Video on Demand by Karen Pryor Clicker Training |

Inside Their Shells: Working with “Shy” or “Skittish” Animals

Trainers often must work with an animal that is uncomfortable around people or reluctant to participate in training sessions. How do you deal with that and where do you start? What strategies are the most effective at drawing an animal out of its shell and gaining its trust? Do these strategies differ from strategies for working with fearful or reactive animals, or is it really the same thing? Why do some trainers focus on operant solutions while others focus on respondent solutions? Does it matter? What is the most effective approach to help the animal?

Ken will share his perspective on this issue by looking at various case studies where he took different approaches with each unique case, in settings as varied as the zoo, the shelter, and The Ranch. He will share why each case required a different strategy and will also point out several common tools and approaches deployed in each case.

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 is the author of the bestselling ANIMAL TRAINING: Successful Animal Management through Positive Reinforcement as well as his newest book, The Eye of the Trainer: Animal Training, Transformation, and Trust.

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.