Spark!: Improving Your Creativity as a Person & a Trainer

Clicker training does not involve learning a set of methods and following instructions to solve known problems. It requires creativity. You observe the organism, decide on behavior you want, and figure out your own way to train it—based on principles, not on traditional methods. The most useful tool you have is your own creativity.

Creativity, the capacity for having new ideas and creating novel behavior, has always been treated as a natural gift—either you have it or you don’t. It was always assumed that animals don’t have the creative spark at all.

Now, thanks to our modern training technology, we not only know that animals can innovate, we know how to train them to do so. Karen Pryor published the methodology in the 1960s as The Creative Porpoise: Training for Novel Behavior. Zookeepers call it “show me something new,” and have taught that skill to gorillas, sea lions, and many other species. Given the right background information, even dogs, birds, and horses can be creative.

How about applying the same methodology to yourself? Would you like to protect and expand the creativity you already have? Karen will talk about specific steps that foster innovative behavior, and how that creative behavior can benefit you both as a trainer and as a person.

Karen Pryor

Karen is an active, leading spokesperson and teacher for effective force-free training across the globe. Her work with dolphins in the 1960s revolutionized animal training by pioneering and popularizing force-free training methods based on operant conditioning and the conditioned reinforcer.

Karen’s 40-year career working with and educating scientists, professional trainers, and pet owners has changed the lives of countless animals and their caretakers in zoos, oceanariums, and pet-owning households.

She is the author of six books, including Don’t Shoot the Dog!, the "bible" of training with positive reinforcement. Her most recent book, Reaching the Animal Mind, describes how to bring out the undiscovered creativity, intelligence, and personality of the animals in our lives. Karen lives outside Boston, Massachusetts.