GOATS – Presenters

The Global Online Animal Training Summit presenters have been hand selected. We are excited to bring you these experts.


Gerry  Creighton

Gerry Creighton has worked in Dublin Zoo since 1983, starting as a trainee keeper, before becoming a full time zoo keeper in 1986. He subsequently worked as Team Leader responsible for large apes, carnivores and elephants for nearly ten years before becoming Zoo Operations Manager for animals and grounds in 2009. Gerry also holds an advisory role acting as elephant consultant for many international zoos, within Europe, Asia and North America. Gerry’s career has spanned several decades of exciting development, during which time Dublin Zoo has transformed from its Victorian beginnings in 1831 into a modern, vital and progressive European centre for conservation, education and animal husbandry.

Giant Footsteps: The Future of the Asian Elephants                            

The Asian elephant is facing a very uncertain future in its natural habitat – rapidly expanding human populations, poaching and habitat fragmentation are putting remaining numbers of Asian elephants under extreme pressure. This once wide-ranging species is now increasingly restricted to pockets of habitat that can only sustain potentially unviable populations of animals. This presentation will discuss the role that the modern Zoo can play in the conservation of the world’s largest land mammal. The presentation will describe key aspects of elephant wellness, husbandry, enrichment and facility design that uses modern technology to enhance species specific behaviour, with specific reference to the development of Dublin Zoo’s groundbreaking elephant programme. It will follow the development of the programme from its inception, through its creation and the introduction of three related female Asian elephants in 2006. Using photos and video, the introduction of an adult bull elephant in 2012 will be documented, followed by the extraordinary events of the summer of 2014, when there were three natural in-herd births within the space of three months.

Select Dynamic field
Select Dynamic field
Select Dynamic field

Parvene Farhoody, PhD

Dr. Parvene Farhoody started training animals in 1974 and began training professionally in 1992. Today, she owns and operates Behavior Matters,® Inc., a behavior consulting, training, and education service in New York City that specializes in teaching people to better understand learning principles and how these principles are applied to teach all species—human and nonhuman.

In 2008, Parvene continued to train and teach while earning a doctorate in Learning Processes and Behavior Analysis from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and a Master’s in Psychology with a concentration in Animal Behavior and Wildlife Conservation from Hunter College in New York City.

Dr. Farhoody trains animals across species, consults, coaches and designs training programs. Her comprehensive approach to training nonhuman species always includes teaching human caregivers how to work with the animals in their care. The goal is to implement effective and efficient behavior change procedures that go hand in hand with safe and enjoyable learning environments.

She has conducted scientific research on minimally restrictive and least aversive behavioral interventions to reduce inter-dog aggression and published research on the effects of spay/neuter on the aggressive behavior of domestic dogs. She continues to research low-stress behavioral interventions that can improve the lives of human and nonhuman animals.

From 1992 to 1996, Parvene worked extensively with children from Kindergarten through 5th grade in public and private schools in Baltimore, Maryland. She designed and implemented teaching systems that facilitated maximal learning with minimal stress. The curricula were designed to motivate students to learn using the same scientific principles she applies to all training.

Dr. Farhoody shares her passion for the experimental analysis of behavior and its application through her research, writing, and private coaching of professional trainers across disciplines. She also gives lectures, seminars and workshops designed to improve the understanding of scientifically validated learning principles and how to directly apply these principles to any field.  Read more here

What Happened to the Science in Science-based Training?

The study of learning and behavior as a natural phenomenon is in its infancy. Yet today, this complex science is increasingly reduced and weakened with human rationalizations that practitioners of behavior change need “simple tools” to make sense of its complexity. How do we rescue this immense science from a world where recipes and overly simplistic roadmaps tempt trainers to become instant experts? Where does a trainer turn when day-to-day (year to year) observations from demanding hands-on work with animals in their care tell them that something is missing from the “scientific information” provided in the latest well-intentioned opinion?

