Mark My Words (2019)

Does our core ethic “positive reinforcement works and coercion is dangerous” include our verbal behavior, the ways in which language both spoken and written is used? Are we as force-free with our clients and colleagues as we are with the animals in our care? Can the unconditional positive regard we have for every furry and feathered animal we meet extend to every man and woman we speak with? Even on Facebook and Twitter? Even when you think that person is ignorant, cruel, or just plain wrong? And, do the answers to these questions have any bearing on the high rate of burn-out in our profession?

Our work of training and behavior consulting often takes place in emotionally charged situations. The stakes can be high and our clients can be upset, argumentative, and unpleasant. These same characteristics sometimes describe our colleagues and our competitors. Yet when speaking with challenging people, we can apply our core skills of careful observation, controlled emotionality, gradual shaping, and timely reinforcement of alternate behaviors.

In this Session, we’ll examine specific formats for compassionate communications. And should you choose to extend “do no harm” to include your verbal behavior, we will discuss key practical changes to support your commitment.

Kathy Sdao

Kathy Sdao is an applied animal behaviorist. She has spent more than 30 years as a fulltime animal trainer, first with marine mammals and now with dogs and their people. Kathy received a master’s degree in experimental psychology from the University of Hawaii. The United States Navy then hired her to train dolphins for open-ocean tasks. Kathy next worked as a marine-mammal trainer at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Later, Kathy co-created Tacoma’s first dog daycare facility, where she began teaching clicker training classes.

Since 1998, Kathy has owned Bright Spot Dog Training. Services include consulting with families about their challenging dogs, teaching private lessons, and mentoring professional trainers. Kathy is proud to be an original faculty member at Karen Pryor Clicker Training’s ClickerExpo conferences.

Kathy has traveled extensively across the United States, Canada, and Europe, and to Australia, Israel, Japan, and Mexico, educating students about the science of animal training. Her first book, Plenty in Life Is Free: Reflections on Dogs, Training and Finding Grace was published in 2012.