Count on Me: Building Trust with Antecedents

ClickerExpo 2015 - Sarah Owings - Full length -

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When we try to teach an animal that icky things like nail trims, putting on a harness, or scary men in hats predict good things like yummy treats, it can be an uphill battle. This is because the antecedents in those situations often elicit conflicted emotions and set the stage for unhelpful anxieties, causing a kind of “poison cue” effect. In this 45-minute Session, we explore a simple yet powerful way to jump-start counter conditioning programs. By turning non-aversive stimuli such as verbal cues, hand gestures, mats, or targets, into OH-BOY!-elicitors, we can create predictable rituals that the animal learners can count on. We talk briefly about the two different types of antecedents and look at video examples of this technique applied to common issues: handling desensitization, resource guarding, and reactivity. We also highlight some pitfalls of using “informational” cues too soon in your training set-ups. When patterns are clear and consistent, trust grows. Perhaps the best reason of all to use ritualized antecedents is that they set the stage for handlers and pet owners alike to interact in ways that feel safer and more predictable.