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What Shamu Taught Me about Life, Love, and Marriage: Lessons for People from Animals and Their Trainers

What Shamu Taught Me about Life, Love, and Marriage: Lessons for People from Animals and Their Trainers

4.1 15
by Amy Sutherland

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While observing exotic animal trainers for her acclaimed book Kicked, Bitten, and Scratched, journalist Amy Sutherland had an epiphany: What if she used these training techniques with the human animals in her own life?

The next time her husband stomped through the house in search of his mislaid car keys, she asked herself, “What would a dolphin


While observing exotic animal trainers for her acclaimed book Kicked, Bitten, and Scratched, journalist Amy Sutherland had an epiphany: What if she used these training techniques with the human animals in her own life?

The next time her husband stomped through the house in search of his mislaid car keys, she asked herself, “What would a dolphin trainer do?” The answer was: nothing. Trainers reward the behavior they want and, just as important, ignore the behavior they don’t. As she put more training principles into action, she noticed that she became more optimistic and less judgmental and that their marriage improved.

What started as a goofy experiment had such good results that Sutherland began using these training techniques with all the people in her life, with great results.

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Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

People Are Animals Too

As I wash dishes at the kitchen sink, my husband paces behind me, irritated. “Have you seen my keys?” he snarls, then huffs out a loud sigh and stomps from the room with our dog, Dixie, hot on his heels, anxious over her favorite human’s upset.

In the past I would have been right behind Dixie. I would have turned off the faucet and joined in the hunt while trying to soothe Scott with cheerful bromides like “Don’t worry, they’ll turn up!” Sometimes I’d offer wifely pointers on how not to lose his keys to begin with. Or, if I was cranky, snap “Calm down.” It didn’t matter what I did, Scott typically only grew angrier, and a simple case of missing keys would soon become a full-blown angst-ridden drama starring both of us and Dixie, our poor nervous Australian shepherd. Penny Jane, our composed border collie mix, was the only one smart enough to stay out of the show.

Now, I focus on the wet plate in my hands. I don’t turn around. I don’t say a word. I’m using a technique I learned from a dolphin trainer.

I love my husband. With his fair skin and thick chestnut hair, he’s handsome in an angular Nordic way. He’s well read and adventurous, and does a hysterical rendition of a northern Vermont accent that still cracks me up after fourteen years

of marriage. We like many of the same things: dogs, jazz, medium-rare hamburgers, good bourbon, long walks, the color orange. But he can also get on my nerves. He hovers around me in the kitchen when I’m trying to concentrate on the simmering pans, asking meif I read this or that piece in The New Yorker. He finishes off boxes of cookies, especially the dense caramel bars his mother sends from Minnesota, then says “I thought you were done with them.” He leaves wadded tissues in the car. He drives through red lights, calling them “long yellows.” He suffers from serious bouts of spousal deafness, yet never fails to hear me when I mutter to myself on the other side of the house. “What did you say?” he’ll shout. “Nothing,” I’ll yell back. “What?” he’ll call again.

These minor annoyances are not the stuff of separation and divorce, but in sum they dulled my love for Scott. Sometimes when I looked at him I would see not the lean Minnesotan I adored but a dirty-Kleenex- dropping, hard-of-hearing, prickly cookie monster. At those moments, he was less my beloved husband and more a man-sized fly pestering me, darting up my nose, landing in the sauce on the stove, buzzing through my life.

So, like many wives before me, I ignored a library of advice books and set about improving him. By nagging, of course, which usually had the opposite effect from the one I longed for—his size 11 shoes continued to pile up by the front door, he went longer between haircuts, he continued to return empty milk cartons to the fridge. I tried cheerful advice like “You are so handsome, but no one can see it behind your five o’clock shadow.” That usually resulted in another couple of razorless days. I made diplomatic overtures like “What if we each promise not to leave smelly clothes lying around?” “Okay,” my husband would agree good-naturedly, and then walk right past his reeking bike garb on the bedroom floor.

I, a modern woman, tried being direct, asking him in a voice as neutral as a robot’s, “Would you please not drive so fast?” Even this approach would backfire as in my simple question my husband might hear an accusation or an order and then push the accelerator a hair more. When all else failed, I yelled, and then we fought.

