So Much PETential
A few weeks ago, I was among the more than 500 dog trainers who convened on Dearborn, Michigan for three full days of non-stop learning about teaching animals in the most positive way. It was the Karen Pryor Academy ClickerExpo and it was phenomenal.
If you are unfamiliar, in its most simplified description, clicker training is a positive reinforcement based training strategy that involves ‘marking’ the very specific ‘wanted’ behavior with a click (or can be a word or other signal), that is immediately followed by a reinforcing consequence. Initially the animal learns to associate positive outcomes by associating treats, tug time, or whatever other behavior strengthener you use with the sound of the clicker (classical conditioning), and then the animal learns to intentionally repeat a behavior in order to get that positive outcome (operant conditioning). I have information on in So Much PETential blog on clicker training basics.
So, why am I writing about that here? Well, clicker training and operant teaching is not just about bringing out the best in our non-human companions. When thoughtfully used, it brings out the best in people too.
At the ClickerExpo, we were each given tickets and told to TAG someone when we saw them doing something good. When we TAGged someone, we entered his/her name and our own name in a bowl; and each day there were drawings for prizes. It was neat to see how that bowl filled during the weekend event. The more we practiced focusing on finding those reinforceable moments, the more of those moments we found.
Among the behaviors I was TAGged for were asking a woman if her dog would be okay with me walking past it (in the row of seats), helping a woman in a training exercise, and asking questions of one of the instructors.
I’ve got to say, each time that I was TAGged and each time I TAGged someone, it brought a smile to my face. Did TAGteaching make me learn more that weekend? Make me more open to meeting new people? Make everyone more positive with feedback and more welcoming as a whole?
Well, I can tell you that it was most definitely an environment where I strengthened my skills and added to my knowledge and I always knew I could walk into a room of people I did not know and feel welcome.
When it comes to animal training, I have written this reminder in my pet blog numerous times:
Remember, to teach in the most positive way, we need to empower our students
by allowing them to make their own choices – just making the choices we want them
to make the most valuable for them; we need to teach with clarity; we need to set
the learning environment up so that our student will be motivated to want to learn; and we need
to be willing to be patient, teaching those foundation skills and building difficulty only
as our student can continue to succeed.
But this does not just apply to training non-human animals. All of us perform better when we have clarity in purpose, are empowered and reinforced for good choices and good behavior.
My thought to leave you with is this: What are people around you doing that you would like to see more of? How will you let them know they did something great?
Being human, we all have strengths within ourselves. Those strengths are our greatest assets. Nurturing them has been proven to not only energize us to learn and reach for our goals, but also to lead us toward a happier, more satisfying life. However, we may not even be aware of what they are and even more likely we may not proactively engage ourselves in exercises to heighten those assets.
The VIA Institute on Character is a Cincinnati-based nonprofit organization with a global scope of empowering people through the advancement of the science and practice of character strengths. Their aim is to fill the world with virture.
One very important way they do this is by offering their VIA survey free of charge across the globe – and since VIA’s inception in 2001, more than 2 million people in 193 countries and 17 languages have taken it. (There is also a survey for youth.) Professionals can use the survey to learn more about their clients or employees.
I highly recommend setting aside 30 minutes to take the 240 question survey. You will be given a free personalized description of your 24 strengths in their order of importance to you, as well as some suggestions for flexing your strength muscles. For an additional $20, you can receive an indepth VIA Pathways Report that shares much greater information on exploring and using your strengths. There are additional resources on the VIA website. There are additional free and paid resources on the VIA website – and on the new VIA blog – to help you nurture your strengths. They offer courses too for individuals and professionals whose work is focused on bringing out the best in others.
According to the VIA survey results, I actually have 7 signature strengths (highest rated strengths) because I have numerous score ties. They include: Honesty, Kindness, Leadership, Perspective, Humor, Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, and Fairness.
I can see so many of my life choices wrapped up inside these seven virtues. Much of my career has been focused on communicating to inspire positive change in individuals, organizations, communities and even pets. Both my Good Things Going Around blog project and my So Much PETential pet training have to do with bringing out the best in others.
Ironically, just this past spring I spent a lot of time developing my personal, professional ‘brand’ (with great thanks to T.J. Budd and Tessa O’Neal from Centennial, Inc.). This is what I came up with:
I guide organizations to communicate their core mission and brand with integrity and resolve, telling their story strategically and compellingly. An out-of-the-box thinker, I thrive on developing creative tactical ideas for raising awareness, educating constituents, and building consensus around communication goals. When it comes to relationships, I enjoy being both a leader and a team player, supporting the strengths of others.
My pet training brand (which I am still tweaking) is:
I believe training is not just about modifying behaviors and teaching skills, it is also about enhancing quality of life for our pets. In my quest to have well mannered pets, I began studying the science of animal behavior and positive reinforcement strategies over 12 years ago; and I can’t stop learning. My behavior change strategies blend science with kindness, integrity, creativity and fun. Seeing how that approach has not only set myself and my pets up for success, but also strengthened our relationship, is the driving force behind my passion for educating and helping others achieve similar outcomes.
Wow, I can absolutely see how my VIA strengths are an integral role in all that I do. And by my focusing on them it has led me to make career choices that are very satisfying for me.
I’m excited to say that my latest career path – is working with VIA! As a contractor, I am part of the communication team with two very positive, motivating people – Kelly Aluise and Breta Cooper – and I am working on telling their story through social media. I’d love it if you’d follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, AND please stop by the all new VIA blog that I am managing.
This is absolutely the stuff I thrive on!
It is so easy for us in life to focus on our own and other’s shortcomings, and when times are difficult to lose sight of those virtues that give us the capacity for greatness. However, by shifting our focus instead toward those virtues of strength an amazing and beautiful transformation can happen. We grow and prosper in new, meaningful ways. Our life is so much more satisfying.
I am choosing to focus on nurturing my VIA strengths. How about you?
As you may have gathered if you know me or follow Good Things Going Around, I am all for positive energy. As an animal lover, pet owner, and long term student of behavior modification and pet training using positive reinforcement strategies and applied behavior analysis, I have been sharing information on pet behavior through my Hyde Park Living columns for many years.
Now I have taken the leap. In addition to my public relations work and Good Things Going Around, I am doing Cincinnati dog training (and parrot training) using positive reinforcement strategies. My new pet training business is called So Much PETential! Please learn more about my work at my new website, and check back often for pet blog and dog training updates.
Hi -Thank you so much for visiting.
I am so excited to share news that I have been working on for several months…but that I’ve been leading up to for a very long time. I’ve been studying behavior & training with positive reinforcement for many years, and am passionate about educating others so that they too can see the kind of success I have had with my pets.
My column in Hyde Park Living is exclusively about pet behavior. Now I am taking my passion to another level. In addition to my public relations work, I have just started a dog and bird training business. Next year I will be doing some educational programs for kids.
Please join my Facebook community here – www.Facebook.com/SoMuchPETential