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

by Amy Sutherland


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812978087
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/14/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 331,471
Product dimensions: 8.02(w) x 5.20(h) x 0.41(d)

About the Author

Amy Sutherland is the author of What Shamu Taught me About Life, Love, and Marriage; 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.

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 me if 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 bopped 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.


Table of Contents

Introduction     xi
People Are Animals Too     3
Any Interaction Is Training     14
The Zen of Animal Training     29
Know Your Species     44
Why I Stopped Nagging     58
The How-tos of Positive Reinforcement     80
Baby Steps     100
The Least Reinforcing Scenario     115
The Joy of Incompatible Behaviors     129
Working with Big Cats     139
Epilogue: Life After Shamu     151
Acknowledgments     161
Glossary     165

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What Shamu Taught Me about Life, Love, and Marriage: Lessons for People from Animals and Their Trainers 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was optional to read for my Psyc 211 class. Judging from the title of the book I assumed it was going to be one of those cliché inspirational books, but it was far from that. Who knew there would be such a strong correlation between animal training and improving a marriage. Amy starts off with how her husband had annoying habits such as leaving tissues around and it didn't matter if she approached the situation neutral, nagged, or yelled because it would end up back firing everytime and her husband wouldn't change his bad habits. With great wisdom from animal trainers she surprisingly found the patience, control, and knowledge of how to not take things so personal. Using animal training tactics sounds ridiculous and irrational but Amy definitely proved that it can work. It was very impressive to read how she used positive reinforcemnt on her husband to change his behavior. I had no idea that positive reinforcement was even used for animal training to reinforce a desired behavior. This perfectly explains why I wasn't capable of training my dog, I assumed that my dog was just very stubborn. I wasn't even using any of the tactics Amy discussed in her book such as rewarding good behavior. I think what's really interesting is how ignoring an undesired behavior can do so much more than you thought it would have. Overall, I'd say this was a very entertaining book to read and I'll forsure be using these tactics on my dog and other people who have habits that annoy me.
Leyva---Alyssa99 8 months ago
I was first introduced to this book by my psychology 211 professor as an option for extra credit in class. Immediately after hearing the title, "What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage", I was very intrigued to find out more about it. What I enjoyed most about the book was how Amy Sutherland compared animal training to real life situations that we all can relate to. Another factor that was really fascinating to me was that as I was reading the book, I was also learning about similar topics in class that Sutherland mentioned in the book. It was very beneficial because it helped me better understand concepts that I learned about in class such as reinforcement and desensitization, to name a couple. A point that Sutherland consistently makes throughout the book is that, "Progressive animal trainers reward the behavior they want and, equally importantly, ignore the behavior they don't" (page 59). I think that this point is true to its meaning and can be used in real life situations like a child throwing a tantrum, or teaching your dog not to chew up your couches. Overall, I am glad that my professor introduced this book to the class. I am not much of a reader, but this book was one that I could not put down. It incorporates two of my favorite subjects to learn about: animals and psychology. This book was also great because it provided a lot of information that I can use to transform my daily life and the relationships I have with others.
Enya 8 months ago
Amy Sutherland describes her success using animal training techniques methods to deal with her marriage. She felt irritated by her husband behavior so her method was to nag, but this provoked her husband to do the opposite. Animals can’t be nagged into doing anything. Instead, Sutherland began to look at her husband as a trainer would look at an animal. She first discovers training techniques when she took a six-week puppy training class. By the end of the training, she learned to be precise and observant, that she was able to teach her dog Dixie, what she wanted her dog to learn. Also found a new her with more patience, self-control, and to not take anything personally when Dixie ripped her shorts off over excitement. Later she began interested in exotic animal training and decided to follow students from Moorpark’s Exotic Animal Training and Management Program. She decided to apply all her training skills toward her marriage and that is how she learned to reward smalls steps towards the behavior she liked, and to ignore behaviors she didn’t like. She practiced self-control and no longer responded to things that in the past would annoy her. This to myself is interesting because never would think that an animal behavior method could be actually useful for a person behavior. Two completely different beings, but as I read Sutherland’s personal experience with her husband my perspective completely changed. I felt impressed in a way that everything is possible as long as you know how to work someone else’s mind. She completely ignored the behaviors that she disliked and rewarded the behaviors on her favor. I also read the book for my PSY 211 learning class, and I recommended it. Loved it.
