Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tagging for Creativity

It's 2:45pm and the dancers are descending - their giggles ring in the stairwell. My 9yr old Intermediate Jazz Class starts in 15 minutes and as I'm rushing to pull myself together for class, the phone rings. Our Ballet teacher is having car trouble and won't make it in today to teach her scheduled Tween Ballet class (which runs in our adjacent studio at the same time as my class). It's too late to try to find a sub. So, looks like I'm taking both classes - NOW. That's 28 dancers in one studio with li'l ole me - oh, and the two groups are not anywhere near the same level. I'm either looking at mayhem, martial law or..... you guessed it, TAG!

So, into the studio the dancers bounce and I begin the warm-up - throughout which I'm thinking fast and furiously to try to come up with something unique. But nothing is hitting me. We've done so many versions of our traditional TAG exercises and, since this is the week following our Holiday Performance for which they've all worked very hard, I really want to come up with something extra fun and special and then it hits me...

Our dancers LOVE to choreograph and, in fact, we often use it as a reinforcer. But I find that many of the dancers struggle with the creative aspect. Many dance styles, especially Ballet, and even Jazz to a large extent, have a set vocabulary and dancers are trained to perform them "just so". So, when asked to switch their behavior and suddenly "be creative" they can feel unsure of how to proceed. As a result they tend to regurgitate the "steps" we have presented in class, sometimes verbatim, sometimes rearranged a bit, but most often very identifiablly - as opposed to creating new shapes and connections which is the essence of true choreography. But, how to TAG for this???

"Tap, tap, tap" - nope, no one's tap dancing today, that's the tapping of my dog, Eevee, at the door signaling with her paw on the glass that she wants to come in to watch class. As I ignore her she begins to throw every trick in the book to get my attention and is coming up with new things I haven't ever seen. And, it hits me... "101 things to do with a box" the fabulous clicker training method of inspiring creativity in animals. That's what I need to try with the dancers today! And I'm off...

I break the dancers up into pairs: one older dancer with one younger. "The tag point is: make a new shape or connection. Once you have 8 tags (new moves) that we've never seen - switch and your partner will begin." The kids dove in. They were immediately having a blast AND coming up with some really interesting movements - fantastic!

After they all succeeded in getting their 8 tags, I encouraged them to work with their partner to combine all of their "new moves" into a short piece. Years ago Theresa (our TAGteach originator) had taught me the theatre game "yes, and" which has ever since been a staple here at the studio. The game instructs that when a partner has an idea the response must always be "yes, and" (as opposed to "no" or "I don't want to do that" or "that's stupid"). This way, instead of a partner's idea being thwarted, thereby inhibiting creativity, confidence and participation, each idea is validated and built upon. Naturally, the tag point for the collaboration portion of today's activity was "yes, and".

The pieces were amazing, the kids were all completely involved and the class productive. When I asked the older girls if they'd minded dancing with the younger kids today they replied "Are you kidding? That was awesome!" And, so, from a potential disaster of a teaching day came, instead, a new post Holiday Performance tradition. TAG!

Questions about how to use TAG in a dance environment? Contact: OR
A Dancer's Dream
222 Beacon Street
Marblehead, MA 01945

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dentist Saga Update #2

We have been following with great interest the saga of Callan and the dentist. This 3-year old was terrified of going to the dentist and his mother Sara did not want to use force. She discovered TAGteach and began the stepwise process of teaching Callan to overcome his fears. They started by touching photos of the dentist's office and equipment, interacting with a Playdoh dentist and with mouth opening games. Then they moved on to visiting the dentist's office and touching the door, eventually going in to the waiting room and even sitting in the dentist chair. One one of these visits Callan actually caught a glimpse of the dentist himself!

Sara has videotaped much of this process and we are grateful to her for sharing this journey so that we can all learn from it. We know how much effort it takes to get video, let alone deal with a fearful child, tagger and treats all at the same time!

Here is the first video in the series of actual visits to the dentist's office:

Here is the ninth video in the series in which Callan actually sits in the dentist's chair, laughs while the dentist looks at his teeth and chats happily with the dentist.

To see the other videos in the series, visit Sara's YouTube channel.

TAGteach and Autism - Skill and Faith

There are two things that a TAGteacher needs to be successful. These are skill in applying the technology and faith in the technology. The skill comes from having a good understanding of the principles underlying the science of behaviour, having a good understanding of the principles of TAGteach and lots of tagging practice. The faith comes from experience and seeing it work again and again and just knowing that it works.

Denise Blackman posted a story to our TAGteach Yahoo group that gives a perfect illustration of the combination of skill and faith resulting in a successful outcome.

Here is Denise's post (reposted with permission):
I don't normally post, but I had a fun experience today and want to share it.

I work as a consultant to a preschool program for children with autism. Yesterday we were discussing one of the kids, "Robert", an almost 4-year-old boy who does not currently speak, make eye contact, imitate, play with others, or follow most directions.

One of the many things "Robert" is working on is writing. His writing goal is to draw a vertical line. Unfortunately he wasn't making any progress on the goal. Rather than trying to copy the line, he just scribbled on the paper. We decided to try TAGteach with him.

To prepare I made a stencil of a vertical line. The opening for the pen was big enough for two swipes with a thick marker. The stencil material was slightly thicker than a file folder. It was just thick enough to give a bit of direction to the tip of a marker but not much. I covered all but the opening of the stencil with laminating plastic so I could clean off stray ink marks. The idea was to use the stencil over white construction paper in order to provide good contrast between the stencil, the pen marks, and the paper.

My plan was to tag Robert for 1) touching the marker, 2) holding the marker, 3) holding the marker in a writing position, 4) touching the tip of the marker anywhere within the opening of the stencil, 5) moving the tip of the marker within the stencil, and then (hopefully, eventually), drawing a line within the stencil. Progression from there would involve fading the stencil. I was hoping to get to a pen touch within the stencil for the first session but would have been happy with less than that.

Today did not seem like a great day to give the procedure a try. Robert was not in a good mood. He kept crying and throwing things, and it wasn't clear what he was upset about. But I decided to try anyway. At one point he tried to take a juice container from the counter so I knew I had access to something he wanted.

So: I gave Robert a sip of juice and tagged him. Then I showed him the marker which he took and threw across the room. I tagged him as soon as he touched it, ignored the throw, and gave him a sip of juice. I offered the marker again, tagged a slight touch, and reinforced again. This first bit (reinforcing for any touch, ignoring tantrums) probably lasted less than a minute but it felt long. Then he took the marker by himself and held it in a writing position. Tag! Then he scribbled on the paper and stencil: I tagged when the tip of the marker landed inside the stencil.

After 2-3 tags for inadvertent touches inside the stencil Robert started deliberately marking inside the stencil. Tag! Then he made a deliberate line inside the stencil. Tag! After 2-3 tags for that, he took the stencil from me, moved it to a clear place on the page, and drew a full length line inside the stencil. Tag! And he did it again. Tag! And again. At that point we stopped the lesson. The entire session took less than five minutes. It was extremely, extremely cool to get that much progress so fast.

