Thursday, October 29, 2009

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.

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