2020: Learning Kept Me Going

Wow! What a year. Yes, there have been unprecedented challenges. It is especially difficult when changes are unpredictable and basic needs are not met. As I reflect on 2020 I rode the roller coaster with everyone too. Priorities changed month to month depending on what was happening globally, nationally, to our animal community, my local community, and my home.  Overall, while I am missing many of my favorite reinforcers, I found new opportunities that previously were difficult to make happen with a demanding travel schedule. I recently watched a TED talk that discussed how it is moments like these in which we often grow the most. If I were to describe 2020 in one word, it would be “learn.” Learning has been my dopamine hit for the year and I hope I have been able to provide outlets and opportunities so that it also can be yours.  I look forward to continuing to learn and grow with you in 2021.

Here are some learning highlights from 2020

Behavioral Procedures are Non-Linear: A huge epiphany for me was understanding that the learning processes are occurring concurrently. And that we are moving between them quickly. And also that we choose the appropriate procedure based on what the animal is presenting at any given moment. This was something that I had been thinking about for quite a while based on having such great success using the constructional approach to address fear responses and aggressive behavior. This is a deep topic! Too much to discuss in a paragraph. Learn more from our Global Online Animal Training Summit lectures and also this awesome podcast with Dr Joe Layng.

The Global Online Animal Training Summit! This event was so inspiring! I had no idea until after it was over how much it would mean to me and the people who participated (both presenters and delegates) This was probably the highlight of the year. Everyone put so much work into creating outstanding presentations that were deep dives into their topics. We covered behavior science, practical application, controversial topics, training demos, mastermind sessions. You can still watch everything On-Demand and benefit from this highlight.

Facebook Live-streams: Not long after lock-down I started doing live-streams on Facebook called YOU be the Behavior Consultant. These super interactive live-streams are now a weekly thing. They occur every Monday at 11:00 AM Central. They are blast! So far we done 42 of them! They are super positive and conversational. We really challenge each other to think deep about topics and there are always lots of video clips of exotic and domestic animal training to inspire discussion. Anyone with an interest in training can join. The replay is available on FB and in www.AnimalTrainingFundamentals.com

Verifiable Digital Badges: One of my first big projects in 2020 for www.AnimalTrainingFundamentals.com was to make the Badging Program. It took a lot of work, but it is a super cool feature that allows members to show/verify they have completed courses. And they can share it on their resumes, with supervisors, on performance evaluations, etc. I have issued 100’s of badges since the program started this summer.  Here is what a verifiable badge looks like.

New Courses: Besides eight great courses from GOATS, there were also courses on Training Mammals with Social Distancing, Training Non-Human Primates to Improve Welfare, How to Write a Shaping Plan, and several courses on the Constructional Approach for Addressing Fear Responses and Aggressive Behavior added to www.AnimalTrainingFundamentals.com  Putting together a course is a time- consuming process as quality is important. It is very reinforcing to me to see that collectively members have taken almost 1300 courses.

Road Maps: Creating resources that make the member experience user friendly and fun has definitely been reinforcing for me. I have to admit I do enjoy technology that involves creativity. And I like seeing the results. Road maps help guide our members through our Track Badges. These are bundles of course work focused on specific areas of interest such as Zoo Professional, Veterinary Professional, Behavior Manager, Avian Specialist, etc. They are a significant achievement. I just recently finished these and am looking forward to hearing how members like this feature.

Quizzes: More tech fun for me was adding quizzes to all the courses. The quizzes help members zone in on the important material and make it fun to engage and learn. Both the road maps and the quizzes took some time to implement. However when I step back and look at the results, it does make me happy. Here is an example of one of the quizzes. Fun, right?

Parrot All Access Membership: If you tried the quiz, you may have noticed it was a parrot focused example. I produced a number of products for those with an interest in companion parrots over the years. I found a way to bundle them so that someone who wants access to all of this material in a digital format for one price can finally have it. Once again, the joys of technology! Check out the parrot membership.

Behavior of Birds of Prey in Managed Care: Here is one I have not yet announced. I was very honored to be asked to work on a chapter for a veterinary textbook by Dr Mike Jones. The book is technically set to be released January 2021. However we finished our work in 2020. We worked hard on this chapter!

Fear Free Veterinary Course Avian: Sticking with the birds, after two solid years of work our course was finally released in 2020! This super comprehensive resource was authored by Dr Alicia McLaughlin, Dr Anneliese Strunk, Pamela Clark and your truly. This course is designed for and can be taken by anyone (not just veterinary professionals) who wants to learn more about how to reduce or eliminate distress when medical care is required. You can learn more about the course here.

Podcasts, Webinars & Appearances: I did have a few in person and virtual appearances in 2020. Of course there is the Animal Training Fundamentals Podcast with Barbara Heidenreich. I had some great fun doing virtual seminars for colleagues in Mexico and also at the Seattle Parrot Expo. I was also happy to be able to appear in person pre-pandemic at Texas A & M University, The Art and Science of Animal Training Conference, Memphis Zoo, Oregon Zoo and Frank Buck Zoo.

There you go! Instead of planes, trains and automobiles, learning kept me going this year. How about you?

~ Barbara Heidenreich