Animal Training Perspectives

animal trainer

I’ve been soliciting comments from the blog and from my email subscribers for a while and have assembled some interesting answers and questions.

On the blog, most of the answers to my subscriber’s questions appear in the order they were received and I still have a large number in the queue.

At the moment, my Pepsi Refresh Everything Voters are getting answers to their questions and special offers and contributions from others who support the project I hope to fund.

Now this post is going to stretch out into a few different ones because I am going to be a bit long winded.

So bear with me.

Recently I noticed several pet professionals reading the blog and so decided to venture where few dare to tread–because the only thing two trainers seem to agree on is what the third is doing wrong.

The questions I posed were ‘Who or what is your favorite animal training source?‘ and ‘Who or what animal training source makes you cringe?‘.

Those answers were not posted publicly until new ones stopped arriving because I didn’t want any rude or desparaging remarks.

This blog is like my living room, you are invited in but politeness and respect is expected and also outlined in the Comment Policies.

Although the comments left to the questions recently posed are only a small sampling, they tend to reflect trends that I’ve noticed in my 35+ years in the field.

  • The answers trend according to what training philosophy or background the person had/has and also tend to be regional or species specific.

What I mean by that is that dog people know dog training sources.

Horse people know horse training sources. Etc.

  • People are also influenced by region so east coast people know those in their area and the same goes for those on the other side of America.
  • Another trend is among membership groups, as members tend to network with other members and tend to meet in person at conferences or workshops.
  • People are also influenced by the visibility and notoriety or offensiveness of the training source.

Now, over the years I’ve had some interesting experiences because I cross animal training cultures.

What do I mean by that?

When I trained wild animal actors, I knew all the animal trainers in the movie and television world on the West Coast.

When I began training in zoos, I was a heretic for a long while because it was in the late 1970s when it was not popular like it is now–but I certainly knew the other wild animal trainers in the region at private facilities.

During the time I worked with marine mammals, I knew marine mammal trainers.

Then there were the primatologists–same story.

Eventually I began to network with and met the domestic animal crowd.

Then when I went back to training elephants, I knew the elephant trainers.

And so on and so on.

Now I obtained my degree in animal training and management along with a whole lot of special certifications but I am a practical gal—meaning I grew up in the trenches and so am not just a theoretical or academic practitioner.

So, I respect others for what they do but not necessarily for their notoriety or popularity.

You have to prove you worthy of respect.

And so the guy who stands over another trainer taken down by an adolescent lion and uses his training rapport to protect the guy from further assault has my respect.+

Anything else is bullsh**.

Now before I get into some of my thoughts about the answers and what my take is about them, I have to share a story.

So come back later in the week when I continue

+See the comments for more details.

Photo Credit: GGunter

About Ark Lady

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  1. I’ve trained a handful of different species, so I feel like I’ve been a member of several different communities and gotten a feel for some of the different species-specific philosophies and ideas.

    “People are also influenced by region so east coast people know those in their area and the same goes for those on the other side of America.
    Another trend is among membership groups, as members tend to network with other members and tend to meet in person at conferences or workshops”

    I think the two points you made in the statement above are VERY true, however. Not so much regional, as by country and by group membership.

    Group membership is important–as it gives you a community to share with, ask questions from, and celebrate accomplishments with. However, it becomes easy to isolate yourself, especially if the group has it’s on method, philosophy or (especially) jargon.

    There’s also a lot of divide between continents. One of my readers recently sent me the name of a horse training clicker training book that she really likes. I had never heard of it. But the trainer is from the UK.

    Kay Laurence is one of my favorite dog trainers. (Did I mention her in your previous survey–if not, I should have!)
    Anyways, she talks about discovering clicker training several decades ago, back when no one in the UK did clicker training. And this was before the internet, DVDs, etc.

    She and a few of her pals had several copies of Don’t Shoot the Dog, and they basically figured things out for themselves. As a result, some of the things she does are quite different from the way the US crowd goes about things. (Since many of the early US clicker trainers were copying things that they saw Karen Pryor and Gary Wilkes doing in seminars and on videos.)


  2. cool, these are the postings that I was looking forward to:)

  3. Agreed Mary, you also happen to be in an academic environment which allows you a broader scope of access. I use regional but mean countries as regions as well and reference the USA or North America because those are the people who are the most vocal.

    If you’ve ever seen my referral page, you’ll see people from all over the world.

  4. LOL I certainly hope you are not pacing!

  5. I am betting that I most likely do differ from my geographic region. I wanted to comment on your analogy too. While in the moment of panic, someone may have the knowledge to break that up, but what I find way more helpful is the prevention in the first place using both training and management. The break up of an emergency moment may have a lot to do with knowledge, but little to do with training.

  6. Totally agree, as a matter of fact I meant to go back and edit that bit because I saw the incident coming 1/4 of a mile up the road. Prevention would have been the best strategy but the training rapport and knowledge of the animal is what saved them once the incident occurred.

    By far the biggest error I see in training is the failure to prevent incidents and the failure to take action to mitigate a situation in the early stages.