We went to a counselor to smooth the edges off our marriage. The counselor, a petite, sharp-boned woman who took notes on a legal pad, didn’t understand what we were doing there and complimented us repeatedly on how well we communicated. I threw in the towel. I guessed she was right—our union was better than most—and resigned myself to the occasional sarcastic remark and mounting resentment.

Then something magical happened. I discovered animal training.

I stumbled into the world of animal training nearly ten years ago when we brought home Dixie, an eight-week-old herding dog, ten pounds of furry red energy. It was as if we had lit a bottle rocket in our house, the way she ricocheted from room to room, a toy or two hanging out of her mouth. I gave up meditating in the morning to begin my daily pursuit of wearing her out. It was a sunup-to-way-past-sundown job. Before I even got dressed or made coffee, I would sit cross- legged on the floor, hold a faux sheepskin rug before me, and call “Get it.” Dixie would catapult herself into the rug and rip it from my hands, her amber eyes afire, and then we’d each tug with all our might. We played that game so much, the rug was eventually reduced to a slobber-encrusted handful of fabric.

I learned to throw a ball properly for the first time in my life, and then a Frisbee. I tossed balls and Frisbees and walked so much I went down a size in pants. Dixie was either tugging, wrestling, or running, or she was fast asleep under a table where we couldn’t pet her. Should we get down on our hands and knees and reach under to pat her, Dixie would look miffed, like an Olympic athlete roused from a power nap, then pull herself to her paws and move just out of reach. Cuddling, from Dixie’s point of view, was for wuss dogs.

Though I think we were a bit of a disappointment to Dixie, the way commoners can be to royalty, we were just smart enough to know that a herding breed needed a job. So we went looking for an agility class, where you learn to run your dog through a whimsical obstacle course of tunnels, jumps, and teeter-totters. At that time, we found only one trainer around Portland, Maine, who taught this crazy skill. Before we could tackle the course, though, we were required to take a puppy training class.

If this trainer had used traditional techniques, the leash-popping and pushing your dog this way and that, I think the story would have ended there. For me, there is little magic nor imagination in that old-school approach. But it was my good luck that the trainer used progressive, positive techniques, techniques based on an altogether different philosophy. Rather than learning to boss our pups around and make them into obedient dogs, we learned to communicate and cooperate with them. She didn’t teach us just how to get our dogs to sit, but rather how to think about our canine companions.

Amid the joyful chaos of puppy class—the barking, the tangled leashes, the marital squabbles—I found an intellectual and personal challenge I hadn’t expected. I found a new me, a me with much more patience and self-control. I learned to be precise and observant. I learned to teach Dixie what I wanted rather than what I didn’t want. I learned not to take anything she did personally, not even when she ripped my shorts in a fit of overexcitement. All this from a six-week puppy training class.

I also began communicating with another species, and you can never underestimate the thrill of that. I signed us up for another class, and another class, and another class. I was hooked. So hooked that when I landed on the Paris set of 102 Dalmatians for a magazine assignment, I spent every spare moment hanging out with the animal trainers, chatting about such things as how they taught a parrot to ride atop a bullmastiff and how they got the dog not to shake whenever the bird’s wings brushed its back. The trainers, to my surprise, had all earned actual degrees in exotic animal training. They had studied at a community college outside Los Angeles. It was the go-to school, they told me, not to mention the only program of its kind. Back home, I taught Dixie to bring in the Sunday New York Times, scribbled down the name of the school, and threw the scrap of paper into my idea folder.

In 2003 I began work on a book about this school. For a year, I commuted between Maine and California, where I followed students at Moorpark College’s Exotic Animal Training and Management Program. There I spent my days watching students do the seemingly impossible: teach a caracal to offer its paws for a nail clipping, a camel to shoot hoops, a baboon to get into a crate and close the door behind her. Each day at the teaching zoo was packed with countless lessons, from how to pick up a boa constrictor to how to speak to a wolf. As I observed the students, I essentially became a student too. I learned not to look the primates in the eye, to stride with confident ease while on a cougar walk, and never to stand close to any enclosure, especially not the big carnivores’. I learned that when Zulu the mandrill bobbed his head at me, he was saying “Back off.” That when Rosie the baboon smacked her lips together, she was saying “Hello, friend.” That when Julietta the emu made a thumping noise in her chest, she was worried.

