Additional Courses


This is an episode you will want to bookmark, reference and listen to several times over. Dr Joe Layng gives insights that might surprise you into how behavior analytic principles influence behavior. Learn how degrees of freedom and critical consequences can cause positive reinforcement to be coercive. Explore the super fascinating non-linear approach to better understand behavior processes. Also discover what is really happening when we use systematic desensitization and counter conditioning in comparison to the more empowering constructional approach.  Dr Layng shares how behaviors often described as “innate” were learned and can be influenced.  And you will learn why phrases like “least intrusive, most positive” and “hierarchies of behavior change procedures” don’t really apply to the science. This is a fantastic episode for those looking for a deeper dive into the science behind the practical application.


 You may be wondering what the heck inspired this project? It’s a pretty cool story! And one that I have a feeling is quite relatable for many animal trainers. I recently shared the details with Sean Will and Maasa Nishimuta on the Constructional Approach to Animal Welfare Training Podcast. Listen here and on all your favorite podcast outlets.


We primarily evaluate risks and benefits so that we do no harm and maximize benefits for our learner. However, risk/benefit analysis also gives us a way to quantity our decision-making process not only for ourselves but for stakeholders. The course includes a ready make questionnaire for stakeholders to complete and a worksheet to tabulate the results. Members click the button to take this course.


In zoological settings we are training everything from snarling big cats to flighty herds of antelopes. Traditionally our first step has involved delivering preferred food items. But some animals present such extreme fear responses or aggressive behavior in the presence of humans, that food holds little value. Trying to use systematic desensitization and keeping animals below threshold can be challenging to apply due to enclosure design. And results are often slowly realized in these cases, if at all. The constructional approach empowers animals to replace fear or aggressive behavior with desired responses. Usually within one or two sessions, the animal is approaching to accept desired items or experiences. When applying the constructional approach in zoos, we have a number of different challenges to address such as enclosure design, limited visibility, needing to know the natural history of the species, and how to apply the protocol to a group of animals. This presentation will show video examples of how the constructional approach is helping a variety of species of animals commonly cared for in zoos.


Why and how learning occurs is often overly simplified by the good intentions of experts and layman alike (see "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.


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?

Time out from positive reinforcement is often very misunderstood in the animal training community. There are several tactics that look very different. Some of which can be useful in animal training and optimal when appropriate. Others can be problematic. Watch this episode of YOU be the Behavior Consultant to learn the differences and see some great video examples. This is an episode you don't want to miss!

This episode takes an honest look at punishment so that trainers can have an awareness of this contingency and how it is influencing behavior. It is a sensitive topic but an important one. As leaders in the field of behavior we want professionals to be able to recognize this learning process and discuss it properly. Lots of real life examples included in this episode.

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