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Karen Pryor

Karen Pryor

Karen Pryor at the training facility. These dolphins are trained to jump over obstacles.

Karen Pryor popularized the "Clicker" or reward-based training. If it were not for her, clicker training would not have the following that it has today.

I don't think it is entirely fair to blame Karen Pryor for the extremists who extrapolated what Karen had to say, after she published her findings and wrote her books.

It seems that many failed to understand exactly what Karen was doing. First off, her dolphins were trained in an aquarium that had no fish or other distractions. This is hardly real world. Dolphins are extremely intelligent animals that require mental stimulation. These dolphins were shoved into a sterile environment that offered very little mental stimuation. So whenever a human appeard that could offer something to end their boredom, I am sure the dolphins were delighted to play along. If you keep your dogs sensory deprived shame on you!

Many also fail to understand that unless the dolphins completed the desired behaviors, they would starve. The dolphins only received fish when adhering to Karen's commands. So in other words, the rewards, were really things that ended their hunger pains.

I am not being critical of these actions, I am merely trying to illustrate the reality behind the Pryor discoveries. I would very much wish the the zealots in the dog training world would agree that everything in their world might not be as rose colored as might first appear to be.

My problems with the clicker movement is with the extremist subset of its following who would make it a law if they could, that correcting a dog is immoral, unethical and illegal. This would be the equivalent of never being able to tell a child no. I think most of us believe that would not be healthy for the child, or contribute to a proper upbringing. Let's remember that animals correct each other in nature. Why throw away a large portion of animal communication because someone created a false religion rule book?

Please understand that I use clickers all the time. They are just not my only tool in my toolbox.

Biography

  • She is a behavioral biologist who pioneered clicker training with dolphins.
  • An authority on applied operant conditioning.
  • Educated at Cornell University.
  • Graduate work in zoology and behavioral biology at Rutgers and NYU.
  • Co-founder of Hawaii's Sea Life Park and Oceanic Institute where she served as curator and pioneering head dolphin trainer.
  • She is the author of seven books and 50 scientific articles on learning and behavior.
  • Served the U.S. government as a marine mammal expert and Federal Commissioner.
  • She is the publisher and editor in chief of Sunshine Books.
  • Her website is found at wwww.clickertraining.com.

Training method

  • Conditioned reinforcement primarily using clicker.
  • Does not equate aversive stimulus with punishment.
  • Does not adamantly maintain that clicker is the only method.
  • Describes operant conditioning methods without a clicker.