I learned the language of animal trainers, what they meant when they talked about A-to-Bs (teaching an animal to move from one spot to another) or targeting (having an animal press its snout to something). If somebody told me that they had just been grooming with the squirrel monkey, I knew that they had sat close to the cage, held up their arms, and let the monkey run his black fingers over their skin. I learned what a positive count is (making sure the animal is there in its enclosure) and that B.E. stood for “behavioral enrichment,” basically anything that made the animal’s life more stimulating, whether it be a toy or a walk on a leash. Training, it turns out, is one of the things that make an animal’s life interesting. So you could even teach an animal an A-to-B for B.E.

I soaked up their sayings, such as “Go back to kindergarten,” shorthand for when an animal has trouble learning a behavior and the trainer needs to back up a few steps in the training. “Train every animal as if it’s a killer whale” meant to work with every animal as if you could neither forcibly move it nor dominate it. “It’s never the animal’s fault” is pretty much what it says: If an animal flounders in training, it’s the trainer’s fault. One of my personal favorites was “Everything with a mouth bites.” I wrote down that line in all caps, for my research but for myself too. Why? I wasn’t sure exactly. It had a philosophical ring. It was also silly, but made such good, plain sense, a funny reminder of what a great leveler Mother Nature can be. A cute, fuzzy animal will bite you just as easily as a mean-looking one. By the same token, the animal doesn’t care whether you’re as angelic as Mother Teresa or as loathsome as Caligula. Shiny auras, the best intentions, and sainthood don’t mean much, if anything, in the animal kingdom.

So much of what I was learning at the school had meaning beyond the front gate. This place, where the great divide between animals and humans closes, captured my imagination in a way nothing else had. Every visit drove home how complicated, weird, and fantastic the natural world is. I felt my mind crack wide open trying to take it all in.

I trailed the students to class and then out to the teaching zoo grounds where they practiced on a badger or a lion or the mysterious binturong, a rain forest animal that resembles a raccoon on steroids. I watched as one student trained an olive baboon to let her rub lotion on her hands, as another taught a capuchin monkey to unravel its long leash when it became tangled during walks, and yet another instruct the Bengal tiger to get in her kiddie pool on command. I tagged along on field trips, during which I listened, rapt, as professional trainers explained how they taught dolphins to flip or ibis to fly to them. At a private compound in Southern California, I took notes in the fading light of day as six elephants, on command, lined up in a row, urinated, turned to their left in unison, hooked trunks to tails, and, single file, swaggered into the barn for the night. In Cincinnati, I saw a leashed cheetah sit calmly on a desk next to a trainer as she lectured to a bewitched audience. At a conference in Baltimore, I listened as trainers described how they had taught spotted eagle rays to swim to a feeder.

I can’t say the instant it happened, but eventually it dawned on me that if trainers could work such wonders with spotted eagle rays and baboons and dolphins, might not their methods apply to another species —humans? It was not much of a leap for me. By just watching, thinking, and reading about animal behavior, I had discovered a good deal about the behavior of my own species. In a kind of reverse anthropomorphism, I couldn’t help seeing parallels, especially with the primates, but with all the animals, even the turkey vulture, which, like us, sunbathes. True, people are more complicated than animals, but maybe not as much as we assume. As the relatively nascent field of animal behavior continues to grow, more and more research shows that animals are anything but mindless organisms driven solely by instinct. Traits that were considered unique to humans, such as tool use and collaboration, have been found among other primates and now birds and fish. Turns out groupers and moray eels hunt together, and crows are quite handy with a bit of wire.

Complicated or not, we Homo sapiens, the highest of the primates, the tippy-top of the food chain, a frighteningly successful species, are, in the end, members of the animal kingdom, like it or not. Animal trainers showed me that there are universal rules of behavior that cut across all species. Why should we be any different?