I can't predict where Robert's learning will go from here, but we sure found a teaching technique that works for him. I'm feeling excited about it and wanted to share.

Denise showed skill in the way she broke the skill down into manageable pieces, set up the learner for success and tagged and reinforced appropriately. The faith came into play when things did not go as expected at first and the child displayed undesirable behaviour after being tagged. Denise just carried on, ignoring the undesirable behaviour, sticking to her teaching plan and tagging the successes.

Thanks Denise, for sharing this terrific story!

The Praise Junkie

By Joan Orr M.Sc.

There is a book called "Punished by Rewards" by Alfie Kohn. I saw the title and thought "how can that be?" and so I bought the book. Dr. Kohn explains how endless stickers and charts and ribbons and praise and approval to children for every single accomplishment no matter how small is creating children who cannot function without outside approval. They have no confidence in their own abilities and low self esteem because they judge themselves through the eyes of others. They are not self motivated and do not derive satisfaction from achievement for its own sake since they have been systematically trained to look to others for approval as a result of the frivolous doling out of rewards by parents, teachers and coaches. This is of course an over-simplification, since it is quite a long book with lots of scientific references, but you get the idea.

Theresa McKeon (TAGteach cofounder and professional gymnastics coach) calls these kids "praise junkies". They are the ones that always want the coach to look at them. They can't work independently. They are not focused on learning, but are focused on what the coach (parent, teacher, etc) thinks. They require constant approval and encouragement. They may even misbehave in order to have the attention focused back on them if other children are getting in the way of this.

TAGteach eliminates the conditions that create and maintain the praise junkies. With TAGteach the tangible reward is linked to the tag point through the tag. That is the tag (click) comes immediately as the behaviour occurs and if there is a sticker or other tangible reward, that comes later. It is the immediacy of the tag that makes the difference between a tag (which is a reinforcer) and a reward which comes after the fact (and may or may not be reinforcing). Forms of approval that come after the fact may reinforce the attention seeking and praise junkie behaviour and not the behaviour associated with the skill we are trying to teach.

TAGteach provides a mechanism for reinforcing the desired behaviour at the exact moment it occurs and not other behaviours which may come afterward. The tag sound is neutral and does not convey emotion or social approval. There is no sense of being judged by the person with the tagger. The tag just means "yes that was right". Absence of the tag directs the child to self assess and try again. TAGteach fosters independent thought and self-motivation since the learning process is now in the hands of the child as facilitated by the coach or teacher. TAGteach creates active learners who are in control of their own learning and who gain confidence in their own ability to achieve without dependence on the opinion of others.

Here is a video that illustrates the transition from TAGteach-facilitated learning to independent self-motivation. This video is edited to remove the repetition - but each tag point was repeated several times to the point of confidence before moving to the next tag point. Notice at one point Lear is frightened and refuses to jump off the step to the helper. A few minutes later he is pushing the helper away saying "no I don't need help!" and swimming around by himself for fun, with no external reinforcement.

TAGteach and Dog Bite Victim Rehab

Teresa Lewin (cofounder of Doggone Safe and dog behaviour specialist) has developed some interesting ways of using TAGteach to help dog bite victims overcome fear of dogs. Here is a series of three videos showing Teresa's approach.

The first shows Paige identifying characteristics of dogs in photos from the Doggone Crazy! board game and the Be a Tree teacher kit (available from Doggone Crazy!). She receives a tag for providing the correct answer. This helps her in two ways: 1) she is learning about canine body language and becoming empowered with the knowledge that lets her judge what kind of mood a dog might be in; 2) she is becoming desensitized to the presence of dogs without any risk.

The second two videos show Paige being tagged in the presence of a dog and then being tagged for actually working with the dog. The tag points relate to physical signs of relaxation produced by Paige.

Friday, November 20, 2009

TAGteacher Spotlight - Keri Gorman

Keri Gorman is a Certified Level 3 TAGteacher, Senior TAGteach Instructor and Education and Behavior Consultant. She was formerly an animal trainer at Sea World, California where she worked with a variety of animal species including birds of prey, river otters and parrots and performed in daily shows. It was there that she began using marker-based teaching methods and it carried over into her work at the Humane Society for Southwest Washington where she worked as the Director of Education and Behavior. While at the Humane Society Keri developed Project Click, an award winning at-risk youth program whose foundation is based on the TAGteach methodology and clicker training. Keri is currently implementing TAGteach into the Juvenile Justice system and also uses it in the fields of rock climbing and horseback riding. She also owns an equine behavior consulting business where she employs clicker training as a way to help people develop positive relationships with their horses and solve behavior problems. She works with a variety of clients conducting seminars, presentations and private consulting.

Visit Keri's website for more information

Monday, November 16, 2009

TAGteach Certification Seminar in IA in Feb

TAGteach comes to Iowa!

TAGteach is featured in Karen Pryor's new book "Reaching the Animal Mind" and is now being applied around the globe.

TAGteach uses the same positive reinforcement platform applied in clicker training and incorporates professional coaching skills to provide an inspiring teaching and learning technology! Persons involved in education, therapy, training and managing will come away with the ability to:speed learning and increase retention, acquire the full attention of students or staff, and reduce frustration (both leader and learner).

This seminar uses interactive video, lecture, special guests and lots of hands on practice to insure attendees gain the foundation skills needed to bring TAGteach back to their individual fields and begin using it.

Facility: Canine Craze Performance Center

Location: 3101 104th Street, Suite 3
Urbandale, IA

How to register: Register Online at Urbandale, Iowa

Registration fee: 375.00Earlybird or $425.00Std


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Praise for TAGteach from Autism Author

Mary Lynch Barbera, RN, MSN, BCBA, Author of The Verbal Behavior Approach: How to Teach Children with Autism and Related Disorders had this to say about TAGteach...

TAGteach has great potential to help children with autism learn complex skills. This new technology is built on an entirely positive approach so learners feel successful while being taught important life-long skills. Every teacher and parent (of children with and without autism) would benefit from learning about TAGteach!

I just completed the e-learning TAGteach program and I was extremely impressed! I believe the e-learning program is very comprehensive and a great starting place to learn more about TAGteach. After completing the course I feel I'm ready to use Tagging in many different areas of my life including helping my 13-year-old son with autism write better and my 11-year-old son improve his soccer skills! I feel every parent, teacher, and coach would benefit from the TAGteach e-learning program.
Click here to read an article about Mary's work with autism and the verbal behavior approach.

