Concept Training: Copycat? Copy Dog!

This Session will focus on concept training and help attendees understand the basics of teaching an animal a concept as opposed to a specific behavior. In past years, Ken has focused on modifier cues; this year he will focus on the concept of mimicry. Ken will present the training plan he has followed to teach various species, including dogs, to mimic or replicate the behavior they see another animal perform. There will be a discussion of the challenges to this type of training and the controversy that seems to revolve around this topic.

In this Session, attendees will learn examples of concept training (modifier cues, adduction, etc.), foundational behaviors, and approaches needed to be successful with any type of concept training. Ken will engage attendees with a step-by-step look at the process used for training mimicry, the challenges of mimicry training, and the parallel pitfalls that can occur in any type of concept training.

While these are advanced concepts that not every trainer needs to know or understand, these ideas help all trainers recognize what dogs are capable of learning when the right training approach is used.

Ken Ramirez

Ken Ramirez is the Executive Vice-President (EVP) and Chief Training Officer of Karen Pryor Clicker Training (KPCT). There he helps to oversee the vision, development, and implementation of training education programs for the organization.

A 40+-year veteran of animal care and training, Ken is a biologist and animal behaviorist who has overseen or consulted on training projects for many zoological organizations throughout the world. He began his training career working with guide dogs for the visually impaired and continues to work with organizations training dogs for service work, search-and-rescue, bomb detection, and narcotic detection. Ken has also maintained a close affiliation with pet training throughout his career.

Prior to his work with KPCT, Ken served as EVP of Animal Care and Animal Training at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium for more than 25 years. There he developed and supervised animal care and animal health programs, staff training and development, and public presentation programs for more than 32,000 animals. Ken has written for numerous scientific publications and authored countless popular articles. He authored the book ANIMAL TRAINING: Successful Animal Management through Positive Reinforcement, published in 1999.

Ken taught a graduate course on animal training at Western Illinois University for 20 years and has been active in several professional organizations, including as a past president of the International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association (IMATA). He is actively involved in the creation of a certification process for animal trainers in zoological settings. Currently, Ken is developing courses and programming at The Ranch, the Karen Pryor National Training Center in the state of Washington.