nzlibrarygirl on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Very entertaining and interesting. Mostly about animal training but some ideas about how to apply it to humans.
SamanthaMarie on LibraryThing 10 months ago
The author followed around animal trainers for another book, but on the way learned tricks and techniques that she thought she might try on humans (specifically her husband). The book is a fun mix of animal and human training stories. What worked, what didn't, why and how it affected her life. Another story that will greatly appeal to pet owners and animal lovers as well as those who think they can change their spouses.
stephaniechase on LibraryThing 10 months ago
The principles Sutherland describes in this book will be familiar to anyone who has read a parenting book from the past decade -- focus on the positive, ignore the behavior you don't want, people will do almost anything for a small reward -- and as any parent knows, much harder to do on a regular basis when it's not your full-time job!An entertaining read, but the article from the NYT that started the whole craze is probably just as sufficient. Don't have children, forgot what it's like to raise small children, or interested in how animals are trained, then worth your afternoon.
debnance on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I should have taken notes while I read this book. Sutherland is sent to write a newspaper article about exotic animal trainers. In the process of writing the article, she realizes that the training techniques of the animal trainers are the same ones we humans use, albeit unconsciously and not very well, on our spouses, our friends, and our children. This book is Sutherland¿s attempt to show how she was able to take the methods of the trainers and purposefully apply them to change situations in her own life.Is it really that easy?Well, of course not.But if Sutherland thinks it has made her a better person, a happier person, than I think it is worth it for me to go back through the book and take notes and try some of these things out.Here are my notes:¿It¿s never the animal¿s fault.¿¿Train every animal like it¿s a killer whale,¿ as if you can neither move it by force or dominate it.¿Everything with a mouth bites.¿¿Reward the behavior you want and ignore the behavior you don¿t want.¿¿Any interaction is training.¿¿Don¿t take it personally. See behavior as just behavior.¿¿Set your animal up for success.¿¿People, like animals, aren¿t wired to learn lessons when they are out of sorts.¿¿Punishment produces hatred, fear, desire for revenge, aggression, and apathy.¿¿Keep your animals happy.¿¿If one method of training isn¿t working, try another.¿¿Least Reinforcing Scenario¿¿Incompatible behaviors.¿¿Go back to kindergarten.¿
legan on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Shallow. Her biggest crisis was the death of her dog - otherwise it went on and on and on about her husband leaving his clothes on the bathroom floor and other common not-even worth mentioning never mind writing a book about it ...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was optional to read for my Psyc 211 class. Judging from the title of the book I assumed it was going to be one of those cliché inspirational books, but it was far from that. Who knew there would be such a strong correlation between animal training and improving a marriage. Amy starts off with how her husband had annoying habits such as leaving tissues around and it didn't matter if she approached the situation neutral, nagged, or yelled because it would end up back firing everytime and her husband wouldn't change his bad habits. With great wisdom from animal trainers she surprisingly found the patience, control, and knowledge of how to not take things so personal. Using animal training tactics sounds ridiculous and irrational but Amy definitely proved that it can work. It was very impressive to read how she used positive reinforcemnt on her husband to change his behavior. I had no idea that positive reinforcement was even used for animal training to reinforce a desired behavior. This perfectly explains why I wasn't capable of training my dog, I assumed that my dog was just very stubborn. I wasn't even using any of the tactics Amy discussed in her book such as rewarding good behavior. I think what's really interesting is how ignoring an undesired behavior can do so much more than you thought it would have. Overall, I'd say this was a very entertaining book to read and I'll forsure be using these tactics on my dog and other people who have habits that annoy me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was very enjoyable for me not only because I was able to relate it to my behavior and learning class but because it was an easy read that I was actually finished. I am a slow and not common reader, so for me to actually take the time to read a book is rare. The author does a good job of explaining how trainers interact with their animals and then relating it to the human world. She does this in each chapter