Karen Pryor is an author and a scientist with an international reputation in the fields of marine mammal biology and behavioral psychology. Through her work with dolphins in the 1960s , she pioneered modern, force-free animal training methods, and became an authority on applied operant conditioning —the art and science of changing behavior with positive reinforcement. She is a founder and leading proponent of clicker training, a worldwide movement involving new ways to communicate positively with pets and other animals. She is the author of several books, including Nursing Your Baby , a classic book for breastfeeding mothers that has sold over a million copies, and more than 50 scientific papers and popular articles on learning and behavior.
Karen Pryor was educated at Cornell University with graduate work in zoology and behavioral biology at the University of Hawaii, New York University, and Rutgers University. She was a founder of Hawaii's Sea Life Park and Oceanic Institute where she served as curator and pioneering dolphin trainer. She has served the U.S. government as a Marine Mammal Commissioner, and consults to private industry on behavior and training. She is a past trustee of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies and a member of the board of the B.F. Skinner Foundation.
Many dog trainers are now using a little plastic noisemaker, a "clicker," as their marker signal to tell a dog when it has performed a behavior that will earn it a reward. In 1987 Pryor began giving seminars and communicating with hundreds and then thousands of dog trainers who were eager to try a non-coercive teaching system, rather than a punishment- or force-based system. Called "clicker training," this method of applied operant conditioning has now spread around the world, greatly aided by the internet. Reinforcement training is now widely used in zoos, in the handling and medical care of wild animals, and with other domestic animals such as horses and parrots.
Karen Pryor is the founder, publisher and CEO of Karen Pryor Clickertraining (KPCT) and Sunshine Books, Inc., a behavioral publishing company, producing books and videos on "clicker training" and the science of operant conditioning and positive reinforcement, and its online divisions. She is also a founder of TAGteach International, an organization that teaches coaches to apply the principles of marker-based shaping to sports and dance.
Karen has three children and seven grandchildren. She lives in Boston with two clickertrained dogs and a clickertrained cat.