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Clicker trained Komodo dragon celebrates birthday at London Zoo

A celebrated Komodo dragon turns ten at the ZSL London Zoo. From the zoo's website

Raja, ZSL London Zoo's adult dragon, is getting his nails cut in preparation for his birthday and National Reptile Day which are both on Saturday.

Being a Komodo dragon, and one of the world's heaviest living lizards, you might think that Raja could be a bit of a ‘old dragon' when it comes to being pampered - but this just isn't the case!

The birthday boy has been target trained since he was three years old which means he is an old hand when it comes to being groomed.

During target training Raja is encouraged to focus on a white ball on the end of a stick, keepers then use a clicker and give Raja food each time he touches the target so he learns to associate this with a reward.

This enables Raja's keepers to work with him safely and means that essential grooming and veterinary procedures can be carried out without causing him unnecessary stress and resorting to general anesthetic.

The dragon is a popular animal with visitors, who love to watch his dramatic eating habits. With his long, yellow, deeply-forked tongue and stealthy approach Raja certainly makes a meal out of his dinner!



New Veterinary Behavior Technician Scholarship Program for Karen Pryor Academy

The organizing committee for the Academy of Veterinary Behavior Technicians (AVBT) and the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians (SVBT) scholarship committee are proud to introduce the AVBT "Faith" Scholarship to the Dog Trainer Program at Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training & Behavior.

The scholarship is named after Faith, the service dog trained using clicker training methods for Julie Shaw's son Dylan nearly 14 years ago. Faith died of lymphosarcoma at the age of six, but her memory will live on through the recipients of the "Faith" scholarship.

Two or three scholarships will be awarded annually, each valued at $2,500. The SVBT scholarship committee, along with the AVBT board of regents, will select a recipient who has demonstrated a commitment to advancing the role of the veterinary technician in the discipline of animal behavior and has a desire and the ability to pursue his or her Veterinary Technician Specialist-Behavior (VTS-Behavior) credentials.

For application details, click here.

Clicker trained "wonder rats" save lives in Africa

In Mozambique, clicker trained rats save the day--and save lives. From Ireland's Corkman:

Landmines are a huge problem in Mozambique. The country's villages, farming land and roads are a patchwork of minefields, planted by both sides during the 16-year long civil war. The mines remain active, despite the fact that the war ended many years ago. They continue to kill and injure Mozambicans, preventing normal daily activities like farming and movement through the countryside.

Landmines are remarkably difficult to remove. Armored mine-clearance vehicles are only effective on level, smooth surfaces. Metal detectors locate any metal object, leading to numerous false alarms. Dogs are good at detecting the explosives in landmines, but they are heavy enough to trigger the landmines themselves, and they tend to get bored with the repetitive work.

The idea of using rats as mine detectors is brilliant. Rats have a highly developed sense of smell and are easy to tame and train, as my ten year old rat-owning daughter will tell you. They are small, cheap and easy to maintain and transport. They are very adaptable, living comfortably in all sorts of environments. And once they have been taught a task, rats love to perform repetitive tasks. They are more easily transferred between trainers compared to dogs, since for rats, the key motivating factor is the food reward rather than the social kudos of impressing their owner.

 Read the whole article here.


New on CBS: Greatest American Dog

We knew reality TV was going to the dogs, but now it's really lying down with the fleas. On July 10 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT, CBS will unveil its most canine reality series: Greatest American Dog. We learned about the show when its producers called us asking for "a bag" of 50 clickers and wrist coils, which we happily provided. From the CBS site:

Twelve extraordinary teams of dogs and owners from across the nation from "pageant dogs" to those simply trained at home, will live together and compete against each other in challenges that put the owners' ability to train their dogs to the test. Each week, the judges will eliminate one dog and their owner. The last remaining team will walk away with a $250,000 cash prize and the title of GREATEST AMERICAN DOG. Distinguished canine critics Wendy Diamond, Allan Reznik and Victoria Stilwell are the three judges with Jarod Miller hosting.

Visit the Great American Dog website for show info and video clips. Will our clickers feature predominantly on a future episode? Stay tuned!

Clicker trained Acro-Cats on Chicago's WGN morning news!

Tune in! Friday, February 1, between 8:15 and 9:00 a.m., the Acro-Cats, along with special guest Wilbur the Groundhog, will be making a live appearance on Chicago's WGN morning news to promote their upcoming show at Mars Gallery on February 3.

Watch as a groundhog competes with the Acro-Cats in a display of various skills and tricks. As always, cats and live TV make for unique entertainment!

Some of you may remember clicker trainer Samantha Martin and the Acro-Cats from our profile: Herding Cats in Hollywood. Samantha has been clicker training animals for commercials and films for more than 15 years.