Video on Demand by Karen Pryor Clicker Training |

Training Backwards: Building Reliable Behavior Sequences with Back-Chaining (2019)

Note: This video is excluded from the Back to School sale.

Training individual behaviors effectively via clicker training can be challenging. Connecting several behaviors into a behavior sequence that will be reliable in performance, without rewards, is a next-level challenge. Every trainer wants behavior chains that result in enthusiastic and reliable responses from their partners.

Joining three to five behaviors into a dependable performance chain is a common goal for many trainers. Imagine creating a behavior chain of 30 to 70 behaviors! The sport of Canine Musical Freestyle requires developing routines (performance chains) comprised of many behaviors. The more advanced a Freestyle team becomes, the longer the performance chain.

In 2007, Michele first learned about applying back-chaining for putting sequences together, but she did not use it extensively. However, over the past 10 years, Michele has experienced impressive results from the back-chaining tool, expanding her use and confidence in its application. In addition to improved reliability with back-chained behavior sequences, she has also experienced its effect on improving performance duration without primary reinforcers.

In this Session, Michele shares her step-by-step process of building very long behavior sequences (60+ behaviors) via back-chaining. The presentation uses video examples of chains being built as well as the outcomes of those chains in actual performance. You do not need to take part in canine freestyle to appreciate the task of building performance chains of more than 50 behavior cues in succession.

Michele Pouliot

Michele Pouliot began her animal-training career through her love of horses. Immediately after high school, she attended the Pacific Coast Equestrian Research Farm, studying under the tutelage of Linda Tellington and Wentworth Tellington. After graduating at the school’s highest level, Michele remained as an instructor until beginning her next position, managing an equestrian center in North Dakota. It was there that Michele acquired her first dog—a move that would change her life and career.

With dog-training pointers from a former riding student, Michele became fascinated with her dog’s willingness to learn; she spent all of her spare time training him. It was then that Michele’s path changed toward a career in dog training, which progressed to guide dog training.

In 1974, Michele Pouliot began her career as a licensed guide dog instructor when she joined Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB), the second-largest guide dog school in the world. In addition to personally training more than 350 guide dog teams over 20 years, Michele contributed to major change in the organization by leading the adoption of clicker training in the formal training of guide dogs and in the development of puppies raised for guide dog work. Michele also developed the education program for GDB’s blind clients learning to clicker train their own guide dogs.

Michele has been a pioneer and leader in the guide dog industry worldwide. Since 2005, GDB and Michele actively support and assist other guide dog schools in crossing over from traditional training methods to positive reinforcement and clicker training techniques. To provide further education to more individuals, GDB and Michele have held 5-day Guide Dog Clicker Conferences for international guide dog professionals. In 2016, the International Guide Dog Federation presented Michele with a Lifetime Achievement award for bringing clicker training to guide dog programs around the globe. Michele retired from her 42-year career with GDB in 2016 but continues to provide workshops around the world for guide and service dog organizations.

Michele has also been very active and successful in canine dog sports. She was heavily involved in competition obedience for 20 years, winning four Obedience Trial Championships with her personal dogs. Michele also competed in tracking and in the sport of agility. In 2005, Michele discovered the new sport of Canine Musical Freestyle and, with help from her first freestyle partners Cabo and Listo, became a leader in two years. Her current performance partners are Déjà Vu and Saké. Michele and her dogs have attained more than 10 Championship and Grand Championship titles and are winners of national and international freestyle competitions. They are known for entertaining routines with very creative behaviors. Michele and Listo made history in the World Canine Freestyle Organization as the first team to ever receive perfect “10” scores in both Artistic and Technical categories! They repeated this incredible achievement 23 more times with six different routines. Michele travels extensively giving seminars on clicker training for dog sports and for effective clicker training in general. She is well known for clarity in her teaching, her enthusiasm for training, and her love of animals.

Michele loves to spend time at home, in Oregon, with her dogs and her horses. A member of the ClickerExpo faculty since 2008, Michele partnered with Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) to create an online Canine Freestyle course. The course has received rave reviews from students and is popular even with clicker enthusiasts who are not involved in the freestyle sport.