Zoomility: Keeper Tales of Training with Positive Reinforcement
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What do elephants, killer whales and your family dog all have in common? Training with Zoomility! It has been working for animals in zoos and aquariums for years. And now, you can use it for your own training, with help from Dr. Grey Stafford. As the book's foreword written by Jungle Jack Hanna explains, training should be about helping animals succeed, not boosting our egos. That idea is at the core of Zoomility, a combination of humility and Dr. Stafford's years of experience training animals at zoos and other facilities. Using only positive reinforcement, never punishment, Zoomility outlines steps you can follow to teach your animal calm, cooperative, and complex behaviors that will hold up in any situation.
Using Zoomility's 3R's (Request, Response, Reinforce) you'll be able to train any animal, regardless of age or past behavior issues. Dr. Stafford includes dozens of "recipes" to guide you through helpful behaviors like sit, stay, and so much more. And using the techniques you'll learn in Zoomility, you'll be able to create your own recipes to successfully shape any behavior.
What is Zoomility? In accredited zoos and aquariums everywhere, keepers are using the behavior tools that marine mammal trainers have honed for decades to positively reinforce all sorts of useful, complex, and cooperative behaviors with birds, mammals, reptiles, and even fish! The great news is, the tools described here are easy to learn and will work with your animals too, regardless of species or breed.
When you train using only positive reinforcement, the richer life you and your animal will experience together far outweighs any initial investment in time, patience, and energy used to modify your own behavior. Plus, using positive reinforcement is fun! As you begin to see your animal succeed, you too will get plenty of reinforcement of your own. Working in a zoo has revealed a simple truth: good training decisions usually start with leaving one's ego at the door. Each chapter of Zoomility begins with some personal tales of zookeeper humility or zoomility. Done properly, training is as much about having fun as it is about helping animals succeed in the world in which we ve placed them, whether it be a zoo, a kennel, a wildlife preserve, a stable, or our own home. So this book was written to provide readers useful training tips as well as a glimpse at the humorous side of working around animals with positive reinforcement.
placing way too much value on a single training session, a few successful approximations or, heaven forbid, a few mistakes. The reality of animal learning is, it almost always takes more than one successful attempt to teach a desired behavior. But the good news is, it usually takes more than one poor training session to break it. The key to making steady improvement is to avoid overreacting to failure or growing overconfident from a little progress. Like many zookeepers I suppose, not all of my
our animal to do at a given moment based on past training. That means we have a clear idea of the criteria we’re looking for (i.e., duration, energy, frequency, and topography), we expect the animal to succeed, and we’re planning to hold the animal accountable. Now, since we’re clear on the criteria we’re looking for, once the behavior occurs, we only have one decision to make—was the criteria met or not? The choice is black and white. Yes or no. Thumbs up or down. No maybes about it. By now, it
reinforcing them before they fail, compared to when you’re being lazy and reacting with punishment after they fail, will amaze you and please your neighbors. _______________________ Teaching an animal what it shouldn’t do is a lot harder than teaching it what it should do to gain reinforcement in the first place. _______________________ I recall the stunned looks by several participants at a training workshop years ago when I suggested a good way to ensure that your dog will sleep quietly
Second, use everyday activities to seek out opportunities to desensitize your pets. For example, if your pet sleeps through the phone ringing or a distant thunderclap, great! Reach over and give it a meaningful pat on the head or a favorite treat. Desensitization training does not need to be difficult or tune consuming. It does require us to be aware and ready to reinforce whenever our pets don’t react to potentially scary things, events, or sounds that may randomly appear in their environment.
3R's also help us to prevent behaviors we don't want our pets to display. Using this model gives any trainer the structure and logic to teach behaviors effectively and efficiently: it also helps create a mindset of cooperation between animal and trainer by establishing only reinforcing consequences. The trust and ultimate training success possible with the 3R’s far exceeds anything achieved through punishment alone or as a mixture of both punishment and reinforcement. A lot of people, including