I began to take home what I learned at the teaching zoo. If my husband did something that annoyed me, I thought, “How would an exotic animal trainer respond?” If I got into a squabble with a relative, I did the same. If the clerk at the post office gave me a hard time, likewise. That may sound ridiculous. I admit it. In fact, at the start I thought of it as a kind of goofy experiment, but the early results were so convincing that I kept at it.

Meet the Author

Amy Sutherland is the author of Kicked, Bitten, and Scratched and Cookoff. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. Her feature piece “What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage,” on which this book is based, was the most viewed and most e-mailed article of The New York Times online in 2006. Sutherland divides her time between Boston and Portland, Maine.

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What Shamu Taught Me about Life, Love, and Marriage: Lessons for People from Animals and Their Trainers 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
kreutkilla More than 1 year ago
Amy Sutherland hits the orca right on the blow hole in this quick satisfying read. This fun read brings a ray of light of a new way to handle day to day implications with ease instead of anxiety. Amy decides to bring the training techniques of animals into her own life. She makes you see life in a more simplistic view when comparing animal training with daily human interactions. She has a brilliant and easy way of explaining the similarities in the training of animals and the how to¿s in life with her truthful and hilarious personal stories. It makes you realize how easy it is to get the responses you want or don¿t want out of people in life by simple behaviorist methods used by animal trainers. It refers to much of the behavior applications I have recently learned in my Psychology 211. The main term used in both psychology, animal training and real life that the book referred to would be reinforcement. The use of reinforcement is needed to teach most of what the animals learn. It applies to what Amy used in her day to day life for instance as reinforcing her loving husband Scott for finally taking his pile of dirty bike clothes of the carpet and placing them in the hamper bin. There is a strong use of successive approximations which I also learned in class which Amy uses to lure her mother into getting hearing aids by starting out in booking an appointment. The book also refers to extinction where a baboon forgets how to do a back flip on the balance beam after not being reinforced. Sutherland also refers to Skinner and the variable reinforcement schedule explaining how it maintains an animals behavior or in Sutherlands case keeps her excited at the horse races each summer. The book also makes a great reference to punishment by explaining how it is not used in any up to date animal training. The animal trainers also refer to superstitious behavior when they accidently teach an animal a behavior. The animal trainers also use desensitization with the animals such as placing a lion in a crate and allowing him to get used to it. This book is good for all audiences of an adolescence age and up. I think any person can relate to and for the most part comprehend the book. And anyone can learn from the book as well and that¿s the beauty of it. Learning that you can change yourself to better your life. This book applies for all people.
Kyla Reyes 6 months ago
This book was enjoyable to read- especially as a Psychology student! Wish it was longer or a thicker book, but it was light and entertaining. This book was interesting because Sutherland took the idea of using the same technique done to animals to humans. She wrote a lot of patience and adjustments done in her life. She basically shadowed dolphin trainers and applied their techniques to her husband, and it teaches us reflective behavior can then be done to brothers or sisters too! Many psychologists have done this technique of conditioning an animal and it’s pretty much a good read because she liked both!
kouryK 7 months ago
I read this book for extra credit in my Psychology 211 class. I found it a very enjoyable, easy read and usually I do not prefer to read. Amy Sutherland does a great job of informing her readers on reinforcement, making it easier to understand especially when she gives her own personal examples. When wanting a certain behavior to continue one should be rewarded but if it is the opposite and the behavior needs to stop, a punishment needs to take place. Amy gives plenty of examples that are relatable and funny. Throughout the novel, I found myself relating Amy's situations to my own life. I used her suggestions and ideas on how to handle them and noticed positive changes myself! It gives a better understanding for those who may be struggling understanding the concept of reinforcement. This story is a great read for any student majoring in Psychology but also for anyone just looking for a good read. It shares lots of great advice on life, relationships, and how to handle certain situations. I would definitely recommend :)
Fabiola_B 7 months ago
