Karen Pryor is a Behavioral biologist and an authority on operant conditioning; she came into the public notice in 1984 with the publishing of her book, Don’t Shoot the Dog. The book explains positive conditioning and how it works on people and animals. The popular book has now gone into its 16th printing and is used as a reference by many dog trainers for a gentle and effective training method.
Karen’s expertise comes from her graduate work in zoology and behavioral biology. Then, as co-founder of Hawaii’s Sea Life Park and Oceanic Institute, she acted as curator and head dolphin trainer. It was there that she began using the technique of applying behavior analysis developed by B.F.Skinner, which is the basis for what is now called Clicker Training.
In 1987, Karen Pryor began giving seminars under the name of clicker training for participants who were using conditioning to train dogs and other domestic animals. The use of the clicker for training gives the program its name. During training the clicker serves as a positive reinforcer. Voices can change in pitch, volume, and tone. The click is a consistent sound that immediately communicates to the animal that it has done something right. It also lets them know that at the end of the session a reward will be coming. Clicker training helps animals learn purposeful behaviors as opposed to habitual behaviors.
Clicker Training is characterized by only positive reinforcement, there is no deprivation. Sessions are short and there is no drilling. The training process used can be practiced with any animal for any behavior There are three steps:
1. Get the behavior.
2. Mark the behavior.
3. Reinforce the behavior.
Once the desired response is achieved, the training moves on. There is lots of variety in the activities. The effectiveness of the program shows in the accelerated progress of the animals in the training program.
Karen’s latest book, published in 2009,reaching the Animal Mind, comes from her 30 years of experience in training animals of every kind. In it she shares with the reader what she knows about animal training and what she has learned from the animals in turn.
Karen Pryor is the CEO of Sunshine Books, which provides DVD’s and clicker training books. She has also developed a trainer program which certifies graduates internationally. Clicker training is used worldwide for zoo animals as well as dogs, cats, horses, and birds.