keynote Speaker): The science of consequences: What we share with animals and why it matters

Alexandra Kurland: Clicker training Clever Hans: The balance loop

Steve White: Plateau schmateau! Why progress matters

Phung Luu: Successful bird training phase one: Understanding body language

Bob Bailey: What did Bailey do, and why: a training potpourri

Ken Ramirez: Training when you’re not training

Kay Laurence: Drive and motivation – Do we build it or lose it?

Abstracts

Dr. Susan Schneider (Keynote Speaker): The science of consequences: What we share with animals and why it matters

One of the themes of my book, The Science of Consequences, is the number of common behavior principles that exist across species. Animal trainers are well aware of many of these similarities and have helped expand our knowledge of them. This talk will survey the current status of a variety of these shared features, such as unusual consequences, biological bases, “instinct”-operant interactions, enrichment, choice, learning through observing, and communication. An “interacting systems” approach will be taken. Exploring the full range of what we share offers mutual benefits for animal trainers and for science.

Alexandra Kurland: Clicker training Clever Hans: The balance loop

As trainers it’s important to learn to read the body language of the animals we work with. While we’re learning to read them, our trainees are also learning to read us. Horses in particular are masters at noticing even the smallest details that give them clues to what we want. How do you turn your horse’s skill at reading you into a training advantage? What evolves is a loop: we read them – they read us. The result: physical and emotional balance.

Steve White: Plateau schmateau! Why progress matters

Training plateaus are so common that many trainers just assume that they’re a natural and inevitable part of the training process. That just isn’t so, because plateaus are phenomena of our own making. Astute trainers use the pain and frustration of plateaus to harvest information they can use to refine their training plans and curricula to keep dogs working in the “Stretch Zone”. Plateaus then continually diminish in size and duration until they just plain don’t happen. The result? Smoother learning curves that are more enjoyable for both ends of the leash.

Phung Luu: Successful bird training phase one: Understanding body language

Understanding the body language of the animal(s) we work with is critical foundation skill for the successful trainer. We will explore the fundamental function of body language as a primary and antecedent communication of predictable behaviors. Successful understanding requires correctly identifying and interpreting the movements of the subject. We will share the techniques required for developing good observational skills with a focus on detailed observation using a wide spectrum of bird species as the model.

Bob Bailey: What did Bailey do, and why: a training potpourri

Descriptions of some of the training problems faced by trainers at Animal Behavior Enterprises, and by Bob and Marian Bailey, and their use of applied behavior analysis to solve those problems.

1) Training extended distance and duration – Hurrier I go, the behinder I get!
2) Optimize training time – THINK, PLAN, DO!
3) Observational skills, reading body language, the biology of behavior.
4) Superstition – You get what you reinforce, not what you want – importance of timing and setting criteria.
5) Errors in training – The animal is never wrong: It’s the trainer, stupid!
6) Training military and police trainers. “Soft” training for “hard” trainers.

Ken Ramirez: Training when you’re not training

As trainers we understandably focus a great deal of attention on the techniques and strategies that we use in a training session with our animals. However, many of the behavioral problems that animals develop occur outside of training sessions. We frequently impact our animal’s behavior through the many interactions that happen when we are not thinking about training. This session will focus on “non-formal” training – the learning that takes place outside of a training session.

Kay Laurence: Drive and motivation – Do we build it or lose it?

In dog sports this need to train for “drive and motivation” has become a regular feature and selling point. I challenge that all dogs arrive with a level of natural motivation that is ready to us to employ in any direction we may find beneficial. A behaviour that builds naturally gets stronger, more intense, more fluent and filled with pleasure for the animal. It becomes our challenge not to diminish the behaviour through careless training or pushing the learning to achieve high skill levels before they are competent.

What is happening in dog sports often migrates into every day training. Techniques that are seen to be successful for high level achievement are often inappropriate for non-competitive situations. This presentation will look at long term motivation appropriate to the learner and the behaviour.