This lecture explores this and other questions with information about the history of the still fledgling field of behavior analysis and how such questions and challenges have been examined by behavior scientists and practitioners over the last half century. What does this scientific history teach animal trainers about what behaviorists do, the procedures they use and the ethical struggles they have faced? And how can we continue to make progress in the application of a science when pressures by colleagues, organizations, and even certifying bodies threaten personal and professional punishment if individuals or organizations do not adopt the newest shortcut to education and experience?

How I Learned to Love the Learning Processes (aka, “The 4 Quadrants”)

Why and how learning occurs is often overly simplified by the good intentions of experts and layman alike (see lecture above "What Happened to the Science in Science-based Training?) One result is that good trainers committed to building strong behavior using positive reinforcement begin to only recognize positive reinforcement in their training environments. Social and professional pressures shape the behavior of humans, and today’s trainer is often reinforced for seeing – and verbally identifying – only positive reinforcement contingencies. Such pressures limit a practitioners’ ability to accurately observe and describe learning processes as they occur in real time.

In this lecture, recordings of different species of animals in the process of learning will be comprehensively analyzed. You, the viewer, will then have the opportunity to see not only what you want to see (i.e., what is presently being socially reinforced), but what is actually happening as defined by all four learning processes. The viewer can observe how the ever-changing environment continually adjusts the contingencies that control an animal’s behavior. The animal then responds to these overlapping contingencies and learns what to do. After viewing this lecture, trainers may be better able to recognize the elegant complexity of the natural learning process and realize why one truly begins to apply the science of behavior change after they remove labels such as “good” or “bad” from the four learning processes.

Hillary Hankey

Hillary Hankey’s first interest in animal behavior began with the documentation of the family cat’s daily habits, including hours of cat naps, on her dad’s camcorder as practice for becoming a National Geographic researcher. Her fascination turned to birds when she began accruing her parrots in her childhood bedroom, and has been training birds ever since. Hillary has worked for zoos as an animal trainer and keeper, and in 2010 she started parrot behavior consulting in her free time, a practice designed to help parrot owners utilize positive reinforcement for better relationships. She also volunteered to raise toucans and consulted with wildlife education facilities, working with exotic mammals and reptiles. In 2013, Hillary left the comfort of a predictable paycheck and started Avian Behavior International, a bird training and education organization. With ABI, she has stayed with the Waurá tribe in the backwaters of the Amazon, flown birds through the Rainbow Arch of Lake Powell, produced free flying bird programs for zoological parks, and explored and developed new ways to help others contribute to conserving our planet through avian ambassadors. Through ABI and later, her online membership program the Avian Behavior Lab, she continues to set goals to help animal trainers in a deeper, more meaningful way and be part of progressive movement with high standards of ethical behavior management and the presentation of free-flying birds in educational programs in zoos and similar institutions everywhere.

Less Stress with More Flex – What are you missing in your toolkit?

With a singular focus on positive reinforcement as the driving force of empowerment, we can miss other choice-based opportunities for the animals in our care to communicate their needs and wants in the training relationship. This presentation explores scenarios in which a nuanced approach to reinforcement, combining positive and negative reinforcement, can help us look past more rigid uses of conditioning principles that can lead to stress and confusion for the animal. We track three case studies in which we put our actions under a microscope and utilize timing and reinforcers in an intentional way. In turn, this helps us accurately assess what is actually at play in the training session and use these principles to each of our advantage, propelling our skills and understanding as a trainer and learner of animal behavior.

Barbara Heidenreich

Barbara Heidenreich is an animal training consultant specializing in exotic animals. She consults worldwide working with zoos, universities, veterinary professionals, and conservation projects. She has worked with over 80 facilities in 27 countries. She is an adjunct instructor at Texas A & M University. She has produced seven DVDs, authored two books and contributed to four veterinary textbooks. She is a co- author of the Fear Free® Avian Certification Course. Much of her work focuses on training exotic species to cooperate in medical care. She operates the online education program www.AnimalTrainingFundamentals.com. Barbara is an advisor for the Animal Training Working Group and the Parrot Taxon Advisory Group for the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums. She has provided her expertise to conservation projects The Kakapo Recovery Program and The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. Her goal is to leave behind a legacy of kindness to animals by sharing her expertise.

