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Special Situations

How to Train for Canine Good Citizen Certification—and Why You Should

As humans, we find fulfillment in our lives through our relationships, hobbies, and employment. Our canine companions need to find fulfillment and purpose in their lives, too. Providing a "job" for a dog is the responsibility of the dog owner. Owners who fail to provide their dogs with something to keep them mentally and physically stimulated soon learn that our canine friends open their own small businesses when left to their own devices.


Managing Your Dog's Separation Anxiety

Domesticated dogs naturally prefer the companionship of their humans. It's one thing to have your dog follow you around the house amiably, however; it's quite another to learn that your dog howls relentlessly when you're at work or defecates in the house to show his displeasure at your absence. When your dog's behavior in your absence seems extreme, he might be experiencing separation anxiety.

Building Behaviors at the Niabi Zoo: Part Two

Welcome back to Building Behaviors at the Niabi Zoo, Part Two!

Teaching cooperative husbandry behaviors is critical to excellent animal care. The many benefits of trainer patience, a shaping plan, excellent observation skills, clicker mechanics, and the ability to modify training sessions based on the animals’ needs can be seen in this the video just below of a cotton-top tamarin. In the video, the 14.4-ounce female tamarin calmly follows the target onto the scale for voluntary weights. Even as the scale moves slightly, she remains calm and fluent.

When It All Goes Wrong: How to Respond to Failure

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.

Building Behaviors at the Niabi Zoo: Part One

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!”