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ClickerExpo and the Zoo Experience

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It is amazing how often people assume that ClickerExpo is all about dog training. Certainly there are many options for dog trainers, but Expo provides many opportunities for trainers of all species. As someone who has worked in the zoological profession for much of my career, I wanted to help colleagues in the zoo and aquarium world recognize how much there is for them to enjoy and learn at ClickerExpo 2017.

Direct zoo applications

There are many ClickerExpo faculty members who have direct experience working in the zoo world. Often, their talks have examples that apply to zookeepers and trainers. In addition to my own experience as a zoo trainer, others with significant zoological experience include Dr. Susan Friedman, Kathy Sdao, Eva Bertilsson, Lindsay Wood, and Laura Monaco Torelli. A few of the Sessions and Labs that directly refer to zoo and aquarium training include:

Working with veterinarians

The relationship between trainers and veterinarians or veterinary technicians is central to the health and well-being of our animals. However, trainers often don’t know how to make that relationship stronger. Two ClickerExpo presentations focused on this topic are new for 2017 and are essential for all trainers. Zookeepers and trainers should find both of these Sessions beneficial:

People skills

Sometimes trainers are so focused on the animals that they forget the importance of honing people skills. So much about working with animals necessitates working with people. These people include, but are not limited to, coworkers, managers, and the public. Many trainers would benefit from new skills and knowledge in this area. There are several Sessions designed to help improve teaching and augment people skills at ClickerExpo 2017:

Understanding the science

Although I have been training for more than 40 years, I am constantly surprised by the new things I learn from the science of behavior analysis and the skilled instructors at Clicker Expo. The science behind how animals learn applies across all species; I encourage all zoo trainers to consider attending these fascinating Sessions and Labs:

Core skills

Because the science of training applies across all species, I always encourage trainers to revisit the basics. Many of these ClickerExpo Sessions may focus on dog training, but the skillset required to use shaping, put a behavior on cue, or to build a behavior chain are universal. I also recommend Sessions about horse training to zookeepers, because a great deal of what works with horses is applicable across species of hoofstock. In addition to the Expo offerings already mentioned, here is just a smattering of courses where I think zookeepers could benefit:

No matter what species you work with—a pet bunny, a large horse, or any number of exotic animals in the zoo—ClickerExpo always offers seminars that can improve your training. ClickerExpo 2017 is a particularly strong conference with many elements that will benefit my colleagues in the zoo world. I hope to see many of you there!

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