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Reaching the Animal Mind: Clicker Training and What It Teaches Us About All Animals
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Reaching the Animal Mind: Clicker Training and What It Teaches Us About All Animals

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  1,169 ratings  ·  88 reviews
From the founder of clicker training, the widely praised humane approach to shaping animal behavior, comes a fascinating bookpart memoir, part insight into how animals and people think and behave.

A celebrated pioneer in the field of no-punishment animal training, Karen Pryor is responsible for developing clicker trainingan all-positive, safe, effective way to modify and
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published June 16th 2009 by Scribner (first published April 21st 2008)
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Primrosebarks Yes yes yes! This book is a retrospective of this ethologist/behaviorist's career. The last third of the book is about research on how clicker…moreYes yes yes! This book is a retrospective of this ethologist/behaviorist's career. The last third of the book is about research on how clicker training travels different pathways through the brain from traditional training techniques. Specifically, the sound of the click activates the amygdala, which releases a spurt of dopamine, a pleasure-enhancer, while regular training (explanations and criticisms) simply go through the frontal cortex without that sensational hit of pleasure. It is a transpecies event. Weird, huh?

Karen Pryor set up a website to enhance your understanding of many of her stories in this book. The last section of the book is about scientific studies on clicker training and on using the clicker for human subjects. TAGteaching---an outgrowth of clicker training---has evolved into a sophisticated marker system that is being used in ballet schools and gymnastic training as well as working with nonverbal autistic children.

Pryor just gets better and better at clarifying her work with her stories, and the book offers and accompanying website where you can watch videos of the events she describes in order to give a greater understanding of the important information she is trying to convey. I found the videos of young girls learning to do handstands, and excelling at the Fosbury Flop over only two training sessions truly amazing.

I am averse to accumulating more books, but this one is a gem. Get it. Read it. Watch the videos. It has been a huge awakening for me, as a teacher of small children and as a volunteer at my local animal shelter.(less)

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Mar 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
The more books by Karen Pryor I read, the more I want to read books by Karen Pryor.

The cover of this book was a bit misleading. My copy, at least, has a picture of a happy dog on it. That and the words "clicker training" in the title led me to believe it was mainly about clicker training in dogs. This couldn't be more incorrect. There are dogs in here of course; but they keep company with plenty of cats, ferrets, dolphins, whales, miniature horses, gymnasts, autistic children, and golfers.

Jun 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, zoo, animals
This is essentially the book that most people expect when they pick up "Don't Shoot the Dog!". Pryor gets away from trying to apply clicker training to all aspects of life and focuses on anecdotes of using clicker training for a wide range of animal species. I really enjoyed this as a light read (and oh man, did it make me miss my zoo critters) and it's a lot of fun (I particularly liked the stories about training fish and hermit crabs), but there's not as much new insight as I had hoped for. ...more
Jan 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Wow!! Very interesting!!! This chick trained a friggin' FISH to do tricks. Surely I will be able to teach my dog some good manners?!?!? Very intriguing stuff to me!
Nov 16, 2019 rated it liked it
I was hoping that there would be more information about clicker training for cats, but this book focused on how this training has benefited many different kinds of animals in the world. While it was interesting, I was itching to learn more about how to get two cats to get along with each other via clicker training. Unfortunately, I am still on the lookout for a book of this type.

I just did some research and the author does have a book for cats! Yay! So happy to hear this. Trying to locate a
Sassafras Lowrey
Jan 26, 2019 rated it liked it
i've been meaning to read this book for years - it was fine but not worth the hype. i enjoy clicker training it's a modality i use when training my dogs but i don't really have much patience for the cult-like aspects the subtle way that other positive trainers get talked down to. some of the real-world application stories from different species were interesting to me but it started to feel like an infomercial for the training institute/clicker expo/etc.
K.J. Dell'Antonia
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: barn-shelf
Oh, man, I loved this so much. And I'm clicker training my dogs to stop barking and my cat to high five me. My only problem is that whenever any of them hear the clicker, they all appear...
Stellar, quick tactical book on dog training, amazing results + applicable to all animals (and people)
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Every once in a while I read a book that changes my thinking forever. This is just such a book. Reaching the Animal Mind is only partly about clicker training. It's more about the amazing ability of animals to think, communicate, interact, and learn from us joyfully when we meet them in a non-threatening way. It's full of poignant and powerful stories of animal-human encounters.

It also helped me understand for the first time the scientific basis for clicker-training and how the brain works
Emilee Hone (Emilee Reads)

Reaching the Animal Mind assumes you already understand the basics of clicker training or positive reinforcement training. It was less of a training book and had more stories from Pryor's work training various animals, such as horses, many dogs, feisty dolphins, and cats. She even worked with autistic children on occasion. I loved her observation on the mutually beneficial relationship between the fishermen and dolphins in Brazil. The anecdote about guide dog schools converting to clicker
Aug 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
About a week ago I read Reaching the Animal Mind by Karen Pryor.
I'd definitely recommend it to pretty much anyone who likes animals. Even pet owners who aren't ensconced in clicker training can find it enjoyable. It's fun and easy to read.

