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Your Most Powerful Animal Training Tool

Your Most Powerful Animal Training Tool

Your most powerful animal training tool is yourself. The featured picture shows this author in 1985 with Silas, the wolf cub. Notice the whistle hanging around my neck. I used it as a conditioned positive reinforcer (yes, the precursor of the clicker). Silas preferred, though, my own verbal reinforcer (“dygtig”)* because I always associated it with friendly body language and facial expressions. It meant acceptance. For wolves, more sensitive to social situations than dogs, being accepted is the ultimate social reinforcer; for the cubs, it is vital.

These were the first observations that led me to suspect that the verbal and the mechanic conditioned positive reinforcers were not the same. I later coined the term, semi-conditioned reinforcer since parts of the verbal reinforcer (the body language and facial expression) are untaught.

And so, I’ll say without hesitation that your most powerful animal training tool is yourself. If you control yourself, your body language, your facial expressions and the little that you say, you’ll achieve what you pretend and more.

After all, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Interacting with someone is not merely a question of conditioning a series of behaviors—it is creating a relationship.

You can see me illustrating this in the DVD “The 20 Principles All Animal Trainers Must Know” shot by the Tawzers in Montana at a seminar I gave. Watch the trailer here. Also, explore the many resources on this site. Feel free to browse as you please, watch the free videos and read the free articles.

* “Dygtig” [ˈdøgdi] is a Danish word and means “clever.” It is, apparently, a good sound as a reinforcer, I discovered many years ago.

Featured image: Roger Abrantes in 1985 interacting with Silas, the wolf cub—creating a relationship.

Learn more in our course Ethology and Behaviorism. Based on Roger Abrantes’ book “Animal Training My Way—The Merging of Ethology and Behaviorism,” this online course explains and teaches you how to create a stable and balanced relationship with any animal. It analyses the way we interact with our animals, combines the best of ethology and behaviorism and comes up with an innovative, yet simple and efficient approach to animal training. A state-of-the-art online course in four lessons including videos, a beautiful flip-pages book, and quizzes.

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Roger Abrantes

Born in Portugal, a citizen of the World. Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology, B.A. in Philosophy. Speaks seven languages. Present work: lecturing on Ethology and sailing and diving in Thailand (marine biology environmental management).

View all articles by Roger Abrantes