DogCast Radio
Home Episodes Articles Blog Breed profiles Book reviews Photos Contact

Reaching the Animal Mind: Clicker Training and What It Teaches Us About All Animals

Karen Pryor’s new book, Reaching the Animal Mind, is like a guided tour of cutting-edge animal science. The grand dame of clicker training, as she’s known to many in the dog world, has reached the minds of species from wolves to crabs to ponies to damselfish to elephants. Through her books and seminars, she has taught countless others to do the same using tested principles. This volume only deepens her contribution.

The book opens with Pryor’s own history, detailing her learning curve from the earliest days training dolphins at Sea Life Park in Hawaii. Anyone who’s ever seen a dolphin show will be intrigued to know that she was the first to begin using the now ubiquitous whistle and fish – also known as positive reinforcement. Through stories from her years of experience, she guides the reader through the principles of positive reinforcement training, using a conversational style that makes the scientific terminology accessible. Chapters are studded with pointers to the web site www.reachingtheanimalmind.com, where you can watch slide shows and video clips of the very animals Pryor has described.

Dog lovers will find plenty of inspiration in this powerhouse of a book. There are stories of dogs who express delayed gratitude in surprising ways, and a description of “debarking” a shelter kennel. But the versatility of clicker training will be of interest to all: It even works on humans, in a form called TagTeach, as Pryor illustrates with anecdotes from gymnastics classes and other settings. One gets the idea that the positive reinforcement training methodology could revolutionize the world of athletics just as it has the world of dog training.

Pryor’s breakdown of the “technology” of reinforcement translates to specific steps anyone can take, and fun training exercises are offered in a Do It Yourself section. For example, you can teach your dog a simple hand target, then translate this skill into playing all sorts of useful games with your pooch. One potential weakness: there is no discussion of the possibility of competing reinforcers in the environment, or how a squirrel chase can become infinitely more rewarding than a mere treat. Still, the question and answer section addresses most of the common concerns newcomers to this approach might have.

Perhaps most moving is Pryor’s assertion – based on her own experience as well as scientific studies – that a great many species of animals are far more conscious than we ever imagined. This book is a must-have for anyone wanting to train an animal in a respectful and compassionate way.

Review by Shawndra Miller

Review by Shawndra Miller

Comments

Sharing

190 - What It's Like to be a Dog and Barking Mad Dog Holidays

Gregory Berns talks about his book What It's Like to be a Dog, which is a thought provoking and fascinating read. Sue Corfield tells us about the dog activity holidays she runs in the beautiful Shropshire countryside. Plus we've rounded up some happy stories for the DogCast Radio News.

189 - The Dog Healers and War Dogs Remembered

In this episode you can hear Mark Winik talk about his debut novel, The Dog Healers, and listen to Julia Robertson explain why she founded the charity War Dogs remembered. Plus there's the DogCast Radio News, and what Mischief the German Spitz puppy has been up to.

188 - Service Dogs UK and Roxie the Doxie Finds Her Forever Home

In this episode you can hear about Service Dogs UK, a fantastic charity which trains assistance dogs to support veterans of any service - military personnel, police, firefighters, paramedics and the coastguard - who develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to their job. Also, listen to Dr Jody A Dean, a clinical psychologist talk about how her book, Roxie the Doxie finds her Forever Home, is helping children understand and talk about adoption and other family issues. Plus the DogCast Radio News and some thoughts on the alpha dog myth.

187 - Muffins Halo and Chorley Fun Dog Show

In this episode you can hear about Muffin's Halo for Blind Dogs, and what motivates people to enter their dog in a fun dog show. In the DogCast Radio News, listen to stories about the latest dog related research. Plus there's a new member of the DogCast Radio team!

186 - Maxwell Muir on wolves

In this episode you can hear trainer, behaviourist, writer, broadcaster and wolf expert Maxwell Muir talk about what wolves mean to him personally, their plight in a modern world, and his hopes for their future. Plus we have the DogCast Radio News.