Understanding the Bridging Stimulus

A question I am frequently asked is “Why didn’t you bridge?” Which may be more accurately interpreted as why didn’t I use a clicker, a whistle or say a word such as “good”? In reality there is a bridging stimulus, however it is not what people traditionally identify as that signal. The bridging stimulus is a tool for communication that is widely misunderstood. It is often singled out and separated as a specific entity that a trainer must identify and utilize in order to be successful. This presentation will explore what animals may be using as information that indicates reinforcers are forthcoming. It will also explain situations in which a bridging stimulus can be beneficial, unnecessary and at times detrimental to the training process. You will also discover appropriate as well as some creative applications of the bridging stimulus to improve training. This presentation will also clarify why some concepts described as intermediate bridges, terminal bridges and keep going signals are not necessary. Numerous video presentations will help you gain a deeper understanding of the bridging stimulus.

Good Trouble. Make Mine a Double

Raising one’s voice against popular opinion is asking for trouble. One can expect many undesired consequences on a personal and professional level as the outcome.  Knowing this, why do people speak out when they see something needs amending? In 2014 I first proposed that micromanaging the weights and diets of birds in free flighted bird shows was unnecessary and compromised animal welfare.  Despite the initial unpleasant personal consequences endured, there has been excellent progress in the bird training community as a whole.  When offered the opportunity in which someone may listen to your words and you have information that has the potential to improve animal welfare on a global scale, one feels compelled to share that information. As the animal training industry continues to grow and evolve these types of circumstances will continue to arise. Information that at one time may have seemed appropriate may need further review. This presentation will explore how best to ensure animals are provided effective, efficient, and least restrictive behavior interventions in order to optimize animal welfare. It is time to raise some good trouble again and provide information for the animal training community to facilitate a better understanding of how behavior analytic principles create behavior change.

Thanks to John Lewis and JD Pinkus for inspiring the title.

Jim Mackie

Jim’s has worked at The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) for 21 years becoming the first Animal Training and Behaviour Officer in 2012. Jim has overseen a shift in animal management whereby positive, science-based, training techniques have largely replaced traditional methods such as restraint during medical and husbandry procedures. In 2015 ZSL was the recipient of a British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria (BIAZA) gold award for establishing a coherent, collection wide animal training programme for enhanced welfare.

Jim helped form the BIAZA Animal Behaviour and Training Working Group, which he chairs, is a Core - Member of the EAZA Training Group, and is an EAZA Academy instructor specialising in the use of trained behaviour to maximise welfare potential in Zoos and aquaria.

Jim regularly lectures, presents and provides workshops about Zoo animal behaviour both at home and abroad and when he’s not working he lives in Epping with wife Jacqueline, daughter Francesca and a very well trained cat called Smudge.                    

Training from A to Z - From arapaima to zebra, training is for everyone at the Zoo!

These days most good Zoos have training programmes, but not all species experience the benefits. Marine mammals, large carnivores and great apes have a long history of training for improved welfare in zoos, but the less traditional species such as nocturnal mammals, reptiles, fish and breeding programme birds often miss out.

This presentation demonstrates how promoting inclusivity in our animal training programmes can transform the way we care for all kinds of animals in Zoos and aquaria.

Using examples from across the taxonomic groups, we will explore the diverse ways in which Zoo animal caregivers are replacing traditional methods of husbandry and medical care, such as manual restraint, with a co-operative and progressive approach to animal care, and provide evidence into how this change is having a positive impact on Zoo animal welfare, whatever the animal.

Annette Pedersen

Annette Pedersen started working in Copenhagen Zoo in 1989 as a part of the Danish keepers’ education. After finishing her education in 1992, she was hired for the marine mammal section (harbor seals and California sea lions), which also housed other animals like penguins, Malayan tapirs, barbirusa, etc. Here she helped developing the marine mammal training program until 2008, where she moved to the elephant section working on transferring the elephants from free contact to protected contact (PC). Later that same year she was given the position as Animal Training Coordinator of Copenhagen Zoo. Since 2008 her job has been to develop/expand the training skills of the keepers at Copenhagen Zoo, as well as managing animal behavior and training within a variety of species and challenges. Since 2009 she has helped develop the Danish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (DAZA) animal training course, which is still held once a year in Denmark. She serves the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA) as Chair for the Animal Training Working Group and as member of the Animal Welfare Working group. She is also an instructor for the EAZA animal training courses under the EAZA Academy. 2014-2016 she served on the board of the Animal Behavior Management Alliance (ABMA.)

