Session 1

Why Animals Need Trainers Who Support the Least Intrusive Principle: Improving Animal Welfare and Honing Trainers’ Skills – Dr. Susan Friedman

Negative reinforcement is a bit like a train wreck: you know you should maintain speed and drive past but you just can’t help slowing down to satisfy your curiosity. Recent interest in basic research on negative reinforcement sets the occasion to check our understanding of why animals need trainers who support the least intrusive principle for selecting behavior-change procedures. In this presentation, Susan Friedman will 1) examine the rational for a hierarchy of behavior-change procedures according to the least intrusive principle, 2) consider its impact on animal welfare and trainers’ skills, and 3) address concerns with the adoption of this ethical guideline as it applies to the animal training profession. 

Session 2

Handling Animal Mistakes Positively – Ken Ramirez

Your animal makes an error; he doesn’t do what you expected. How should you respond? Positive reinforcement trainers will go out of their way to avoid punishment. However, is a well-timed “no” still considered a punisher? How about a kindly trained “oops” to let the dog know he should change his behavior? What options are available to the well-intentioned positive reinforcement trainer?  In this session, Ken Ramirez will present the various techniques used to deal with incorrect responses and share the science, the practical applications, and the ethics behind each tool.

Session 3

NEI TEC in Conversation – Steve Martin, Dr. Susan Friedman, Ken Ramirez,Marty MacPhee, and Dr. Cynthia Stringfield

Join us for a panel discussion to wrap up Least Intrusive Principle Week. The panelists look forward sharing final thoughts from their particular points of view and responding to your questions. 

More about our guest contributors:

        Ken Ramirez is the Executive Vice-President and Chief Training Officer at Karen Pryor Clicker Training where he helps to oversee the vision, development and implementation of training education programs for the organization.  
        Previously, Ken served as EVP of animal care and animal training at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, where he developed and supervised animal care and animal health programs, staff training and development as well as public presentation programs for more than 32,000 animals. He worked at Shedd Aquarium for over 25 years and continues as a consultant to this day.
         A 40+ year veteran of animal care and training, Ramirez is a biologist and animal behavior specialist 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 has maintained a close affiliation to pet training throughout his career.  He hosted two successful seasons of the pet training television series Talk to the Animals that compared pet training to the important work done with training and caring for animals in zoological facilities.  He has also recently worked closely with several search and rescue dog organizations, service dog groups, as well as with bomb and narcotic dogs. 
        Ramirez has been active in several professional organizations, including the International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association (IMATA), of which he is a past president. He taught a graduate course on animal training at Western Illinois University for 20 years. Ramirez 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. His most recent book The Eye of the Trainer: Animal Training, Transformation, and Trust, was published in 2020.

        Dr. Cynthia Stringfield started her professional animal career 36 years ago raising and training land mammals of many types, especially felids, and working as a zoo veterinary technician.  As a veterinarian for the last 30 years she completed an Internship in Small Animal Emergency, Surgery and Radiology and then cared for small animals and exotic pets in private practice for 3 years. She has since been a zoo veterinarian at the Los Angeles Zoo, the Santa Barbara Zoo and America’s Teaching Zoo.  She was also a Professor and Department Chair for Moorpark College’s Exotic Animal Training and Management program. Additionally, she was a member of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s California Condor Recovery Team, and was the Species Survival Program Veterinarian and Veterinary Coordinator for 17 years.  Dr. Stringfield joined ZooTampa in September 2019 as Senior Vice President of Animal Health, Conservation and Education.