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Letter from Ken: A Look Ahead

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A newbie no more

Carrying on Karen's legacy.

As I write this letter, I am on a plane headed for the UK, where we are about to hold our second ClickerExpo in Europe, our final Expo of 2015. One year ago at this time I was just beginning in my role with Karen Pryor Clicker Training (KPCT). Karen created an organization that leads the way in positive reinforcement education. My job is to help preserve her vision and carry it into the future—a responsibility I take very seriously.

I have spent the last year learning about the company, familiarizing myself with all the facets of the organization, and understanding the needs of our CTPs, faculty, and staff. I have also received a lot of formal and informal feedback from you: KPA Certified Training Partners (CTP), ClickerExpo attendees, and other trainers interested in positive reinforcement methods. I have taken your comments to heart.

More courses

At KPA, we continue to focus on the quality of the KPA Dog Trainer Professional program and to look for ways to support our graduates. We launched two new courses this past year, Dog Sports Essentials and Smart Reinforcement, and are planning even more courses to enhance your training skills. We are exploring various options and prioritizing them, with the intent to develop new courses and make them available next year.

More Expo

Ken and faculty members at the recent ClickerExpo in
Warwickshire, UK
I am excited that we will be expanding all three ClickerExpo conferences in 2016. At each Expo, we are adding a Session room and several new instructors. In Reno (January 22-24, 2016), we will include new seminars that focus on the people-side of training with, Sessions focused on teaching and business. In Cincinnati (March 18-20, 2016), the new seminars will focus on equine training. In Europe, we will be adding Sessions and instructors, but the details are not yet finalized. However, I can tell you that our third ClickerExpo in Europe will take place in Denmark (October 28-30, 2016), and that registration for that exciting event and venue will open December 1, 2015.

More worldwide communication and involvement

We will continue to provide classes and consult on special projects to help spread the KPCT message more widely. Consulting projects allow us to reach audiences that might not follow our website or be familiar with the work of KPA. Those projects also offer the opportunity to work with training programs that have yet to embrace positive reinforcement fully. This year I have worked with more than a dozen zoos to improve their husbandry programs, collaborated with wildlife biologists on conservation projects, assisted law-enforcement agencies in developing improved, positive reinforcement alternatives, and taught training classes in ten countries—all representing Karen Pryor Clicker Training. A highlight for me in 2015 was the Butterfly Project, which I plan to report on during ClickerExpo 2016. In the year ahead, I will continue to expand on these varied efforts with new projects, classes in new countries, and consulting opportunities.

More understanding of others

One of the most important goals of KPCT is to spread the value of positive reinforcement to new trainers and programs.
One of the most important goals of KPCT is to spread the value of positive reinforcement to new trainers and programs. During the past year, I was surprised to find that positive reinforcement trainers are frequently the biggest obstacle to of achieving this goal. Yes, I said it! In my opinion, our biggest challenges are created by trainers within our own community. I have written about this several times in the past year (see Is It Really All or Nothing? and Thoughts From a “Positive Reinforcement” Trainer). I think that, sometimes, trainers can become so fanatical about their desire to see all trainers embrace the benefits of their own style of training that they become inflexible and intolerant of those who see it differently. Somehow, there have been occasions when that mentality has been wrongly associated with Karen Pryor Clicker Training. It may be the attitude of a small number of our CTPs, but it is certainly not what we teach in Karen Pryor Academy courses, nor is it the philosophy we promote at our annual ClickerExpo conferences. It is a mistaken perception that I want to work hard to change.

If we want to see the technology and science that we embrace continue to spread and become part of general training practice, we have to be more accepting of those who train differently. Just because a trainer uses punishment or another technique in a way that we don’t approve, that choice should not be the divisive tool that closes the door to dialogue. As trainers, we have to be able to work together and bridge the gap between us—not make the gap wider. I hope many of you will help me work toward achieving this important goal. Stay tuned for additional thoughts and calls to action in the months ahead.

More positive fun!

I am optimistic that by working together we will continue to make the training, care, and welfare of the animals in our lives better and better.
The past year has certainly been busy, but I am still looking forward to 2016—a year that should prove to be even busier and, hopefully, even more productive! My plan is to continue meeting new trainers, both advocates of the Karen Pryor Clicker Training mission as well as those new to using positive reinforcement or new to training altogether. I am optimistic that by working together we will continue to make the training, care, and welfare of the animals in our lives better and better.

Happy Training,


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