Thursday, January 31, 2013

Upcoming TAGteach Events

TAGteach Primary Certification and Training Seminar
Date: Feb 9-10, 2013
Location: Marysville, OH
Get more info and register

Webinar: Using TAGteach to Reduce Fear (50% off for members)
Date: Feb 12, 2013
Location: Online
Get more info and register

WOOF: The Eastern European Training and Behaviour Conference
Date: Feb 22-24, 2013
Location: Milton Keynes, UK
Get more info and register

TAGteach at Clicker Expo - Stamford CT
Date: Mar 8-10, 2013
Location: Burlingame, CA
Get more info and register  

Webinar: Leave It! Impulse Control for Teachers (Free for members)
Date: Mar 13, 2013
Location: Online
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Workshop with Luca Canever: Teaching! How the Brain Does Learn
Date: Mar 16-17, 2013
Location: Bagnolo di Nogarole Rocca (Italy)
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TAGteach - Seminar på Stend (Norge) Eva Bertilsson Och Emelie Vegh-Johnson
Date: Mar 16-17, 2013
Location: Stend Vidaregåande skule, Fanaveien 249, 5244 Fana (Bergen)
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TAGteach Primary Certification and Training Seminar
Date: Apr 13-14, 2013
Location: Boulder CO
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TAGteach Presents at the IAABC Symposium: A Behavior in Practice
Date: Apr 19-21, 2013
Location: Warwick RI
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Webinar: Information Overload - How to Say More but Talk Less (50% off for members)
Date: May 13, 2013
Location: Online
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TAGteach Primary Certification and Training Seminar - Eva Bertilsson Och Emelie Vegh-Johnson
Date: May 18-19, 2013
Location: Upplands Väsby
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TAGteach Primary Certification and Training Seminar
Date: Jun 2-3, 2013
Location: North Hollywood LA
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TAGteach Primary Certification and Training Seminar
Date: Jun 8-9, 2013
Location: Dripping Springs, TX
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TAGteach Primary Certification and Training Seminar
Date: Sep 7-8, 2013
Location: Bristol, England
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TAGteach and Chicken Camp
Date: Sep 12-15, 2013
Location: Northern Italy (location TBA)
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TAGteach Primary Certification and Training Seminar/Séminaire TAGteach de base avec certificat (en français)
Date: Sep 21-22, 2013
Location: Crêt-Bérard-Puidoux, Switzerland (Near Geneva)
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TAGteach Primary Certification and Training Seminar Eva Bertilsson Och Emelie Vegh-Johnson
Date: Nov 16-17, 2013
Location: Bengtemöllevägen 5 i Brösarp
Get more info and register

5 Tips for Conquering Demons

TAGteach offers a tool for parents, teachers and coaches to help overcome fears and anxieties that inhibit progress. The fear and anxiety demons come in many forms:
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of injury
  • Fear of embarrassment
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of ridicule
  • Fear of disappointment
If you are a teacher, coach, parent, or someone who has ever tried something new, difficult or scary, you can probably add to this list. Some fears can impact health (fear of injections, fear of the doctor or dentist), some can impact daily living (fear of failure at simple tasks, fear of driving or riding the bus, fear of dogs) and there are many other examples of fears that slow or impede progress at school, sports and other areas of life.

There are some fears that we can all understand (fear of injections, fear of jumping off a 10 meter diving platform) and some fears that seem unfounded to most of us (fear of trying to tie shoes or fear of trying to hit a golf ball). As teachers, coaches or parents it is often our job to help someone else succeed despite the presence of a fear demon. 

