No, that's not a typo – at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, there really are dogs at the aquarium. I'm in the middle of my travels (midway now – next stop Boston!) and today was really the highlight of my trips so far.
When you think of aquariums, you think of fish, dolphins and whales. The Shedd Aquarium is usually full of those animals, but their marine mammal exhibit is under renovation so all the marine mammals are at other aquariums for a year or so. Because the big draw is gone, the remaining keepers wanted to be able to educate the public even without the animals.
So they came up with the fantastic idea to use their dolphin-training skills on dogs. We do this every day, in every one of our training courses at Smart Dog University. It's called clicker training. It's the fastest and easiest way to train – and as a bonus, the dogs love it!
So the Shedd Aquarium adopted several dogs from the shelter, each dog coming with his or her "baggage" of the past life. In a matter of two months, these "rough around the edges" dogs are performing beautifully on stage in front of an audience. They're doing amazing behaviors, are beautifully behaved and have impeccable manners.
And all without any punishment training at all. None. Zero. Zip. Zilch.
All positive reinforcement, clicker training. It's beautiful. I wish all dogs had the opportunity to learn manners this way, without fear of punishment.
Watching the dogs was like watching poetry in motion: tails wagging, happy dogs, enthusiastic trainer. Ah, it really was something to see.
If you're heading to Chicago, don't miss the opportunity to see this show – it's well worth it! (When I return from my travels, early next week, check back: I'll post a picture of me with my favorite dog from the show, Nico!)