Waltham, MA, January 12, 2010—The organizing committee for the Academy of Veterinary Behavior Technicians (AVBT) and the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians (SVBT) scholarship committee a
Summary: What's the right response in the first minute after a performance failure? For many clicker trainers, the immediate answer is to try to create a neutral response—one that doesn't reward or punish. But that goal, while admirable, isn't realistic and may lead the trainer to miss the bigger picture.
The spring of 2008 was one of those times in my professional career when two wonderful opportunities merged into one. I was a few months away from completing the Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) Dog Trainer Program, honing my skills as a clicker trainer to help both animals and people. Just as my hard work began to come to fruition and I was about to graduate from the course, I received an e-mail from Niabi Zoological Society asking if I wanted to be considered as an applicant for their recently available Animal Training & Behavior Consultant post.
The previous Consultant is a dear friend and colleague of mine. I met Meg Hudson Dye in 1991 while we were both marine mammal trainers with the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Her career path moved her toward exotic animal training consulting, which led her to Niabi Zoo. When Meg moved to North Carolina, she resigned her position with Niabi Zoo to pursue other amazing opportunities (one as the training consultant for Duke University’s Lemur Program). Why is this relevant? As a result of the amazing groundwork that Meg began with Niabi Zoo, I joined a team of proactive and positive trainers, a team that already had great learning experiences with Meg. My thoughts went from, “Wow, this is such a treat to be Meg’s successor!” to “Wow…I have some big shoes to fill!”
A chilly start
On New Year’s Day my otherwise wonderfully sane son-in-law took his family to the beach and went for a swim. Big deal, right? But this is Boston.