A Solid Foundation Rocks!

Are you a dedicated animal trainer, always looking for ways to improve your training? You are not alone. Many animal trainers get inspired seeing impressive animal training videos on social media that show amazing behaviors. They then seek out courses and webinars promoting “advanced” training concepts, and rush to use what they learn without questioning the validity of the premise. Foundation behaviors are often highly underestimated and much less attractive, but when lacking, also the reason why these so called “advanced” concepts often fail.

In this presentation, I will try to give some examples of how training foundation behaviors are sometimes quite advanced, and how using them to their full potential can promote much better care for your animals. I will also share my thoughts on ideas that have been considered advanced, and how some terms, like “Choice and Control” are used - but are they really understood?


Mastermind Session Invited Guests (In Addition to Presenters)

Dr Suzanne Hetts and Dr Dan Estep

Dr. Suzanne Hetts has worked with pet owners and pet professionals for over 25 years.  Suzanne has helped thousands of pet owners improve their pets’ behavior and relationships.  She is often called upon to consult with animal professionals, veterinarians, dog trainers, humane societies and personal injury attorneys to help them understand and work with animal issues.

Dr. Hetts and her husband, Dr. Dan Estep, are co-owners of Animal Behavior Associates, Inc., a behavior consulting firm in Littleton, Colorado. Their firm provides behavior education products and services to pet parents and pet professionals throughout North America and other countries through their websites www.BehaviorEducationNetwork.com , www.AnimalBehaviorAssociates.com and www.PetProWebinars.com.  Suzanne co-founded the pet loss education program at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at CSU (now part of the Argus Center) and created all the initial materials for the Behavior Help-Line at the Denver Dumb Friends League, as well as administered that program from 1991-1994.

Dr. Hetts is a popular, award winning international speaker and author of one of AAHA’s best selling titles Pet Behavior Protocols, and co-author of the award winning books Raising A Behaviorally Healthy Puppy and Help! I’m Barking and I Can’t Be Quiet.   Suzanne has lectured on 5 continents to both pet owners and pet professionals and also consults with major corporations in the pet industry.   Suzanne is a past columnist for Dog Watch and a contributor to Animal Wellness magazine and her articles have appeared in both popular dog magazines and professional journals.  Dr. Hetts’ publications and videos are used in nationwide training programs for animal caretakers and pet owners.

Dr. Hetts has a Ph.D. in zoology, with a specialization in animal behavior from Colorado State University.  Suzanne is an affiliate member of AVMA, CVMA and AVSAB.  She is certified by the Animal Behavior Society as an applied animal behaviorist and has served on many boards and committees for the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, The Delta Society and the Animal Behavior Society.  She and Dan share their lives with rescued elderly Dalmatian Ashley, and diva-dog Coral, a field-bred Irish setter.

Dr. Estep received his doctorate in Psychology with a specialization in animal behavior from the University of Florida.  He is certified by the Animal Behavior Society as an Applied Animal Behaviorist.

He is a member of several professional and scholarly organizations including the Animal Behavior Society, the International Society for Applied Ethology, The Delta Society, The Association of Pet Dog Trainers and the National Animal Control Association. He holds affiliate membership status in the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior and the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association.

He taught animal behavior classes to undergraduate, graduate, and veterinary students for 16 years at the University of Georgia.  He has written over 40 scientific publications dealing with animal behavior and has given numerous lectures to professional and lay organizations including the National Animal Control Association, The American Humane Association, The Humane Society of the United States and The American Animal Hospital Association.

Since 1993, Dr. Estep has taught animal behavior to animal control officers in NACA’s Training Academy and to veterinary technicians at The Bel-Rae Institute since 1997.  He is currently co-owner and Vice-President of Animal Behavior Associates, Inc., an animal behavior consulting firm in Littleton, Colorado.