Find out more about the TAGteach online course

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

TAGteacher Spotlight - Maggie Ouillette

Maggie Ouillette is a nurse, a dog trainer and a certified Level 2 TAGteacher. Maggie volunteers at the Michigan Humane Society helping to implement the Pawsitive Start Program. This is an enrichment program for shelter dogs to help them develop life skills that will make them more adoptable and will also improve their lives at the shelter. The dogs are trained using clicker training by volunteers. Before the volunteers can work with the dogs they must learn the necessary dog handling and clicker training skills.

Maggie has worked to develop tag points for the various skills that the volunteers need to learn. She presented the results of this work at a TAGteach seminar in Tonawanda NY in August 2009 for completion of the requirements for Level 2 TAGteach Certification.

You can download Maggie's project report from the files section at the TAGteach Yahoo discussion group to see all the tag points, what worked and what didn't.

Here is a video that shows some of Maggie's presentation:

Here is a video showing how TAGteach is incorporated into handler training. The dog gets a click for looking at the handler. It does not matter what else he is doing, if he looks he gets a click. He gets a treat after each click. The handler places the treat on the floor and after doing so, takes one step forward. The targets on the floor are to guide the handler so that she know where to step. After placing the treat on the floor, the tag point is step on the target. The tag sound for the handler is a different sound from the clicker used with the dog. The handler does not get a treat after each tag, her reinforcement comes from knowing she did the correct thing and from seeing the dog improve.

Here is what the finished skill looks like. The handler does not need to be tagged here, because she knows the skill (dog looks, click, treat on the ground, walk on):

For more information about Maggie please visit Serendipity Dog Training.

For more videos visit
Maggie's YouTube channel and the Pawsitive Start YouTube channel

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

And the Oscar Goes to...

Paula, Miranda and Tracie

We have a ton of fun at our TAGteach seminars! This is partly because TAGteach is fun by its very nature and partly because of the terrific people who come to these seminars. People come from all kinds of different backgrounds and so everyone has lots to learn from each other.

There is lots of time for hands on practical application of the TAGteach techniques and those who wish can demonstrate to the group. Participants at the seminar held in Tonawanda earlier in the fall particularly enjoyed the antics of the group from Purrfect Paws Animal Behavior Center (who also hosted the seminar).

The assignment was to come up with some tag points to help teach something from your daily life or work that has posed a challenge. The groups had some time to work on this and then they demonstrated to the rest of the group (if they wished). Check out these Oscar-worthy performances...

Thanks again to Miranda Workman and everyone at Purrfect Paws Animal Behavior Center for putting on a fantastic seminar!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

TAGteach YouTube Channel

Hey, we figured out how to create a YouTube channel. Check it out!

TAGteach at the Niabi Zoo

by Laura Monaco Torelli

This past week I introduced the basic concepts of TAGteach to the trainers at Niabi Zoo. We acquired amazing video of myself tagging the trainers during Colobus and Lion training on Tuesday (stay video to come!). Below is the initial feedback I received from the trainers after they were "tagged":

Colleen (Head Keeper):
"TAG teach made me more conscious of what I was doing as a trainer"

"TAG teach made me realize that what I was trained to do is actually what I'm doing right"

"It was great positive reinforcement as a trainer to let me know I was moving in the right direction"

"It was interesting and helpful to have positive feedback on "my training" behaviors, not always how I am working with the animals"

"TAG teach was helpful because it made me focus in on exactly what I was doing at a certain moment. It's always nice to learn through positive feedback!"

Thanks again to Colleen and her great Team at Niabi for allowing me the flexibility and positive teaching atmosphere to always try something new!

Here is a video showing Laura tagging one of the trainers. The tag point is "hand at home base". This is to help reinforce good training technique and to prevent superfluous hand movements during training that the animal might interpret superstitiously.

Laura is using a ping sound to tell the trainer when she has performed the tag point correctly.

There is more than one clicker training session going on here and so many of the clicks you hear are not directed at the animal in the video. Try to ignore the clicking as you watch and focus on the trainer's left arm. Listen for the "ping" sound when she returns the hand to home base (at her side). Being able to focus only on the tag point and not on all the other things that are going on is one of skills of a good TAGteacher.

Here is another video in which Laura uses "ping" sound to tag the trainer when she meets the tag point. The tag point here is "feed with forceps". Previously the trainers had been feeding from their hands and so using the forceps is a new skill that must be learned. Rather than nagging or reminding, Laura uses a tag point and reinforces with the ping sound when the trainer gets it right. Notice at about second 37, Jessi, the trainer begins to feed with her hand, realizes there was no tag, self assesses and then uses the forceps.

Find out more about Laura at

Friday, October 23, 2009

CE Credits for TAGteach Online Course

The Introduction to TAGteach online course has been approved for 9 CEUs from CCPDT.

This course also satisfies partial requirement for TAGteach Primary Certification.

The course covers the following topics:

Lesson 1: Course Information
Lesson 2: TAGteach Overview
Lesson 3: A New Perspective
Lesson 4: TAGteach Triangle
Lesson 5: Identify – Creating a Tag Point
Lesson 6: Highlight – Using a Marker
Lesson 7: Reinforce – Positive and Practical
Lesson 8: TAG Tactics
Lesson 9: Integrating TAGteach
Lesson 10: Wrap Up

Download a detailed course outline

Download a free demo with working videos

Find out more

Discounts are available for anyone who has attended a live TAGteach seminar as well as students, graduates and faculty from the Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training and Behavior. Contact Theresa (TAGteachers) or Tia (KPA) for more discount codes.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Theresa Goes to Jail

By Theresa McKeon

I was invited to visit the James River Correctional Center for Men and the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Virginia to introduce TAGteach to groups of specially selected inmates. These groups of men and women are involved with the Pen Pals program in which they are paired with a shelter dog to train. Since they use clicker training to train their dogs, they are familiar with the principles underlying the TAGteach approach. Even so, I was a bit concerned that going into a maximum security prison to teach inmates to communicate and be nice to each other might be somewhat of a challenge.

The inmates were very cooperative and enthusiastic about TAGteach. In fact they were the politest, most attentive group I have ever worked with. The women were kind enough to take the time to provide written comments after learning about TAGteach. Some of these are framed below in terms of the TAGteach principles they embody:

Because a core component of TAGteach is to highlight success, leaders become proficient at looking for what is right, instead of focusing on what is wrong. Building on success is a skill that generalizes into a lifestyle.

"It has made me be on the lookout for my teammates’ TAG points, which encourages them while helping create a habit of observation in me.” Theresa- Inmate at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women

“It also made me realize that I need to start looking at the positive in my teammates.I have to rearrange my way of thinking and even communicating.” Tracey- Inmate FCCW

"We are so apt to notice the bad things in people that we overlook the positive.” Denise - FCCW

TAGteach is also designed to prevent confusion and build trust between leader and learner. Condemnatory language inherent in punishment based teaching is replaced with a collection of nonjudgmental tools like, “the tag point is” to initiate behavior, and a non-verbal marker to highlight it.

