Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ken and Kathy Seminar: Introduction

At the end of July, I attended a two-day seminar held by Narnia Pets in Chicago. The first day was Ken Ramirez, and the second was Kathy Sdao. It was, of course, amazing.

I think I've waxed poetic about how much I love these two presenters before, but allow me to do it again: I love these two presenters! Both started their careers in marine mammal training before moving on to dogs, and so both have fascinating stories to tell. Both are energetic and entertaining. And no matter what the subject, both leave me with tons to think about.

The theme of the weekend was classical conditioning. Kathy devoted the entire day to it, and specifically how it can help dogs with anxiety or aggression, while Ken's day was broken into three main topics: non-food reinforcers (hint: classical conditioning was involved in this discussion!), problem-solving, and a very fun segment he called “The Evolution of a Modern Trainer.” The latter was more of a review of his career, but goodness, the video footage (which, of course, included some classical conditioning) was amazing.

One thing I really took away from the weekend was how valuable classical conditioning is. This is, in a way, kind of funny. Trainers (well, geeky ones like me) often talk about teaching behaviors in terms of operant conditionig, but we don't really talk about That Other Type of Conditioning. Kathy actually called her seminar “anti-trendy” because most presentations are about operant processes instead.

It also helped me realize just how much I use it. Reactivity work, of course, often has a base of classical conditioning, but simple things too. A few weeks ago, Maisy spent the morning in a crate under my desk at work, and a co-worker asked how I taught her to be so good in her crate. Answer: I feed her in there, so she associates the crate with great things.

Anyway, it was a phenomenal weekend, and I'm looking forward to telling you all about it. As always, if you get the chance to see either Ken or Kathy, take it. Even the best blogger couldn't come close to capturing the sheer brilliance that both Ken and Kathy bring to a seminar, but I'm sure going to try...

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