TAGteach can be an effective tool for helping to learners to progress past their fear. Here are five tips for reducing fear based on the TAGteach approach:
  1. Start from a point of success. This is something that the learner can already do confidently. It could be as simple as pointing to a picture of the fear object, or making an observation while watching someone else perform the scary feat. Create a tag point based on this point of of success.
  2. Consult with the learner about the tag point.
  3. Have the learner tag you, or someone else who can demonstrate (if possible).
  4. Increase difficulty in tiny increments. Go back to an easier task if the learner seems worried.
  5. Build confidence by working to fluency for each component of the task.
Here is an example. TAGteacher Sara McLoudrey discovered that her preschool son was terrified of the dentist. Rather than hold him down, or sedate him (as some parents are advised to do), Sara decided to use her TAGteach skills to teach him to cooperate at the dentist. Sara started with something her son could already do without being afraid, walking on the sidewalk outside the dentist office. She did not even try to open the door until she had fluency with walking up to the door. Meanwhile Sara worked at home, tagging her son for looking at dentist pictures and playing dentist games. Her son eventually progressed to getting willingly into the dentist chair to allow the dentist to count and then examine his teeth. Now three years later the fear has not returned and he still cooperates willingly with the dentist.

Here is a video showing an early session with tag points related to touching elements in photos of the dentist office:

If you are interested in finding out more about using TAGteach to reduce fear and anxiety in learners, please join us for a Webinar on Feb 12, 2013 (available after that date as a recording).

TAGteach Webinar: Using TAGteach to Reduce Fear

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Can Animal Trainers and People Trainers Learn from Each Other?

Can animal trainers and people trainers learn from each other? You Bet! We are pleased to be invited to participate in a unique symposium hosted by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

The conference is entitled "A Behavior in Practice Symposium"

April 19-21, 2013, Warwick RI

This symposium will feature hands-on work with:
Dr. Susan Friedman
Dr. Lore Haug
Theresa McKeon
Chirag Patel
Plus a special opportunity to participate in a Chicken Mini-Workshop with Bob Bailey and Parvene Farhoody MS
This unique 3-day event will focus on putting into practice the many skills discussed and demonstrated in the presentations, with large group, small group and individual feedback and instruction. We will also be making a music video to demonstrate and play with "DROs." - "other" behaviors that can be used for fun or for work in building better skills when modifying behavior. This will be presented as a hands-on, single track event, with all participants involved in all stages and facets of the weekend. Participants will be able to discuss their own cases or their own animals, get feedback on questions,  and learn from other members as well as from the extremely knowledgeable staff who will be on hand throughout the conference. This event is open to the public, and registration will be extremely limited (150 people).  

For complete information go to or

"Creating Focus from Confusion: The Tag Point Is"  Theresa McKeon

Ever wish you could push a button and have everything fall into place? Tag points do just that!

Whether you are an instructor or a student, using "The Tag Point Is" can guide you through the information jungle and straight to success.  We'll take a look at the composition of a tag point and then jump right in and give it a try while we work together throughout the weekend on all of the presentations.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

TAGteacher Tale: TAGteach + Clicker Training = Saving Endangered Species

Reprinted with permission from the KPCT Blog

Editor's note
If you have experienced the power of clicker training, you know it has the potential to save animal lives. One Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) Certified Training Partner (CTP), Jade Fountain, has demonstrated that clicker training can help save an entire species! Jade recently journeyed to South Africa, utilizing skills and knowledge gained through the KPA Dog Trainer Program to help safeguard the world's fastest land animal—the cheetah.
Jade Fountain with cheetahs
The cheetah is among the many species at risk ofextinction. Threatened by human persecution, habitat loss, poaching, and competition, the number of cheetahs has decreased drastically, with only 7,500 left in the world. One of the largest threats to cheetahs is conflict with farmers who see cheetahs as pests and trap, poison, or shoot them. Action to safeguard the species must be taken or cheetahs will become the latest casualty in the mass extinction of species.
As part of this effort, Jade helped train cheetah cubs to be comfortable with people. With this accomplished, the cheetahs can travel to schools, farms, and communities where they can inspire change by offering people the rare opportunity to interact with them. Here, Jade tells us about her work with these magnificent animals.

What led to your interest in protecting cheetahs?