“In this type of setting, it’s difficult to receive feedback without looking for judgment and/or negativity.
The neutrality of the TAGteach technique makes it possible.” Theresa- FCCW

“It’s not so much a compliment – which can be hard for us to accept – but more of an affirmation that we are being mindful of our actions.

"It has really helped me to focus on my issues, and instead of feeling bad when I do wrong, I now feel positive about myself when I do something right.” Denise - FCCW

The program provides a platform upon which anyone can create achievable goals with clear beginnings and well defined endings. The audible marker component provides a non-judgmental method of marking, magnifying and instantly reinforcing any targeted response. The marker also adds an element of fun, encouraging repetition of success.

“Having taught more than half my life, I’ve always believed any learning should be fun. TAG is fun.” - Janice FCCW.

Success is guaranteed from the first moments as every first tag point is a point of success, something that is already within reach. This reinforces the leader’s goal to look for the positive while setting up a safe learning environment for the student. Each challenge subsequently builds from this point of success and moves towards a finished product.

“Learning TAGteach is a great self-esteem builder and positive reinforcer.
I would suggest that everyone try it.” Tecia - FCCW

“Positively reinforced teachers seeing success in their students due to TAG become more dedicated teachers. Students being positively reinforced by pointing out (tagging) their successes will be more dedicated students. It’s a wonderful positive circle!” Janice – FCCW

"On the next day at work (teaching math and computer aided drafting), I found myself thinking, How can I TAGteach this? Instead of fussing…I started discussing. The immediate result…improved performance and mood. At the end of a fraction session, I had several women tell me this was the first time they hadn’t hated math or felt stupid when dealing with it.” Theresa – FCCW

The men were willing to let us videotape their comments:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

TAGteach Certification Seminars in Grove City OH and St. Louis MO

Grove City OH - Oct 24-25

Posidog Learning Center

Phone: 614-859-5238
Website of the facility: <>

6497 Seeds Road, Grove City, OH

The Early Bird deadline for the seminar is October 1

Register online at

St. Louis MO - Nov 7-8

Humane Society of Missouri

1201 Macklind Ave
St. Louis, MO

Register Online at St Louis, MO

More information:

Event Description

This training will positively change the way you teach and learn…we guarantee it!
TAGteach is designed to encourage the use of positive reinforcement across a wide variety of applications.

1. Quickly increase client success rate
2. Instantly reduce client anxiety
3. Turn nag points into “TAG points”
4. Increase the ‘fun’ quotient for you and the client

TAGteach provides a unique, three-step system that identifies, highlights, and reinforces elements crucial to skill acquisition and retention. The technology can be applied with any age, population or skill level and has been successful in a variety of fields.

This seminar uses interactive video, lecture, special guests and lots of hands on practice to insure attendees gain the foundation skills needed to bring TAGteach back to their individual fields and begin using it.

Participants will be eligible, but are not required, to earn their TAGteach Primary Certification.

Attendees from all backgrounds are welcome. The seminar is limited to 30 people and group discounts are available

Friday, August 28, 2009

Learning from Success - MIT Study

TAGteach is all about learning from success, clearly marking success and reinforcing it. The TAGteach approach is illustrated by the TAG triangle: Identify, Highlight and Reinforce. A recent study using monkeys by MIT researchers sheds light on why the TAGteach approach works so quickly and so well.
"We have shown that brain cells keep track of whether recent behaviors were successful or not," Miller said. Furthermore, when a behavior was successful, cells became more finely tuned to what the animal was learning. After a failure, there was little or no change in the brain - nor was there any improvement in behavior.

After a correct response, the electrical impulses coming from neurons in each of the brain areas was more robust and conveyed more information. "The signal-to-noise ratio improved in both brain regions," Miller said. "The heightened response led to them being more likely to get the next trial correct, too. This explains on a neural level why we seem to learn more from our successes than our failures."
For more information and a link to the original study click here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Show 'Em the Money!

What do kids really want for reinforcement? Candy, for one thing; money for another. This according to an article published in the the Summer/Fall 2009 issue of the Latham Letter and written by social worker Lynn Loar and five young co-authors. Parents and other adults need to realize that it is all very well to hope that an innate sense of moral obligation will cause Jimmy to clean his room, but if you want the job done easily and well, then you need to pay with currency that kids value.

Kid authors Hilary Louie, Evelyn Pang, Michelle Ma, Maya Rankupalli and Geoffrey Pott are experienced with clicker training, TAGteaching and the concept of reinforcement and they explain why certain things are reinforcing and in what context. Lynn Loar sums it up as follows:
So, there you have it. Be generous, sincere and specific. Use candy and money as reinforcers, even if you prefer other things. As Maya shows, children move on from candy, pennies and toys to more mature and altruistic reinforcers when they are ready. Clicker trainers know to let the learner set the pace; let your students develop this broader perspective at their own pace and don’t begrudge the candy and pennies in the meantime.
Click here to read the entire article.

Click here to read an article about TAGteach and reinforcement

Tags on Ice DVD

Tags on Ice is a lovely documentary-style video that shows children with special needs and their families learning to ice skate with TAGteach.

It is so nice to see the relaxed atmosphere and everyone cooperating and enjoying themselves. It is cute to see the kids showing their point stickers to their parents. I liked the part where the little boy came to Lynn and asked her to tag him for going backwards and then he went off and practiced it by himself.

Joan Orr - TAGteach Principal
Click here to find out more about this DVD or to order it.

Click here to watch some of the fun.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

TAGteach Article at

Check out this great article by Eve Alexander published at

Whenever I tell people about clicker training, the first thing they ask is, “Does it work on kids?” The good news is – yes it does. And it works on adults as well.

Monday, July 13, 2009

TAGteach in Tonawanda in August

TAGteach in Tonawanda, NY - Aug 15-16, 2009. Now being applied around the globe, TAGteach is attracting forward thinking professionals from the boardroom to the classroom. Persons involved in education, therapy (occupational, physical, behavioral, speech and recreation), coaching and managing will come away with answers to questions such as: How can I speed learning and increase retention? How do I get the full attention of my students/staff? Is there a way to reduce frustration? This seminar uses interactive video, lecture, special guests and lots of hands on practice to insure attendees gain the foundation skills needed to bring TAGteach back to their individual fields and begin using it.

Purrfect Paws Animal Behavior Center

2925 Sheridan Drive, Tonawanda, NY

How to register:
Register Online at TAGteach Tonawanda, NY

Registration fee:


Updated TAGteach Certification Requirements

TAGteach International offers four levels of TAGteacher certification. These requirements ensure that practicing TAGteachers meet high standards of understanding and application of the TAGteach principles. Updated certification requirements have been posted here.

To find a certified TAGteacher in your area click here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

High Jump video

We have posted our classic high jump video to YouTube. This illustrates some of the basic principles of TAGteach. Note the self assessment and absence of frustration when they miss the tag point. This video shows rapid learning of a complex skill without ever pointing out mistakes. It also provides a good example of backchaining... starting with the last part of the skill and gradually adding pieces to move toward the completed skill.

