Embrace change. Or, suffer the consequences.
I write this out of my love for animal training, and trainers. We are experiencing intense pressure from animal rights extremists, who want to put us out of business, and eradicate animals from our society.
One of our most powerful rallies is to be such great trainers and animal people that it is really hard to find anything wrong with what we do. And, much progress has been made in this direction. However, rather than embrace these advances, many trainers act like stuck pigs, and squeal that these advances cannot be valid, they don’t work, etc. etc. What they are really saying is that they have not mastered these tools and methods.
I LOVE it when trainers tell me what is not possible and what I can’t do. They are ensuring my reputation. I built a career doing things that others had not done before, and even said were impossible.
What really mystifies me is when other trainers tell me that I cannot do something I (and many, many) other trainers do on a regular basis. Since so many other trainers can do the same things I do, the naysayers are exposing their limitations to everyone that is aware of the possibilities. People that say that we must dominate animals to teach/manage them, or that animals cannot change their reactions, or that animals cannot understand language, or that it takes harsh e-collar corrections to stop dog aggression are showing that they have not mastered their craft. But a trainer does not have to stay mired in his/her current limitations. They can advance, learn, grow… they can evolve into even better trainers. They can learn to achieve the ‘impossible’.
If trainers are accomplishing things that seem impossible to you, I hope you will go look at what, and how, they are making their breakthroughs, rather than sit in an armchair, or even on an IPO field, and declare how such and such is impossible. Nothing proclaims the limits of a trainer’s experience/skill set,  more than the dogmatic declaration that something is not possible – especially when it is being done.
I see exotic animal trainers regularly doing things that many dog trainers declare impossible. I see SATS trainers (dog and otherwise) do many things that many dog trainers declare impossible. It would seem to me that an ambitious, results oriented trainer would want some of that success, and would set out to master some powerful new skills, rather than put themselves in the position of saying something is impossible, when many peers know that to be false.
Teaching animals to change the way they look at things (the Perception Modification protocols) is a challenging task, but easier than getting some trainers to do the same.
However, in a handful of days, we can reliably change the way animals see, and respond to, triggers, in the majority of cases.
Here is one little example. It involves pigs squealing like – stuck pigs! The pigs at the Swine Unit, at the University of Maryland, were terrified of blood draws. You will see that at the beginning of this 1 min video. Go figure, the staff used 5 inch needles to draw blood from the vena cava, one inch from the heart, and it took restraint and three people.
I was hired to help researchers improve situations such as this.
Turns out, this one was easy to solve. With an average of 1 hour of training per pig, we taught all the pigs in the project, to stand – voluntarily – for the vena cava blood draw. Oh sure, there were problems. All the pigs wanted to be first! So, we had to name them all, and teach them to wait for their name to be called. Check it out in this video from 1990. In the video that shows our trained pigs, look closely behind Benny Erez, and you will see the next pig in line, patiently awaiting his turn. If you are a squealing pig, watch and …. squeal or…. move into a new, peacefully quiet, future. See video!