I'm passionate about conservation. I have worked with endangered species programs in Australia for the past four years as a zookeeper, including the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program and the Brush-tail Rock Wallaby Recovery Program. As a professional trainer, I have a very keen interest in using behavioural management to improve welfare and reduce stress in captive breeding programs. The opportunity to travel to South Africa and work with cheetahs (and hand-raise orphan rhino calves, handle vultures, and be involved in rehabilitation) was hugely rewarding.

Tell us about how you became involved. Why did they select you?

I applied for the position when it came up in a zookeeping job list, and I was selected based on my qualifications and background in zookeeping, behaviour, and training. Being prepared to give up normal sleeping habits to bottle-feed the young cheetah cubs and work long hours, and my experience hand-raising kangaroo and possum joeys were all pluses.

How had these cheetahs been trained traditionally?

The two facilities I worked at had different training methods. Progression toward errorless learning and effective behaviour change is occurring slowly and is moving toward realizations like there is no need to flick a cub in the nose—it doesn't provide information to the learner and can increase aggression.
It was essential to me to introduce the science of how animals learn, teach how important it is to reinforce desired behaviour and ignore/redirect undesirable behaviour, and spread the influence of force-free training. A highlight of my trip was seeing both the cubs' reaction to clicker training and the complete change in their behaviour with positive reinforcement.
clicking cheetahs

What was the purpose of training the cheetah cubs? Can you describe your training program?

The cheetah cubs are ambassador animals, which means they need to feel comfortable and safe meeting new people, encountering novel situations, and travelling to different places to educate people. Asking people to interact, touch, and see for themselves what a cheetah is really like inspires change in attitudes toward persecution and poaching of these athletic cats.
We trained the cheetahs to sit, hop on to scales, station on platforms, wear harnesses, walk on collar and lead, use crates, and feel comfortable with veterinary examinations. I worked to implement positive reinforcement through use of clicker training. We used elements of the cheetahs' daily diet (a variety of different meats: springbok, elephant, kudu, or warthog) as rewards. The cubs learned very quickly, purred during the sessions, and changed their "teenage" attitudes toward the handlers.

What were some of the challenges you encountered?

The biggest challenge in training was probably getting all of the staff on the same page. Figuring out how to run a training session with three of the cubs in the room at the same time was also interesting and tested my training skills, timing, and rates of reinforcement. I think TAGteach helped me overcome these challenges and others I encountered.

What were the results of your training?

cheetah training
Prior to the training, some of the cubs had been giving the handlers trouble with stalking and pouncing, and with aggression. These behaviours included tantrums when the harnesses came out, a lot of hissing, and mouthing. We began clicker training during mealtimes, starting with putting "sit" on cue and getting the cheetahs to target our hands.
Within three ten-minute sessions, we saw a big change in the cubs' behaviour. As we progressed, the aggression and stalking dropped off, the cheetahs became more interactive with handlers, and the animals were easier to handle—they even lay still for vet examinations. The purrs coming from the cheetahs were extremely rewarding. Clicker training was successful in reducing their reactivity and aggression toward keepers. The cheetahs have been very responsive and easy to handle, walk, and interact with ever since.

Tell us about the impact on the staff. Will they be making any changes as a result of the success you had?

The last day that I worked with the cubs at the facility there were a lot of huge moments and some tears for the successes. It was certainly a big moment when the cubs looked up at their handlers and purred on approach—relaxed and willing to come over. This means that these cubs will be able to graduate from the ambassador program and help the conservation effort for their species.
Staff members have taken on clicker training, figured out the daily rations from the cubs' diets that can be allocated to training, and written a plan to get the cubs to be the most successful ambassadors that they possibly can be. Positive reinforcement and clicker training have already made a big difference in the program.

Do you think being a graduate of the KPA Dog Trainer Program helped you train the cheetah cubs successfully? How so?

I think that being a KPA graduate has given me necessary skills that apply to whatever species I work with. One of the skills that helps me most in teaching others is the TAGteach training that I learned during the KPA Dog Trainer Program. KPA helped me improve many mechanical skills and I am proud to demonstrate them for such important purposes.