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The Principles & Practices of Operant Conditioning, or Animal Training

May 24

12:00 pm PT


Skinner considered operant conditioning a science-based technology in the 1930s and 40s. In the 1940s and 50s, when Keller and Marian Breland brought Skinner’s technology out of the laboratory and applied it commercially, they described what they did as well thought-out principles, practices, and procedures, and based on data gathered while training thousands of animals of many species. Bob and Marian Bailey continued this work in the 1960s into the 1990s, and Bob alone to this day. In this one hour I will attempt to present the principles, practices, and procedures the Breland/Baileys learned from others and discovered themselves over more than seventy years and taught their trainers (Animal Behavior Enterprises), and others. These principles are at the core of my perhaps well known “Chicken Workshops.” I believe that applying basic principles to animal training can make training faster, more precise, and easier on both the animal and the trainer.

Presented By:

Bob Bailey, Sc.D.

Dr. Bob Bailey is a biologist, chemist (UCLA), animal trainer, and a “biological-systems engineer-analyst.” In 1962 Bob became the Director of Training for the US Navy Marine Mammal Program and was a pioneer in at-sea applications of marine mammals.

Bob’ training career began with the “behavior modification” of wild coyotes and kangaroo rats in the Mojave Desert in the 1950s. He then began training cephalopods, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, rats, and some birds. His training methodology was based on the writings of B. F. Skinner and Keller and Marian Breland.

Bob joined the Brelands’ company, Animal Behavior Enterprises (ABE) in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1965, the same year Keller Breland died. Bob became ABE’s operational head in 1969. ABE produced stage productions for many tourist attractions in the USA and abroad and conducted government sponsored free environment programs with dolphins, dogs, cats, ravens, gulls, vultures, pigeons, and many other birds and mammals. Bob and Marian married in 1976. They trained, or directed the training, of more than 140 different species, totaling well over 15,000 animals. Bob and Marian closed ABE’s doors in 1990. They continued to consult on selected projects. Marian died in 2001. Bob continues consulting and teaching worldwide.

Some of the story of the Brelands and the Baileys and ABE is chronicled in a video called Patient Like the Chipmunks. A five-hour video of one of Bob’s two-day lectures, “The Fundamentals of Animal Training,” was released in 2006.