Monday, June 22, 2009

TAGteach Online Course

We are pleased to announce the availability of the TAGteach Online Course. This is an introduction to TAGteach suitable for anyone who wants to teach something to someone else or to encourage a change in another's behavior.
I love the online course. It is clear that a great deal of time, expertise and attention went into its creation. The audio was very pleasant to listen to and informative. The use of Scott’s supporting documentation is very user friendly. My impression was that it resulted in a high-end professional experience for the user.

Danielle G. Theule, DDS, CPDT, KPA CTP, TAGteacher Level 1, CGC Evaluator – Canis Jedi Canine Training

Download Course Outline

Download PDF Demo with working video links


For more information Click Here

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

TAGteach at the Association of Behavior Analysis International Conference

TAGteach was the subject of five presentations at the recent ABAI conference. One was on the subject of teaching the golf swing, presented by Victoria Fogel and the others were about TAGteach applications in teaching children diagnosed with autism. The titles and abstracts of the austim presentations are listed below:

Using TAG Teach Methods to Develop Eye Contact Behavior in Children with Autism.
REGINA L. MAENDLER (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology), John W Eshleman (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology), Traci M. Cihon (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)

Many children diagnosed with autism demonstrate limited eye contact behavior with others. Eye contact can be an important prerequisite for the development of other behavioral repertoires including mands, imitation, and social interaction. Because the eye contact movement cycle can be quite brief, it is not always possible to provide immediate reinforcement and often one may inadvertently reinforce another behavior (e.g. looking away). The purpose of this study was to increase eye contact behavior in children diagnosed with autism using two reinforcement methods; contingent positive reinforcement and Teaching by Acoustical Guidance (TAG). During the first treatment condition, descriptive praise statements as well as access to preferred items and activities were made contingent upon occurrences of eye contact behavior. During the second treatment condition, occurrences of eye contact behavior were immediately tagged with an acoustical marker and directly followed by access to a backup reinforcer in the form of descriptive praise statements as well as access to preferred items and activities. Treatment conditions were presented during randomly alternating sessions through a multielement design. Differences in responding between conditions were attributed to the effectiveness of each treatment variable as an intervention for developing eye contact behavior among children with autism.

The use of TAG to Improve the Acquisition of Instruction Following in Young Children with Autism.
MARIDITH R. GUTIERREZ (Applied Behavior Consultants, Inc)

The use of TAG (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance) was examined in the acquisition of Receptive Instructions in children with autism. Receptive skills can be difficult for children with autism to acquire and the discrimination of different instructions is often an observed deficit. Four students at a non-public school for children with autism participated in the study. The students had not acquired the skill of following instructions in a structured teaching environment using standard discrete trial teaching nor through incidental teaching (e.g., within routine contexts). A multiple baseline across subjects design was used to examine whether the insertion of TAG, used to reinforce the target response prior to receipt of the highly preferred item, led to an increase in the acquisition of the skill. Students were exposed to a Receptive Instructions lesson with standard discrete trial teaching (i.e., SD-R-SR) during baseline. The use of TAG was implemented with each student in a staggered fashion and inserted immediately after a correct response.

Evaluating the Maintaining Effects of TAGteach on the Social Skills of an Individual with Autism.

There have been many noted interventions utilized in teaching social skills to children with Autism. TAGteach or Teaching with Acoustical Guidance incorporates the use of a tagger (audible marker) while pairing it with positive reinforcement and shaping in order to quickly teach a vast repertoire of skills to individuals in a variety of populations. The current study focused on analyzing the maintaining effects of TAGteach on the social skills (e.g., eye contact during manding and close proximity to peers) of a 7-year-old male diagnosed with Autism. Previously, eye contact while manding and close proximity to peers had been targeted and increased utilizing TAGteach compared to a more commonly used method. Maintenance data showed that the target behaviors did not maintain; however, required considerably less time to reacquire the skills utilizing TAGteach.

An Auditory Marker as a Secondary Reinforcer in the Shaping of Specific Behaviors in Children with Autism.
JEFF E. OOSTYEN (Focus Psychological Services)

This study examined the training of two behaviors (maintaining proximity and eye contact) in six children with Autism. An auditory marker, or TAG (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance) was employed as a secondary reinforcer for shaping the desired behaviors. The intervention followed the tenet of Applied Behavior Analysis and learning theory. The study was directed by personnel with TAGteach certification A multiple single case design with a multiple baseline across behaviors design was utilized to implement the intervention, as well as increase the ease of collecting data. The interventions took place in a natural environmental setting where each child’s behaviors were ecologically balanced. The data supported the efficacy of the intervention, but only in the context of training a child with Autism. Following full implementation, the rate of reinforcement was methodically reduced. The data indicated that the behaviors could be maintained at a level well above baseline. The implications of these results are discussed.

Additional study reports and information about TAGteach and autism can be found at

TAGteach at the Animal Behavior Management Alliance Conference

TAGteacher Lisa Clifton-Bumpass was a presenter at the Animal Behavior Management Alliance Conference in April and reported that she was
"giddy with delight to see that TAG was a prominent theme - either as the hallmark subject or referenced heavily in the materials."

It is exciting to see TAGteach taking on a life of its own as more and more people are having success with the approach and are spreading the word. We are really proud of the high caliber TAGteachers that are leaders in their field and presenters at these conferences.

Here is a list of the presentations that involved TAGteach:

April 26th
1. Devising Innovative Treatment Modalities for 0.1 Geriatric Giraffe: The Synergistic Effect of a Team Training Program At the Oakland Zoo's Giraffe Facility
by Amy Phelps & Lisa Clifton-Bumpass, Oakland Zoo

2. A Dog Trainer On Leash at the Zoo, Building the Bridge Between a Zoo's Training Program and Dog Training
by Lisa Clifton-Bumpass, A Step Beyond

April 29th
1. Karen Pryor Academy and the Veterinary Profession: Making the Collaboration Click, by Laura Monaco Torelli, Karen Pryor Academy Julie Shaw, Purdue University and Karen Pryor Academy and John Ciribassi DVM, Dipl. ACVB, Chicagoland Veterinary Behavior Consultants.

2.TAG - That's It! Using What We Know As Animal Trainers to be Better People Trainers, by Jody Ambrose, Training Made Simple

3. Advanced Training, Poultry in Motion by Terry Ryan, Legacy Canine Behavior and Training

May 1
1. Fixing Broken Horses Through Operant Conditioning Training Programs, By Elizabeth Abram, The Oakland Zoo

Karen Pryor's New Book

Karen Pryor's new book, Reaching the Animal Mind was released yesterday. This book contains a chapter dedicated to TAGteach - Chapter 11. The associated website has links and additional resources to augment the material in the book.

