Are You as Smart as a Dog?

For more than a decade, Ken has been sharing his approach to conceptual training at ClickerExpo! These Sessions have helped attendees advance their training by approaching advanced concepts systematically (modifier cues, adduction, matching to sample, mimicry, and many more!). But the Sessions have also led to some interesting research opportunities for Ken.

Most recently, Ken demonstrated how to teach dogs to count! But what started as a basic conceptual project continued to get bigger and more complicated. Various scientists convinced Ken to take the project further and turn it into real research. Ken was blessed to have an enthusiastic dog that seemed to enjoy the process of learning, so he continued the project to new levels. To the best of Ken’s knowledge, he has taken this project further than has been attempted with any dog previously. His research also revealed contradictions and controversy within the child cognitive psychological community. These developments prompted additional questions about what the new information might indicate about a seldom-studied cognitive ability in dogs. 

In this Session, Ken will share the various phases of the project, including teaching the concept, the challenges of turning it into research, and how the project evolved over time. In addition, he will reveal some of the data from this project and discuss the implications as he compares that data with research performed with children.

Ken Ramirez

Ken Ramirez is the Executive Vice-President (EVP) and Chief Training Officer of Karen Pryor Clicker Training (KPCT). There he helps to oversee the vision, development, and implementation of training education programs for the organization.

A 40+-year veteran of animal care and training, Ken is a biologist and animal behaviorist who has overseen or consulted on training projects for many zoological organizations throughout the world. He began his training career working with guide dogs for the visually impaired and continues to work with organizations training dogs for service work, search-and-rescue, bomb detection, and narcotic detection. Ken has also maintained a close affiliation with pet training throughout his career.

Prior to his work with KPCT, Ken served as EVP of Animal Care and Animal Training at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium for more than 25 years. There he developed and supervised animal care and animal health programs, staff training and development, and public presentation programs for more than 32,000 animals. Ken has written for numerous scientific publications and authored countless popular articles. He authored the book ANIMAL TRAINING: Successful Animal Management through Positive Reinforcement, published in 1999.

Ken taught a graduate course on animal training at Western Illinois University for 20 years and has been active in several professional organizations, including as a past president of the International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association (IMATA). He is actively involved in the creation of a certification process for animal trainers in zoological settings. Currently, Ken is developing courses and programming at The Ranch, the Karen Pryor National Training Center in the state of Washington.