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Success Stories

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!”

Making Music Together

When Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner (KPA CTP) Laura Monaco Torelli began her training career, she knew she would meet many interesting animals—and humans. In the past she has worked with beluga whales, dolphins, sea otters, seals, river otters, and penguins (at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago), primates, large cats, birds of prey, horses, parrots, macaws, tree kangaroos, and red pandas (at the San Diego Zoo and Brookfield Zoo), and, of course, dogs (just about everywhere).

A recent referral from the Shedd Aquarium led Laura to one of her newest, youngest, and most interesting clients—an 8-year-old girl named Emily Bear. Emily and her family have worked with Laura over the past year training the family dog, Winston.

Loving Sascha: Clicker Training and a Canine Wheelchair

There can be many reasons people find themselves in an animal shelter, prepared to surrender a dog. Life-changing events occur, homes or jobs are lost, unrealistic expectations come home to roost (yes, dogs do poop in real life!), and on it goes. Animal control officers and animal rescues have heard all the stories. This story begins at a busy county animal shelter in southern California.

The Life of One Clicker Trained Dog: A Love Story

In 1995 a little papillon was born. Thanks to an impressive overbite, she was labeled "pet quality" and made available to a "pedestrian" like me. Papillons can be hard to come by, so I jumped at the chance to meet her. After a long drive to the breeder's home (sadly, more like a puppy mill), I found a litter of pups cowering in the corner of an oversized terrarium. The room's pervasive odor must have choked the voice of reason in my head, as I found myself handing over $500 (cash only, please) to rescue a two-pound bundle of fuzz.

Crime and Negative Punishment: How to Eliminate Unwanted Behavior in a Toddler

Hey, this stuff works across species!

This isn't really news. Most of us know that operant conditioning is the primary method of learning, and the best method for teaching across the animal kingdom. But sometimes it's easy to forget that it works just as well on people.