Why does Kathy consult the tide chart before making any client appointment? You’ll find that out and all about the winding road that Kathy has taken to get to from pre-med to training dolphins for the navy to where she is today, in a fascinating interview with RyanO. Kathy also talks about how she finds grace in the often difficult world of helping people whose animals have severe behavior issues. Kathy talks about how easy it is to teach an animal to be stubborn and about how stubbornness is a learned behavior. She also talks about cues and how she’s going to do a new take on this topic specially for The Convergence of Human & Animal Training and Technology Conference in Seattle July 19-21, 2019.

Kathy’s Advice to People Trying to Find their Place

“It seem so trite to say follow your bliss, that just seems absurd, but in some way your passion will lead you where you need to go if you’re honest about things. Where your passion overlaps someone’s great need there’s an intersection in that Venn diagram where you can find your place.”

Kathy Talks to RyanO

Listen to this informal chat with Kathy and Ryan to hear about how Kathy got to where she’s at, what’s new and what she’ll be talking about at CHATTcon 2019.

Kathy’s CHATTcon Sneak Peek

Topic: Impove Your iCue

“I talk about cues a lot and I’ve never quite done it in the way I’m hoping to do it at CHATTcon which is to actually bring a practical problem which is if you had to teach sign language to dolphins, How are you going to do that? You’ve got a big National Science Foundation grants. You’re doctor Lou Herman. You’ve got this money coming in and your hypothesis is, I think dolphins can learn a rudimentary language I think they can comprehend that. How are you gonna design that language that system of gestures, that’s going to maximize a learner’s ability to do it? Both because you’d like your learner to be successful that’s one criteria but your grant money is riding on it. I mean you would like to have a career in this field. So the care and steps we used in developing that artificial sign language it’s not American sign language dolphins don’t see in air very well imagine that evolution, not designing. So if you used American sign language the Dolphins couldn’t perceive the difference, so we have to create an artificial bigger sign language. But how do you do that? What are the parameters you’re using when you’re designing those cues?”

“I don’t think we live like behavior is driven by consequences. We nod and we say yes and we draw the ABCs but we don’t actually put all our eggs in the consequence basket. We tend when stuff’s really important, to talk a lot and to explain and to put our eggs in the ‘I want to make my instructions, like antecedents really clear’ basket. So if you come from the perspective that says I’m gonna believe 100 years of science that consequences drive behavior, I want to really put my emphasis on providing generous, meaningful, frequent, positive reinforcement. I want to be the reinforcer not the enforcer who says do this you have to do this. That’s true and it’s gonna be true, my gosh the lineup of speakers at CATTcon, Susan Schneider’s gonna be there. It’s so exciting I don’t have to sell that, they’re all gonna sell it and most of the audience is already gonna be on board with: Yeah, consequences drive behavior. Well then what does that mean for you when you go out to deliver cues? You know how weak cues actually are if they’re not linked to reinforcers. So how do you link things, to make sure your cues are backed up with reinforcement a lot, meaningfully. So that why? You’re being humane to the animal, well that, but the cues are strong because we have to have animals and people to do things and we need them to have fluency and motivation to do it. Oh my gosh, we’re gonna have fun!”

Kathy Bio

Kathy Sdao is an applied animal behaviorist. She has been a full-time animal trainer for more than thirty years, first with marine mammals and now with dogs and their people. At the University of Hawaii, she received a master’s degree as part of a research team which trained dolphins to solve complex cognitive puzzles. She was then hired by the United States Navy to train dolphins for open-ocean tasks. Next, Kathy worked as a marine-mammal trainer at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma Washington. After leaving the zoo world, Kathy and a colleague created Tacoma’s first dog-daycare facility where Kathy began teaching clicker-training classes.

Since 1998, Kathy has owned Bright Spot Dog Training. Services include consulting with families about their challenging dogs, teaching private lessons, and mentoring professional trainers who want to maximize the power of positive-reinforcement training. Kathy is proud to be an original faculty member for Karen Pryor’s Clicker Expos and has taught at thirty-six of these popular conferences. Kathy also has traveled extensively across the United States, Canada and Europe, and to Australia, Israel, Japan and Mexico, educating students about the science of animal training. In 2012, she published her first book, Plenty in Life Is Free: Reflections on Dogs, Training and Finding Grace.

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