Turn Me On (or Not): Inspiring Others to Choose Positive Reinforcement

Are you critical of traditional training and individuals who continue to defend punishment-based methods of training? Do you want those trainers and training programs to change to positive reinforcement training? Experienced positive reinforcement trainers can feel impatient with organizations or individuals they see as reluctant, or simply very slow, to adopt modern training methods.

Are you new to clicker training and want to learn more about these reward-based techniques? Do you feel overwhelmed with how much there is to learn, and possibly feel judged by others due to your history with traditional methods? Experienced traditional trainers can feel besieged with information and challenged to alter their ingrained habits.

Transforming an experienced trainer's skill set over to a very different training skill set is not an easy journey. Many individuals and programs face the challenges of learning and trusting in a new and different way of training.

This Session will help you understand the process of changing for oneself, for an organization, or for individuals you witness using punishment-based training methods. Michele Pouliot has effectively impacted the entire international guide-dog training world, shifting historical beliefs in successful traditional methods to the adoption of clicker training among a majority of guide- and service-dog programs. Michele has become an expert at motivating and assisting traditional programs and individuals in change. In this Session, she will share what she has learned over her now 17-year journey as a changemaker.

Please note: This Session was recorded in 2017; content presented in 2018 or later may vary slightly.  

Michele Pouliot

Michele Pouliot began her animal-training career through her love of horses. 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 there as an instructor, until her next position, in North Dakota. There, 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.

Michele Pouliot began her 42-year 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.

Since 2005, Michele has been a pioneer in the guide dog industry worldwide. 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. In order to provide education to more individuals worldwide, GDB and Michele have offered four International Guide Dog Clicker Conferences for professionals in the guide dog field. Recently, Michele was presented with a Lifetime Achievement award from the International Guide Dog Federation for her innovation, creative development, and service to blind clients and guide dog programs around the globe. She leads seminars and workshops around the world, for guide and service dog organizations and for dog sport training. Michele is known as a very clear and enthusiastic teacher who demonstrates her love for animals and people every time.

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 has also competed in tracking and in the sport of agility. In 2005, Michele discovered the new sport of Canine Musical Freestyle; she is now a leader in the sport, with help from her dogs Cabo, Listo, Déjà, and Saké. Michele and her dogs are winners of multiple national and international competitions; they are known for creative behaviors and entertaining routines. 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 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.