I'm at ClickerExpo in Portland, OR. Since Thursday night, I've been in constant "learning mode," keeping my mind (and notebook) open to the talented trainers and speakers. Aside from the temporary stress I'll face Sunday morning when I'm giving my talk, ClickerExpo has provided me with many a-ha moments (as it always does). I don't know why I'm surprised at the a-ha moments — I haven't been to a ClickerExpo that hasn't had a-ha's for me.
The main focus of this Session is to show attendees how to teach an animal the actual concept of adduction – meaning that once the concept is learned the animal could be given any two or more cues and combine them even if the trainer had never presented that particular combination of cues to the animal previously.
So for instance, let's say your dog already knows how to hold a paw up, and your dog also knows how to come when called. By using adduction, you could teach your dog to hold his paw up and come to you at the same time. It would look a lot like a hurt dog limping his way to you. This is an advanced concept and one that not many pet owners need to use. But for us dog trainers — oh, we're in heaven with these concepts! It's fodder for many late night brainstorming sessions, and for new training projects that we'll undertake with our own dogs just to learn (and teach our dogs) something new.
Ken's talk reminded me that very often I underestimate my dogs. And my own training skills. I get stuck in a rut of "everyday behaviors" and I forget to stretch both myself and my dog's learning skills. So, yep, I'm going to add some adduction sessions to my training when I get back from ClickerExpo.
Karen Pryor spoke today on creativity, as it pertains both to animals and to people. I felt like she had somehow gotten into my mind when she listed the "excuses" people use to explain their ownlack of creativity. From the ClickerExpo website:
Creativity, the capacity for having new ideas and creating novel behavior, has always been treated as a natural gift—either you have it or you don’t. It was always assumed that animals don’t have the creative spark at all. Now, thanks to our modern training technology, we not only know that animals can innovate, we know how to train them to do so.
From Karen's talk, my mind was opened to ways I could find the tiniest bit of creativity that I have (we all have creativity), and nurture it, grow it. Or, spoken like a trainer: I could set myself up to be creative, capture those bits of creativity, and reinforce that creativty. I could shape my creativity, just as I shape behavior in my dogs! A-HA!
My project list is ten miles long. I've been making excuses for not starting to work on that list until now. After hearing Karen's talk, I'm going to set myself up for success, capture even the smallest approximations toward my goal, reinforce those tiny steps and before I know it, I'll be on my way to accomplishments!
ClickerExpo is a phenomenal experience for anyone with an interest in training. Whether your a raw beginner or you've been training for years, there are epiphanies to be had! ClickerExpo Nashville has a few spots left. Tempted to see what it's all about? Check out the program! And if you decide to go, look me up, I'd be thrilled to meet you and hear about your epiphanies!