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Karen's Articles


Making Cats Friendly, Clicker Style

Mon, 08 Aug 2016 18:03:14 +0000

Clicker training, the science-based system of teaching behavior with positive reinforcers and a marker signal, is becoming immensely popular, world-wide, with some dog owners and trainers, while still being rejected by others. It seems so alien, so different from traditional training, that many are very reluctant to try this new system on their already well-trained dogs. Why not leave your dogs out of the picture for the time being, and explore the clicker experience for yourself, with an animal you don't really need or expect reliable performance from: Your cat.


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History of Clicker Training II

Tue, 24 Sep 2013 14:52:22 +0000

Yes, it is charming; but it is also rather sad. We have been training animals for thousands of years, and we almost never ask them to DO this! To bring their own abilities to the table. To think. If you'll excuse the expression. ((laughter)).

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History of Clicker Training I

Tue, 24 Sep 2013 14:52:11 +0000

Behavior analysis is the science that underlies the technology of reinforcement training. Applications of behavior analysis include performance management, in industry and business; precision teaching, in schools; behavior modification, in clinical practice; and clicker training. The annual meeting draws some 2000 psychologists, from around the world. The speech reproduced here was given as part of the opening ceremonies. Karen Pryor's address at the Animal Behavior Society convention in Chicago, May 1997

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101 Things to Do with a Box

Tue, 02 Apr 2013 15:00:00 +0000

101 Things to do with a Box: A Good Exercise for an Older, Suspicious, or Previously Trained Dog

This training game is derived from a dolphin research project in which I and others participated: "The creative porpoise: training for novel behavior," published in the Journal of Experimental Analysis of Behavior in 1969. It has become a favorite with dog trainers. It's especially good for "crossover" dogs with a long history of correction-based training, since it encourages mental and physical flexibility and gives the dog courage to try something on its own.

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A Harness (or Two) for Misha

Wed, 17 Oct 2012 18:24:22 +0000

Karen Pryor went to Germany and came back with… a new harness for Misha. Well, two, actually. Read on.

Clarissa v. Reinhardt has a goal: all dogs should be safe, well, and happy. To this end, at her establishment in the Bavarian Alps in Germany Clarissa runs a training school (with ten acres of outdoor training grounds), an animal shelter (with living rooms and gardens for the dogs), a publishing house (clicker training strongly endorsed), and a store (selling organic nutrition and wellness supplies and the world’s most comfortable dog beds). Her organization, called Animal Learn, holds an annual conference on canine behavior, attended by several hundred people (and some dogs) from all over Europe.

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How to Cure a Cat-Chasing Dog

Sun, 01 Jan 2012 15:00:00 +0000

When I brought Mimi the Burmese home at the age of 12 weeks I was quite worried about my older dog. I felt sure that my young poodle, Misha, and the new kitten would rapidly become friends and playmates (which they did). However Twitchett, a 9-year-old border terrier, represented a serious threat. In fact, one senior animal behaviorist had e-mailed me advising that I rethink my plan of getting a kitten.

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Teach Your Cat to Play Piano

Mon, 01 Nov 2010 14:00:00 +0000

It's easy to teach a cat to play the piano; I've often done it in other people's houses, with their cat, as a sort of after-dinner amusement. Here's how.

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On Being a Changemaker

Tue, 01 Jun 2010 15:00:00 +0000

So you've become a clicker trainer! Naturally you are very excited. You want other people around you to stop using punishment-based methods and start clicking. So you introduce the clicker at your dog club or high school or wherever you are using it. And guess what: people not only don't change, they get mad at you.

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Chase the Dot: The Ultimate Cat Sport

Mon, 01 Feb 2010 16:00:00 +0000

Pet stores sell lots of interactive cat toys you can use to amuse your cat: feathers on springs, battery-operated mice, and so on. We sell a few toys of our own, too—the Kong Swizzle Bird Cat Toy, the Kitty Lure Caster, and the Cat Dancer. One of the best toys in the world for most cats, however, is the laser pointer, which you can get from any office supply store.

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Got Puppy Nipping? Take the Clicker Approach

Mon, 01 Jun 2009 15:00:00 +0000

All puppies like to play and wrestle and nip each other. When they come to live with people, they want to play in the same way. They don't know that our skin is far more tender than their littermate's fur—so sometimes those nips can hurt!

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The Sea Food Circus: Training Fish

Thu, 01 Nov 2007 05:00:00 +0000

Are fish trainable? And if they are, why bother?

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"Clicking" With Cues: A Powerful Tool in Agility Handling

Tue, 01 Mar 2005 06:00:00 +0000

Here's something people often don't get, and not just in agility training: cues—the signals you give your dog to tell it what to do—can be clicks. If your cue tells the dog to do something it understands, and something with a guaranteed positive outcome or reinforcer as a result, it becomes a potential reinforcer in itself. And you can use it to shape behavior.

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Fish Enrichment

Wed, 01 Dec 2004 06:00:00 +0000

We don't often worry about the mental state of a fish, but fishes enjoy stimulation and something to do, just as much as land animals. Aquarists know that the environment is important for keeping fish in good health or bringing them into breeding condition. That doesn't just mean places to hide and clean water to swim in; it can also mean a variety of foods including live food to chase, the right tank mates, the right plants, and, yes, an opportunity to learn.

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Media Files:

Pony's Choice: On Behavior Revisited

Sun, 01 Aug 2004 05:00:00 +0000

The article below is excerpt from On Behavior entitled "Pony's Choice." This selection comes from a speech, The President's Invited Scholar's Address, which I gave to the Association for Behavior Analysis (ABA) in 1992. I chose it as an example of how one could use operant conditioning techniques to develop abstract thinking—the weighing of alternatives—even in an animal not generally considered intelligent.

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Adding the Cue

Thu, 01 Jul 2004 05:00:00 +0000

When we first start out clicker training, we tend to get very excited about the fact that we can teach the dog a new behavior in just a few clicks. Suddenly we have a dog that sits, does a belly flop down, a spin, a paw wave, and six other things-but all at once. You're hoping for a sit/stay, and the dog is running through his entire repertoire trying to find something you'll click.

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