This book was interesting! I usually wouldn’t read a book like this but I have to say that it was a great read and it made me reflect upon the human animals in my own life. I read this book for an extra credit assignment for my Psychology 211 class. I can see why my professor chose this book; a lot of the topics that Amy Sutherland mentions in her book can be related to what I have been learning in my class. The author learned how to be an animal trainer. In regards to my class, learning can be defined as “a relatively permanent change in behavior due to experience”. Another topic she portrays is behavior. This book focuses on animal behavior and the author relates it to human behavior. The definition of behavior in my class is “anything that an organism does that is observable and/or measurable”. Amy analyzes the behavior of mainly her husband but she also includes commentary on her mom, younger brother and friend. This made me think about my boyfriend, parents, younger brother and my two best friends. She does a good job referencing rewards and positive reinforcement. One of her main points towards the beginning chapters is that you need to get to know the species you want to train so that you learn about what rewards they will respond to. Which then brings her to explain concepts like positive reinforcement and rewards. In my Psychology 211 course I learned that the positive reinforcement procedure works like this: as a consequence for a behavior something is given -> the behavior is now more likely -> the consequence is a positive reinforcement. In this case, positive dose not mean good, positive means addition. A reward is a type of positive reinforcement. In this book Amy makes it clear to the readers that she prefers progressive animal training such as using positive reinforcement instead of punishments. She says “Progressive animal trainers reward the behavior they want and, equally importantly, ignore the behavior they don’t” (59). One of my favorite lines in this book is “You encourage rather than discourage” (66), I really like this line because it’s promoting positive reinforcement and simply explaining why it’s more effective than punishments. Positive reinforcement can be applied to parenting, animal training, teaching etc. Sutherland explains how “Punishment produces the same unreliable results with humans” (63). An example that the author gives in the book as well as my professor in class, is speeding tickets as punishment. Speeding tickets are not very effective because when someone gets a speeding ticket, they will either stop speeding or keep on speeding however looking out for cops. This only teaches the person to not speed while there is a cop around, therefore it’s ineffective. In addition, Amy describes variable schedules by explaining how once an animal knows how to do a specific move, the animal trainers don’t always give the animals a reward for doing the move. She says that “this is a powerful way to maintain behaviors” (97). In this class we learned about different schedules of reinforcement. The keyword in this concept is variable, which in our class means “spontaneous”. Rewards are spontaneously given to the animals once they have the move down. My overall opinion of this book is that I recommend it, you can definitely apply some tools that were explained in this book to your own life. The author does a great job of explaining the topics mentioned above along with other topics.
Dijla-Psych-211 More than 1 year ago
This book was an easy way to understand behavioral psychology principles such as conditioning by different types of reinforcement and punishment in order to receive desired behavior. This book relates to the psychology course I am currently in and I wish i would have read it earlier. The examples this book used were easier than those in my textbook. The main lesson of this book and my learning psychology class is that we should reward the behavior we like and ignore the behavior we don’t like. Meaning positive reinforcement should be used for behavior that we want to continue and negative punishment for behavior we don’t want to continue. An example from the book is when a dolphin does something wrong, the trainer doesn't respond in any way. He stands there for a few seconds, making sure he doesn’t look at the dolphin, and then returns to work. The idea is that any response, positive or negative, drives a behavior. If a behavior provokes no response, it typically dies away. An easy way to define approximations is to reward the small steps in order to learn a whole new behavior. Also, that approximations could help in both animal training and personal relationships. Overall, this is a great book if you want a better understanding of operant conditioning and looking to help yourself and others.
Caitlin O'Mahoney More than 1 year ago
I read this book for my psychology 211, which is a learning psychology class. I thought this was a great read, especially since it pertains to this class and the fact that you could use it in your daily life. I thought the stories she put in this book were quite funny, especially when she eventually used the animal training techniques on her husband. I think the greatest example of animal training was when she was trying to train her husband to pick up all his stinky biking clothes and how she eventually got him to do it. I also thought it was funny that her husband started to use her techniques on her. I also liked the fact that each chapter she talked about a different learning technique. I would definitely recommend this book to psychology students, it helps you understand the concepts of learning psychology a little more. I am going to try to use these techniques on my husband to see if I can get him pick up his dirty clothes off the bedroom floor and put them in the laundry basket.
hammy35 More than 1 year ago