Reaching the Animal Mind

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

TAGteach in Texas In July

Date: July 18-19, 2009
Place: Creekside Pet Care, N. Richland Hills, TX 76180
Register at

  • Quickly increase student success rate
  • Instantly reduce student anxiety
  • Turn nag points into "TAG points"
  • Increase the `fun' quotient
  • Earn Primary TAGteach Certification
  • CPDT CEU credits available

"This teaching technology has truly changed our lives"
Lynn Boulier, Tail Waggin' Training Center

"The best money you'll ever spend on training!"
Melissa Winkle- Dogwood Therapy Services

"This class has really opened my eyes. There are a lot of positive ways to deal with people" Cascade Fishing Company

Friday, April 24, 2009

TAGteach and Baseball

By Brian Langlois

I haven't had the opportunity to implement tag teach for my baseball team to the extent I had hoped as of yet because of the weather here and the availability of players. Although they have all expressed interest and excitement at the prospect so that is a definite good start.

I have had the opportunity to work with one of my players however and I am very excited about the results. This player has played with me for years, he rarely hits it out of the infield, and usually gets on base because he is so incredibly fast or the other team makes an error, rarely because of a good hit. We went to the batting cages to get some practice, and as usual his first round he was hitting soft ground balls that would more often than not lead to an out. Watching his swing I noticed that when he rotated his hips to hit his back leg was overturning and his front leg was under turning.

Watching a bit longer I realized this was because of a problem with his initial stance, so we had our starting point and first tag point. I pulled him out of the cage and explained how I wanted him to set up in his stance, and that I would tag him for the proper stance then he can swing away, we were focusing on his stance. After maybe 2 minutes he was automatically without even thinking about it getting into the proper stance. I couldn't believe how quickly the change occurred, I have never seen anything like it. Then we started working on rotating his hips properly as he swung, having already corrected his stance this only took about a minute. Finally I explained to him how he should finish his swing after hitting the ball which is something no one ever explained to him before. Being entirely new to him this took about 3-4 minutes until he was consistently being tagged for it.

So after less than ten minutes of tagging he went back into the cages, he hit all fifteen pitches, and most of them solid line drives that would be at least a double, with his speed possibly a triple. Most importantly he was excited, I've never seen that excitement in an adult before. He sent me an e-mail a few days later to tell me he had gone back to the cages to practice what we worked on and he's doing even better.

If I wasn't convinced before I am now, to help a person improve that quickly and become excited about learning, this isn't the best thing since sliced bread, it's better.

About Brian

Thursday, April 16, 2009

English version of Swiss TAGteach Article

Here is the English version of the article...Thanks for the translation Doris Vaterlous!

Solothurner Newpaper, 15.4.2007
Success with acoustical signals

In May a seminar about TAGteach will be held in Balmberg. This American learning approach includes the use/application of acoustical signals. This seminar addresses persons who educate people and also animals.

Doris Vaterlaus is holding a sheet in front of her dog Stella, where you can read in big letters “SITZ“(sit). After some seconds Stella does sit. Vaterlaus is marking this behavior with an acoustical signal – a click – and she rewards her dog with a biscuit.
The same works with the cues “PLATZ” (down) and “STEH” (stand). Doris Vaterlaus explains that, of course Stella does not really read. Her dog has learned which cue belongs to which ‘picture’. We have trained this trick for fun with clicker training.

Also for people
What works with dogs, also works for other animals. Doris Vaterlaus has worked with parrots, cats, horses, goats, chickens, alpacas and people (a student with dyscalculia). The topic here is about the TAGteach teaching and learning approach, which has its roots in the U.S.A. TAG means Teaching with Acoustical Guidance. Intermediate goals are marked with a previously defined signal when they are reached by the student/learner. Afterwards, the execution is rewarded usually by the just by the sound which signals success.
While the acoustical signal with animals is mostly a click or a tongue sound, with people it is any special sound that has no meaning in everyday’s life. It is important, that mutual agreement about this sound is made before training”, says Doris Vaterlaus, who has offered clicker training for dogs since 1994.

For the first time she is organizing a seminar in Switzerland covering the topic TAGteach. This seminar will take place at the beginning of May in Balmberg near Solothurn. She invited Theresa McKeon to present the training. (See box).

Positives are marked
TAGteach proves to be very motivating for the student, Doris Vaterlaus explains. “There is a promised reward and the method emphasizes the positive instead of the negative in the learning process” she explains. Mistakes are not the focus as it is more important that the goal be reached. I don’t reinforce undesired behavior but try to train and reinforce an alternate behavior).
“Although wrong answers are not focused on, we also don’t let them continue”, she points out, “In these cases, the teacher goes one step back and continues on the already learned level with a new step in another/new way. Vaterlaus knows one form of correction “I am taking away attention” she is explaining. She is turning her back towards the dog or even leaves him.

The success of the TAGteach method can not only be explained with the high self motivation of the students. “The acoustical signal is a very important contribution” she explains. “The sound is unique, simple and can be earned/heard only if the agreed upon goal has been reached. It goes directly to the limbic system, into the emotional centre of the brain. It is always very astonishing, how fast learning can take place” pinpoints Doris Vaterlaus as another advantage of the method.

Author: Nadja Hugy


Learning in three steps

TAGteach comes from the U.S.A. and means Teaching and learning with Acoustical Guidance. The Learning and teaching process contains three steps.
In the first step, teacher and student agree together on the desired behavior, the TAG-point.
In the second step the reached goal will be clearly defined and marked. The sound means exactly “yes, goal reached”.
The third step is rewarding the execution. The acoustic sound means success which is very rewarding and highly motivating. (I added this sentence, not from the article but you may want to keep it in anyway, (Theresa))
This reward is very motivating and leads to a high self motivated learning preparedness for the student.
On May 9 and 10 there will the first introductory seminar in the Balmberg.
It is addressed to educators, teachers for adults and children, dog and animal trainers, gymnastic teachers, physiotherapists, educational people (Pedagogy), educational staff for disabled people.
Presenter of the Balmberg is Theresa McKeon, Vice president of TAGteach International.
The attendees will receive a certificate after a successful test.
There are some spots still available
Information/registration at Doris Vaterlaus 032 672 45 76

TAGteach Seminar in Switzerland May 9-10

Was ist TAGteach™?

TAGteach™ ist eine Ausbildungsmethode, die das Erarbeiten von Lerninhalten und Verhaltensentwicklungen von Kindern und Erwachsenen mit der Hilfe eines Markers beschleunigt. TAGteach™ wird inzwischen rund um die Welt angewandt und überzeugt fortschrittlich denkende professionelle Lehrkräfte in den Bereichen Verhaltensforschung, Heilpädagogik, Autismus, Pflege und Betreuung, Human Resources, Tier- und im speziellen auch Hundetraining, Erwachsenenbildung, Wettbewerbs- und Freizeitsportarten, Körperbildung, Tanz, Ballett, Physiotherapie und Pädagogik.

