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The Layer Cake Approach: What are Complex Behaviors Made Of?

May 8

7:00 am PT

This talk is eligible for CEUs from: IAABC, KPA


Imagine teaching a cat to play cards. Or teaching a dog to show you what’s alike and what’s different on exactly the same set of objects in the same session on two different verbal cues. How often have we all watched an incredible training video and wondered how on earth that trainer managed to teach something that amazing?

Those cool discrimination games we’ve seen are a clever assembly of cues, reinforcement history, and stimulus control. In this talk, we are going to focus in on the trainer end of concept training. We will take some end-goal examples demonstrating advanced discrimination games and concepts being applied, and piece them apart into the smaller component behaviors that were layered on top of each other to reach the goal as errorlessly as possible. We will discuss cue hierarchies and how to use reinforcement history to our advantage. Above all, we will emphasize how small-picture thinking, rather than big-picture thinking, is the best roadmap to complexity. Advanced training is simple stuff, done well!

Presented By:

Vidhyalakshmi Karthikeyan, PhD, KPA CTP

Vidhya (she/her) is the human behind the Facebook page, “The Unlikely Tricksters,” a place to showcase the spectrum of what is possible with our animals to inspire others to adopt ethical training methods and build respect for the animals with whom we share our lives. Her experience lies in working with dogs and cats we often call fearful or shy, starting with her own rescued trio at home and also with dogs at her local shelter.

With a background in artificial intelligence and large-scale consumer behavior, she is currently the head of the data and insights team at a media software company. By way of building a bridge between her professional and personal interests, Vidhya’s animal training passions lie in exploring the cognitive abilities of our companion animals and finding ways to turn complex existing studies on the subject into fun and accessible games that owners can teach their own animals in their living rooms. Choice and empowerment are at the heart of her training philosophy and she also specializes in cooperative care training, both at home and at the veterinary clinic, enabling owners to give their animals due care to meet their welfare needs.

Vidhya is an instructor on Tromplo, an online learning platform that brings together an international community of positive reinforcement trainers, where she currently teaches concept training. She lives in the United Kingdom with her sighthound, Beanie, and two cats, Moo and Oonsipie.