Power of the Conditioned Emotional Response

This Session is divided into two 45-minute parts with a 15-minute break between halves. Attendees interested in this topic are encouraged to attend both halves of the Session.

A conditioned emotional response (CER) is a classically conditioned response to a specific circumstance. We have all experienced conditioned emotional responses ranging from elation when the recess bell rang in school to anxiety faced with the smell of the dentist's office.

Animals develop CERs all the time. For example, many dogs develop CERs to the leash being clipped on, to car keys jingling, or to the sound of the refrigerator door opening.

Can you create new CERs deliberately? Lindsay Wood Brown, Director of Animal Training and Behavior for the Lynchburg Humane Society and a Karen Pryor Academy faculty member, will discuss first how to recognize animals' emotional responses, and second how to see and harness opportunities to create new emotional reactions.

Lindsay will explain how to use the clicker to condition powerful and desirable CERs, in the shelter environment and in everyday scenarios at home. Attendees will also learn about using the power of the CER to modify behaviors rooted in fear, anxiety, and some types of aggression.

Part 1 will focus on the relevant science and background information:

  • Affective neuroscience and cognition
  • Ethology
  • Animal behavior and how to recognize an emotional response

Part 2 will focus on how to use the knowledge gained in Part 1:

  • Links between neuroscience, ethology, and learning
  • Animal learning
  • Exploring the questions of can we and how do we change emotional responses
  • Implications and applications

Lindsay Wood Brown

Lindsay Wood Brown,  is a board-certified applied animal behaviorist (ACAAB) and a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner (KPA CTP) with a master's degree in psychology and a concentration in animal behavior from Hunter College. Lindsay works at Karen Pryor Academy  as a Course Developer and has been a member of the  KPA faculty member since 2012. She specializes in resolving behavior conditions and consults for animal shelters on the design and implementation of behavior programs, effective modification methods for a range of behavior conditions, and development of robust operational strategies to achieve behavioral health within the shelter.

Lindsay served as the Director of Operations for Lynchburg Humane Society (LHS), an open-admissions animal shelter located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Her role at Lynchburg Humane included the oversight of all shelter operations, with a strong focus on behavior and behavior modification to increase the number of animal lives saved and rehomed successfully.

Prior to her role as Director of Operations in Virginia, Lindsay served as the Director of Animal Training and Behavior for the Humane Society of Boulder Valley in Boulder, Colorado. She developed Boulder Humane's Training and Behavior Department, including the curriculum for a wide array of positive reinforcement, clicker training classes for community members. Lindsay also developed the organization's comprehensive behavior modification program, which focuses on rehabilitating dogs with specific concerns, including food-guarding, fearful behavior, body-handling sensitivities, separation anxiety, and dog-dog aggression.