introducing a different concept and then later relating it to herself and her life. This book really made me think about how I could use these skills in my life to improve my own relationships. She makes the point that if trainers use certain tactics on mammals than why can’t we use these same practices on our fellow mammals? A lot of it has to do with our tendencies as humans and how we react to certain things. But if we take a step back and modify our own behavior first it will have a huge impact on other people’s behavior who we interact with. One of my favorite chapters in this book was “Baby Steps”. In this chapter the author explains how trainers take the time and steps to teach and modify a behaviors that they want. In real life we tend to assume that once we tell someone to change, they should do a complete 360. But in reality it takes time to change a behavior. So in order to have this happen we should reward even small progress that is made. I feel that the main concept in this book is to reinforce behavior that you want and to ignore behavior that you do not want. In my behavior and learning class we have learned about punishment and some of the problems associated with it. One problem is that punishment is likely to elicit an emotional response. In this book the author mentions that a lot of the time she either tries to punish or react to a behavior she does not like in her husband. This eventually turns into an argument between the both of them. This is a good example of a problem with punishment. As a solution the author feels that ignoring the specific behavior not wanted is a better solution than engaging. Overall I definitely recommend this book. Although I am not married, this book can relate to anyone and any relationship. We as humans tend to get caught up in our ways. But reading this book helped me to look from the outside and see why we do what we do and how we can improve our everyday lives and relationships.
Brianna Stevens More than 1 year ago
This book was assigned for me to read in a Psychology Learning course and after reading the first few pages of this book I immediately became hooked and had to read more! I found the very idea of training humans extremely intriguing. The author begins by explaining her journey and why she began to think about training the people in her life. The author points out in the book that even though people may hear the word “training” and cringe and the thought of it and its ethical values, it is something that us humans do in our daily lives either consciously or subconsciously. There is a difference in the way you approach training. When people who are against training normally they think of it as a way of controlling or manipulating someone, which is not always the case. I loved the fact that the author pointed out how important positive reinforcement it rather than using punishment. And the examples she applied to her own life were amazing. i felt like this was the perfect read and helped me with terms I was learning in class and made me more able to see a real life example of what I was reading about in my Psychology textbooks. This read is very rewarding and makes me want to apply the same methods into my own life! It’s quite mazing how much power your own behavior will make on the behavior of others. I would definitely recommend this book!
Fmozo More than 1 year ago
This book was very helpful with understanding how the terms I learned in my Psy211 class could be applied in real life settings. Specifically, how it is used in training, but also in everyday life. I liked learning about how training can have a positive influence in an animal's life, it's stated in the book that it is beneficial because it provides exercise for the animal and provides mental stimulation. Throughout the book the author also highlights the importance of using positive reinforcement and not punishment. This is because through positive reinforcement the animal comes to trust you and becomes more engaged and motivated. Most importantly though, you are teaching the animal the behavior you want it to do, as opposed to teaching it what it should not do. Something else to note with punishment is that the we can become desensitized to the unpleasant experience, so the punisher may increase the punishment creating fear towards the punisher. Another important thing mentioned was that in order to maintain behaviors you want, you must reinforce enough which can be done through a schedule of reinforcement. Overall, I enjoyed how the author was able to explain things in a simple way. While I was reading I found myself going "Of course! Why haven't I thought about this more?!" This is especially true with the concept of ignoring behaviors you don't want and rewarding the ones you do. This sounds fairly simple and straightforward but of course requires practice. LRS was something I also found helpful and it seems like when carried out correctly, it can be very rewarding and make you feel very much in control. Incompatible behaviors was another important thing I learned, which is teaching someone to do something else rather than have them stop doing something completely. After reading this book, I would definitely recommend it, since it's easy to understand and helpful to apply in our own lives in order to have more satisfied interactions.
Kyla Reyes More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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.
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago