Yeah, yeah, yeah. Everybody does the health and fitness resolution for the New Year. But animal people are different, aren’t we? Why break tradition now?
How about some New Year’s resolution ideas that will benefit you and the animals in your life?
Here are 10 ideas that will help animal trainers start the New Year just right.
1. Train a behaviour that will make veterinary care easier for an animal in your life. Simple things like loading into a carrier, being comfortable with touch and training for restraint can make a big difference in reducing stress for veterinary care.
Here is a video clip to get you inspired to train your Parrots. https://youtu.be/XD4SICTRIiw
2. Read a book that's related to the field but not specifically about animal training. I enjoyed reading the Science of Consequences by Susan Schneider.
Another good one is Coercion and its Fallout by Murray Sidman. Not a book but another interesting resource is the Brain Science Podcast.
3. Try shaking up your training practices. If you always use a bridging stimulus, try to become a faster treat deliverer and see if you can train some behaviours without a bridge. (Trust me, you can) If you never bridge, try training a behaviour that requires one, such as working with an animal at a distance.
4. Train a species you have never worked with before. This is great way to really learn how important natural history and ethology are when it comes to behaviour modification. Sure the behaviour analysis principles are the same. But real behaviour change comes with practical application. This means also learning about what matters to that species.
5. Train a solid recall on an animal in your life. It is a pleasure when an animal comes running/flying towards the moment a recall cue is given. Practice recalling at short distances when you are 99.9% sure your animal will come. Gradually increase the distance and make sure quick response to the cue is part of your criteria.
6. Train a behaviour you have never done before. I had a blast training my rabbit to do a scent discrimination this year. https://youtu.be/d36Xa3lTFho
7. Attend an animal training conference, workshop or lecture live and in person. In addition to learning you also get to meet like-minded animal training enthusiasts. Often the best part of attending an event is the wonderful friendships that are forged. Check the calendar page for upcoming events in 2015. https://www.goodbirdinc.com/calendar.html
8. Share something you have learned about force free animal training with at least one other person. Remember, this movement to get people to understand you can be nice to animals and still have them be well behaved, is a wonderful virus we want to spread. Pretty soon, being kind in animal training will be the norm and traditionally heavy handed approaches will be a thing of the past.
9. Do a before and after story. If you work with animals with behaviour problems or have one in your home with issues you would like to address, start documenting! Nothing shows how beneficial force free animal training is than a transformation story. Take video footage or notes on the behaviour problem before intervention.
Develop an intervention plan, implement it and document your process. Once you have resolution (and you will) take your “after” video and share with the world! Real life success stories are great motivation for others and show people that behaviour problems can be fixed.
10. Question a practice you have always done. Decide if it still has a place in your training tool kit. If it doesn’t maybe it’s time for out with the old and in with the new. When I reflect on my own growth as a trainer, I see there are many things I used to do, that I would no longer consider. Some dropped off naturally but others were conscious decisions. Every trainer that improves their practices contributes to an even stronger and better training community.
There you go! Ten ideas to jump start the New Year for animal trainers. Feel free to share with other animal lovers looking to kick off 2015 with some animal training adventures.
There is lots more training and behaviour advice here.
Barbara Heidenreich has been a professional animal trainer since 1990. Her company Barbara's Force Free Animal Training (www.BarbarasFFAT.com) provides pet training, DVD's and workshops
Barbara Heidenreich also consults on animal training in zoos around the world, including Dublin Zoo, Auckland Zoo and Copenhagen Zoo, and has been a featured speaker in eighteeen countries and her books have been published in nine different languages.