KEYS TO UNLOCKING EXCELLENCE: STIMULUS CONTROL AND GENERALIZATION
Ken Ramirez • WASHINGTON, DC
In the working-dog world especially, Ken Ramirez’s clients are skilled practitioners who have been successful training the target behavior required in their fields (explosive detection, search-and-rescue techniques, guide-dog skills, etc.). Beyond that point is where the trouble may set in, when training outcomes fall below the accepted standards and no one is happy. That’s when they call Ken.
Ken has found that his clients’ primary challenges are moving behavior into the real world and dealing with the distractions of real life. This transition—crossing from “laboratory” to real-world application—is a wide chasm that is challenging to cross. It is where some trainers have relied on punishers to prevent the animals from reacting to distractions and help them on task. However, the fallout from the use of aversive tools has become increasingly clear, so trainers are looking more and more for positive alternatives. But even skilled trainers in the field, committed to using positive reinforcement-based training solutions, can struggle with this transition.
At ClickerExpo Washington, DC, Ken will share how he unlocks success by introducing a programmatic focus on the value of better stimulus control achieved through gradual exposure to unique and changing environments. Through the design of this structured desensitization program involving both stimulus control and generalization techniques, two sides of the same coin that are often compartmentalized, Ken has increased the effectiveness and reliability of working dogs all over the world. A similar process has also been used to improve husbandry training in the zoological community.
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