I have to say the only reason that I read this book was because it was for extra credit. I normally don't like to read books but this book caught me quite hooked on. Amy Sutherland makes this book an easy read so it's not difficult to understand for poor readers like me. In the book she talks about how she became interested in the world of the animal trainers and found ways to apply it into her life specifically on her husband. By learning how to train animals in a way she trained herself to because before she complained too much and took everything that people did which she didn’t like personal. She also learned to stop trying to punish her husband and others, which really didn’t make it good for anyone. This relates to my psych 211 class where I learned about parenting and how we shouldn’t use punishment because it wasn’t as affective compared to reinforcing good behaviors because who or what ever your trying to modify their behavior might act against you or even fear you kind of like Amy’s husband who would act against her when she got mad and told him to stop speeding. I really like the way she views humans too, as animals that are learning. I find it quite funny how after reading this book it made me realize how some arguments between my parents are so silly. I recommended this book to my mom maybe she can “train” my dad to finally leave the toilet seat down or pick up his stinky socks off the bathroom floor. I do know for Shure that this book will come very handy for me when I get married or have kids.  Another thing that I like to do now after reading this book is to analyze my fellow specie’s instinctive behaviors and the environment their best in that way when I have the opportunity I can make it as pleasant to them to as pleasant for me. I suggest all of you to have an open mind to others after reading this book just like Amy who knows maybe one day we all won't take road rage so personal, pestering neighbors so annoying, and the ability to use an ATM machine without having to take it so personal when the person behind us takes a deep sigh, altho they shouldn't.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Savanna Hurst This book was surprisingly insightful and a refreshing approach to the ever-debated methods of how to best coexist with our fellow humans. Sutherland focuses on the usefulness of reinforcement, and the dangers that may often come along with punishment. Her theory was brought about through both her personal animal training experience as well as the observations she made in watching professional animal trainers. She refers to the people she encounters in everyday life as her “human animals”, as she claims that we humans really are but another species in the animal kingdom. Throughout the book, Sutherland’s main “test subject” was most reliably husband. She references his dirty biking clothes that he had constantly left on their bathroom floor, despite her nagging. In her frustration, she coined the term, “think like an animal trainer”. By this, she was referring to the reinforcement of a wanted behavior, and ignorance to all other behavior. Throughout this “training” of her husband, she had to first learn to not say anything about the dirty clothes that were bothering her. Instead, she opted only to only reinforce him when he did pick up the clothes, using but a simple “thank you”, and acknowledgement of the occurrence of the desired behavior. By sticking to this technique, her husband finally started picking up his dirty clothes without being asked. This was a major eye opener for Sutherland, as this simple task was something that had proved to be an ongoing problem and an unresolved issue throughout their years of marriage. After her success with her husband, Sutherland continued to remind herself to “think like an animal trainer” while dealing with people who refused to give her what she wanted. By using this very primal yet very surprising approach, she noticed she was able to get through to people more, and that people even started to appreciate Sutherland herself more. Sutherland believes that her method of reinforcement proved successful on so many different levels for multiple reasons. She claims that often the use of punishment diminishes trust and creates feelings of resentment. Obviously, when a person neither likes you nor trusts you, it will be less likely that they will do the things that you ask. At the same time, Sutherland does note that sometimes the use of punishment is very necessary, in wild animals and in “human animals”. When this is the case, Sutherland claims punishment can be effective as long as it is immediate and not overused. If the punishment is not immediate, than a separate behavior may be punished or reinforced, leading to an animal trained to do the wrong things at the wrong times. If the punishment is overused, then the animal will become habituated and/or desensitized to the punishment, meaning the same punishment will no longer have the same effect or a more intense form of the punishment will be necessary to elicit the same effect. Overall, I found this book a very enjoyable read. My only criticism would be the sometimes unnecessary tangents and rants Sutherland went on, as well as the repetitive nature of the book in general. However, I am very intrigued by both her approach and her widespread success with the approach. It is very fascinated yet very simple and fundamental. In the end, animals and humans are one in the same. We are driven by the same forces and set discouraged by the same consequences. In this way, we really do all need to learn to think like an animal trainer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I finished this book in just over a week, and from someone who typically takes weeks