In diesem interdisziplinären Einführungsseminar werden die Teilnehmer die Grundlagen erwerben, die sie befähigen, TAGteach™ in ihr eigenes Berufsfeld zu übertragen und dort anzuwenden.

Gastgeberin in der Schweiz
Clicker Training in der Schweiz / in Switzerland
Information: Doris Vaterlaus
Telefon: +41(0)32 672 45 12

In Zusammenarbeit mit
Lisa Leicht
+41 (0)79 356 57 21
Organisation und Übersetzung auf Deutsch und Französisch

Facility: Kurhaus Oase Balmberg

Location: Oberbalmberg 21 CH-4524
Balmberg, Switzerland (CH)

How to register: Register Online at Balmberg, Switzerland

Registration fee: $375.00Early or $425.00Std


Thursday, April 9, 2009

TAGteach and Children with Special Needs

By Victoria Fogel BCABA

TAGteach™ (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance) is a new way of teaching using positive reinforcement with a click sound marker to identify successful performance. In past columns we have talked about the tag point—the exact response, action, or position that a teacher pinpoints with a tag (the click sound) to tell the learner “YES, that was right!”, how to incorporate tangible rewards and how to harness the power of peer tagging. This month we have a guest author, Victoria Fogel, a behavior analyst who has used TAGteach to teach children diagnosed with autism.

Working with children diagnosed with autism can pose very difficult challenges. These challenges range from trying to decrease severe behavioral problems to teaching a child how to communicate their basic wants and needs. A child appropriately communicating what they want for the first time or hanging up their backpack after several weeks or months is a huge success for that child. For some of these children, these successes do not occur often and it may require months and years of training to learn to walk a short distance independently, dress themselves, identify the people who take care of them, and communicate their wants and needs. As a behavior analyst, teacher, and trainer I am always troubleshooting to find ways to accelerate the learner’s acquisition rate. TAGteach is a way to accelerate the learning process while simultaneously creating a safe, positive environment conducive to learning.

TAGteach is an effective teaching technology that uses an acoustical sound to mark when a desired behavior/skill occurs. The acoustical sound indicates to the learner that they performed the behavior/skill correctly. Positive reinforcement is the foundation of TAG methodology; focusing on the behavior you want to increase and then reinforcing that behavior. This creates a safe environment for the learner, which in turn provides motivation to learn. This is extremely important when working with children diagnosed with autism because often they lose motivation to continue with a teaching session after a couple of trials. If error corrections are given frequently and the sessions are not run at a rapid rate, the learner will quickly lose motivation.

Traditionally we have used error corrections to extinguish the incorrect behavior/skill and teach the correct behavior/skill, but error corrections often appear to have the effect of punishment. TAG does not punish the child’s attempt to learn a new behavior/skill. Instead, the method reinforces the child’s attempt by setting the stage for success. For example, we used TAG with a child having difficulty focusing on vocalizing while counting. The tag point was “say the number aloud” while he was dropping tokens into a cup, up to a specified number. Each time he said a number, he received a tag. This encouraged him to say the next number and allowed him a small success at each step. Children with special needs in learning benefit from this high rate of reinforcement along with clear and simple directions.

I have implemented TAGteach with children diagnosed with autism and have experienced wonderful results. Teaching sessions are conducted at a faster pace, children learn at an accelerated rate, and I am able to fine-tune my teaching skills. Learners appear to enjoy the teaching sessions. When I asked one learner why he liked TAG he said, “Because I win!”

TAGteach can rapidly and dramatically increase the learning acquisition rate. One of my learners had considerable difficulty walking from her bus to her classroom door, and required intense prompting to walk this path. She had worked on this task for two years. I began TAGteaching with this learner, simply tagging her for each correctly placed foot. After 23 TAG sessions, she was able to walk independently from her bus to the classroom door. Two years of effort using conventional methods could not begin to compare to what we accomplished in less than a month with TAGteach.

This is a precise teaching method that focuses on what the child is doing right, empowers the teacher, and provides motivation to learn. TAG is a beneficial teaching methodology that can aid in the treatment of autism and facilitate a positive, productive learning environment. Parents of children with special learning needs can apply the techniques we have developed for use with autism. In applying the principles of TAGteach (described in previous columns) to children with special needs, the teacher must be sure to break the task into readily achievable pieces, start with something the child can already do, keep the rate of reinforcement very high, and avoid corrections that the child may find aversive.

Next time we’ll talk about the versatility of TAGteach and how you can seamlessly incorporate tagging into existing lesson plans, without changing the technical content of your teaching.

We invite you to join the TAGteacher discussion group at to meet others who are implementing TAGteach in various disciplines and to see the list of upcoming TAGteach seminars.

Victoria Fogel is a certified TAG teacher. She is also a board-certified associate behavior analyst at the University of Florida. Victoria currently works with the foster care system to assist in reducing placement disruption. Before moving to Florida, she worked as a behavior analyst and teacher in California at an independent school for children diagnosed with autism. Victoria resides in Titusville, Florida, with her husband Jon and neurotic dog Conor.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

TAGteach Workshop in Portland in June

A 1-day TAGteach workshop hosted by Paws to Freedom will be held in Portland OR on June 8. This is an 8-hour workshop featuring Keri Gorman of TAGteach Northwest. Attendees will get lots of hands-on practice and will learn from videos and demonstrations.

Click here to download the flyer for the event for more details.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Introducing TAGteach to Fishermen Part 6

An ongoing account of TAGteach introductions, triumphs and tribulations!
Chapter 5 of
TAGteach, Parrots and the Men from the Bering Sea!

Tagging the Table

By the afternoon, I thought the class was really starting to understand the TAGteach concepts and the benefits of delivering clear information and positive reinforcement.
Later that evening, I was sure of it.

While half sitting, half leaning on those cozy casino stools provided for those of us who station ourselves at nickel slot machines, I heard a louder than normal ruckus coming from the nearby roulette table.

Intrigued enough to leave my chance at nickel fortune; I found the guys from the Seafisher gathered tightly around the roulette wheel and table. Phil, yelled out, “Theresa, watch this!”
He showed me the tagger and started chanting to the roulette dealer…
“Click it, tip it…click it, tip it…click it, tip it”
The dealer just looked up a me with a big Cheshire grin.

They had been telling the dealer about TAGteach during the night’s gaming and jokingly told the dealer that every time they won, he would hear a tag (click) and that would mean a tip was coming for him. The dealer played along and soon everyone was clicking and tipping and laughing about the whole thing.

All of the laughter brought a bit of attention from the other casino customers and also produced a few security guards. Nothing illegal or suspect, just seventeen large burly fishermen chanting and making clicking noises at the roulette table…

The guys and the dealer explained to the security guards that all was quite well; they were just practicing positive reinforcement that they had learned about in a training seminar.