or months to read a book, that's really saying something. Sutherland's intriguing stories from all her observations of students training animals to the comedic way she explains how she applies the training techniques to her own life, each page is bound to keep you interested. (pun intended) Each chapter she explains a new concept about how to use training on people in your own life. She explains methods such as positive reinforcement, knowing your "animal" well, and using an LRS or least reinforcing scenario. A LRS is where you try to react as little as possible so as not to reinforce a behavior, because even an unintentional negative reaction can reinforce someone to do that thing again to get a reaction out of you again. Her cross between animal stories and psychological techniques kept me, a SeaWorld-loving, Psychology student, turning the page into the wee hours of the night. Worth the read for sure! - Natalie Walczak
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brandon Pfeifle Professor Kanevsky Psych 211 13 May 2014 What Shamu Taught Me About Life Love and Marriage Super Fun and Helpful It is amazing how the basics of conditioning can change the life around you. The behaviors of yourself and those around you set the tone, pace and rhythm of your world. The idea of clicker training, that you directly appoint stimuli to the appropriate behavior is used within all our everyday reactions. If we like something, we will say something nice usually in response. If we don’t like something, we will either ignore it, or do, or say something to keep the behavior coming. Once we catch on to this pattern, even if we are unaware of the behavioral psychology or animal training terminology we can implement the teachings. The terminology does greatly aid in fully dissecting and then putting the techniques into effect. The idea that you should view all the things as if you cannot physically dominate them, is a great mental and emotional stimulant. It leaves you no other choice, but to try to understand the creature you are dealing with and as a result your must do some soul searching. You must be patient and thoughtful, precise and observant. We can teach what we do want, rather than just what we don’t want. Increasing the likelihood for the desired behavior. To not take personally any mistakes, or misbehavior can aid greatly in enabling oneself to better teach. Amy Sutherland gives us wonderful examples of how she implemented the training in her real life. She would provide a sort of negative punishment when she ignores her husbands’ fussing about losing his keys. This was in hopes that he would not misplace them or he wouldn’t make such a fuss and lose his mind when he did. Her nagging, which actually had the opposite effect, from the one hoped for, goes hand and hand with, that within the process of shaping we should ignore the behaviors we would like not to occur. It’s funny how her husband started to use her training techniques on her. This can be a hindrance to our training of new skills. But it also show’s mental development. We just have to be careful not to let our pride get in the way and allow ourselves to be taught even if we are not the teacher. It can be scary and maybe the teacher is going about things wrong, that is when we go back to kindergarten, together! The different kind of training terms that were used were fun and go right along with terms used in behavior psychology. B.E. or Behavior Enrichment sounds a lot like reinforcement. A-to-B’s is vaguely like shaping. The phrase, “Go back to kindergarten,” which is shorthand for when an animal has trouble learning a new behavior and thus the trainer needs to back up a few steps in the series of training. I fear this could be interpreted poorly by the trainee if the trainer doesn’t remain positive. But otherwise it is a cute saying and shortens as well as brightens up the idea of backing up and trying again. The basics: 1.) Pick a behavior you want to train, 2.) Come up with a few specific goals so that you know what you do and don’t want, 3.) Come up with a step by step procedure to that end quick studies. If something doesn’t work, try to think of something else. What you DO is communication. The Old Fashioned way is punishment for wrong actions, with a very unlikely reward for the correct. The New Age way is no punishment, except no treats of attention, along with rewards of treats, attention or B.E. for correct behavior. Animals and most people are such fast learning, a trainer must be careful. Any interaction is training!
SandraTh More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book. I truly recommend it to students who are psychology majors for this book contains details about animal behaviors and human behaviors. Moreover, the author wrote a book about animal training techniques she learned which she later used on her husband. She eventually told him what she was doing and he was amused. Likewise, he tried it on her but he failed. I thought it was an amusing and well-written book. In addition, it has a detailed ideas that you either feel you can use or pass judgment on. Finally, what I found interesting were the techniques that animal trainers use daily can help improve one’s love life or save one’s marriage.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Apart from watching Animal Planet and potty training my dogs, I knew very little about animal training. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was light, witty and surprisingly very applicable to my relationships with my pets and my humans. It's definitely worth your time.