Although positive reinforcement can’t make a little ball fall into the desired slot of a roulette wheel, the dealer was rewarded when it did. Interesting concept…can one reinforce fate?

I told you these guys were brilliant!


Monday, March 16, 2009

New Level II TAGteacher: Maggie Ouillette

I would like to introduce the newest TAGteacher to achieve the Level II certification status, Margaret (Maggie) Ouillette.

Maggie has been diligently practicing her TAGteach skills with many clients and introducing TAGteach to volunteers at a local humane society shelter.

Here is an excerpt from her project:
“My level II certification project involves volunteers at the local humane society shelter. The organization has recently introduced a training program for dogs awaiting adoption. Volunteers work with the dogs at the shelter each evening. The goal of the program is to reduce the dogs’ stress levels by getting them out of their kennels and teaching them basic behaviors such as loose leash walking, object targeting (go to place, push easy button, use a doggy nail file). The volunteers use clicker training/Operant conditioning techniques to train the dogs. After reading the training logs and viewing video footage of the training, I noticed that the techniques were sometimes being applied incorrectly. Because the program is new, I felt it was the perfect opportunity to get incoming volunteers off on the right foot by using TAGteach to train them.”
You can see Maggie’s project journal by going to the TAGteach Yahoo group and then links.
Congratulations Maggie and thank-you for all of your hard work!
TAGteach International
Photo from Maggie:
"What I love about the photo is how the person in black is holding her right hand.
A previous tag point was... non clicker hand to post it. The post it is gone, they're working on a different tag point, but her hand is totally plastered to her leg! TAGteach, I love it!"

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

TAGteach Overseas!!

TAGteach fans -As we are back from a second successful trip to Japan, here's a quick reminder that we have two more very exciting overseas TAGteach certification seminars coming up…please feel free to cross post.

TAGteach International announces upcoming Certification Seminars
Madrid, Spain on the 18th and 19th of April
This seminar will be given in English and translated into Spanish

Balmberg, Switzerland on the 9th and 10th of May
This seminar will be given in English and translated into German andFrench

Guaranteed to change the way you look at teaching and learning!
TAGteach is proven to accelerate learning and improve communication
TAGteach builds positive, focused communication and self-assessmentskills
TAGteach can help you to motivate even the toughest group
TAGteach is a technology universally applicable and beneficial to any population

You can register at
For more information on TAGteach

Friday, February 27, 2009

Dentist Saga Update

I posted a link to a video in a previous blog post about a preschooler afraid of the dentist. His mother has been using TAGteach to help him overcome this fear. There are several videos in this series that you can see at YouTube. Here is the third dentist visit, which shows that huge strides have been made since the first visit, when the child was clearly terrified and was wary even of approaching the door. Now he goes right in and sits in a chair in the waiting room.

To see this video at the YouTube site and thus be able to see all the other videos in the series, click on the YouTube logo on the bottom right of the video screen.

Thanks to Sara and Callan for setting a positive example and sharing their adventures. For more of Sara's videos visit her YouTube site.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Introducing TAGteach: Lessons Learned

Theresa has gone off to Japan and abandoned us. I am bereft. So you will have to get by with a post from me today. Well, it's technically not really from me since I copied both the text and the photos from others (with their permission of course).

Maggie Ouillette who is a clicker trainer and TAGteacher has kindly provided this excerpt from a summary of a project she is working on for further TAGteach certification. Maggie's project involves implementing TAGteach in the teaching of shelter volunteers to clicker train the dogs.

Shelter Volunteer TAGteach Project - Some Things I've Learned

Implementing TAGteach into a training program was a learning process for me as well as for the shelter volunteers. Understanding the TAGteach methodology was just the beginning. It took some time to become comfortable actually using the process to teach dog training. The first step was to identify the skills needed to work with the dogs successfully. They fall into categories of:

  • Leash/dog handling
  • Timing of reward marker
  • Timing and placement of reward delivery
  • Ability to observe and shape behaviors
The tag points that I came up with were designed to break these skills down into the smallest denominator. Whenever possible I used `value-added' tag points which prevented undesirable behaviors as well as identifying a skill point.

Things I've Learned Through TAGteaching

Start small

My initial impulse was to jump in with both feet, using multiple tag points. The first training session was less than perfect because of that impulse. I started out wanting to tag everything. Over time I realized that using a limited number of well chosen tag points was most effective. I learned how important it was to introduce this new concept gradually.

Begin with the basics

I developed a set of introductory tag points which dealt with the skills needed from each of the four categories. For example, a set of tap points dealt with the basics of clicking and then delivering the reward. Each training session began with these tag points before we ever introduced the dogs. The learners practiced the exercises without a dog, then with a stuffed dog, then with a shelter dog. The learners were often a bit bemused about the simplicity of the introductory exercises. One teenaged learner remarked jokingly "Oh, we're in Kindergarten! She mastered the intro exercises easily. When we added the dog she was the first to comment "Oh, yeah, it's harder when you have the dog!"

When in doubt, break it down

In the past when I was working with dog training students, when they were having trouble performing a skill correctly, I would gently take the leash, saying, "Let me just show you how to do it". That may give the learner an opportunity to observe the skill in its completed form, but it doesn't teach them how to do it themselves. Now when those moments happen, I stop and say to myself "This would be a great place for a tag point!"

Verbal markers are problematic

When the program began, I tried using a verbal marker such as `yes' or `good' . I was teaching the volunteers to use a clicker as the dogs' reward marker, and needed a different marker for the humans. Theoretically, it should have worked. After viewing some video footage of my efforts, it was clear that I was having trouble maintaining a consistent signal. I also tried using the word `tag' to avoid conveying emotion, but that word sounded harsh. My solution was to use clickers for the humans when possible (no dogs present) and used an inexpensive child's toy that created a chunk-chunk noise when the volunteers were working with the dogs.

Let the tagger do the talking

This project taught me to talk less and tag more. There are times when I need to give an explanation of how and/or why something is done in a certain way. I still spend time talking about the exercises. The difference is that there is a separation of lecture time and hands-on practice. I explain the basics of an exercise, then give the tag/focus point, then the learner works on the skill. When I observe off-point errors, I don't do any talking while the learner is working. I make a mental note to add a tag point to address the off-point error.

Post-its and tape are my best friends

A target is worth a thousand words. Even clear instructions to "hold your hand like this" or "take a step" sometimes gets lost in translation. Giving the learner a specific location for hand/foot/treat placement sets the learner up for success. It feels great to get it right. It has been my observation that adult learners find it hugely rewarding to be successful. I found that material rewards or even praise were not necessary for the volunteers. Because they mastered the basic clicker training skills early in the process, they saw the dogs catch on very quickly. This was immensely rewarding to everyone involved.

Maggie Ouillette
Whitmore Lake Michigan

Thanks to Oliver Beverly of C.L.E.A.R Dog Training in Australia for the photos