Some of the stories in the beginning are the same ones that are in Lads Before the Wind, and I might have skipped that section if I'd known.

There's a really good chapter on TAGteaching. And now I finally understand it! The basic idea is that in sports
Aug 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to read Karen Pryor's book on clicker training with cats. Unfortunately, this was the only Karen Pryor title my local library had in stock. It wasn't really my cup of tea. The first part of the book is Pryor telling stories about using clicker training with various animals, mostly dolphins. She goes a little into the behaviorism mechanics behind it (e.g., chaining, shaping), but that's about it. This isn't really a 'guide' to help you clicker train an animal.
Jun 03, 2015 rated it liked it
This book is more about reaching Karen Pryor's ego, than any animals mind. I love Karen Pryor but not this book.
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, dogs
The best book on dog/animal training I've ever read and I want everyone who owns a dog to read this
This is a wonderful book that explains with stories---lots of stories, comprising the author's exceptional training experiences with wolves, dolphins, a fish, a crab, ponies and children, dogs, cats, gorillas, elephants, horses---how and why positive reinforcement training is so powerful and effective. The author is generous in sharing not only her experiences, but the accomplishments of other coaches, behaviorists, and trainers using clicker training and TAGteaching (an outgrowth of clicker ...more
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book, which seemed to me equal parts memoir, history, and how-to. In recounting her life as an animal trainer and founder of clicker-training, Pryor also tells the story of how clicker training came to be a thing, and the book is a useful reminder of the science and research that have been part of clicker-training history. The book is full of wonderful anecdotes, but also some disturbing stories. I had a hard time reading the chapter about the tuna fishing boat, mainly ...more
H.R. Hutzel
Aug 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is so insightful, and it makes so much sense. I have two goldens, one is seven and the other is four. They are both so well behaved, but there are a couple of lingering behavioral issues I've been trying to correct for years. This book is a breath of fresh air compared to traditional training techniques. Both of my dogs have responded incredibly well to the positive reinforcement approach, and I'm already seeing a shift in their behavior. Aside from helping me shape my dogs' behaviors, ...more
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I couldnt wait to read this book after reading Dont Shoot the Dog. Karen offers more information on a positive way to communicate what behaviors you want from org animals and people. She provides great examples from many different species from fish all the way to elephants, marine mammals, and people. If training does not appeal to you but animals do, this book will still interest you with the many fun and sometimes comical stories. The only thing I wish she spent more time discussing is ...more
Sea Reads
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Karen Pryor is an icon. This book is not precisely an instruction manual for people interested in learning to clicker train other animals. It does provide lots of guidance on the technique, as well as step-by-step shaping instructions at the end, but it shines as an invitation to readers to explore a new and wholly different way of understanding and interacting with individuals of both our species and others. Pryor will absolutely charm you with anecdotes about her experiences working together ...more
Lauren Timson
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of my absolute favourite books - being an animal keeper myself who is fascinated by animal behaviour this is a must read. A real insight into how animals think and how they process their emotions with Karen's excellent way of writing. I love the fact that I learn information which I can use to increase my own knowledge but I feel like I am reading a story! Best way to learn I feel. Karen is a genius and has lead with the way for animal training and behaviour.
Kathy (McDowell) Miller
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I like everything that Karen Pryor has done for clicker training. I could really use her help in person. I would probably be one of those people she's not particularly fond of who say, "Yeah but...". I'm trying to stop my dog from doing something bad (biting her owners) and I'm finding it very difficult to change bad behavior though positive clicker reinforcement. I'm going to read Click to Calm by Emma Parsons. Maybe she can help me.
Massanutten Regional Library
Deva, North River patron, June 2018, 5 stars:

Everyone should read this book. I was so excited after reading this book that I used clicker training to train my cat to jump over a bar. I'm now trying to train him not to bite my calf as I'm walking. The techniques described in this book work on humans too.
May 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Lots of interesting animal stories from someone with exceptional experience, and passing along lots of clicker training and TAG training (for humans, mostly in sports and other teaching ) knowledge along the way, from the person who developed it. Her book Don't Shoot the Dog, first published in the 1980's, remains the place to start learning either.
Sarah ♥ dog crazy ♥
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book every pet owner should read. Clicker training is such a wonderful, fun tool to train your animal.

The only thing I didn't like was that many of the animals mentioned are wild animals in captivity. I'm not a fan of Sea World parks, zoos etc.
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a must-read for all animal lovers, especially trainers. It is full of great stories and wonderful insights.
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. Karen Pryor is fascinating and inspirational.
Fred Herlihy
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wasn't as informative/teaching as I expected but still made me tear up over and over again. A series of powerful anecdotes on clicker training and a fascinating look into KP's incredible life.
Matthias Masch
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good book, but a bit too much publicity for my taste. Where are the open questions? What are the pain points of clicker training?
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
A lot of interesting anecdotes, but not really a "how to" guide for training animals. I was also frustrated by how her stories all involved three clicks to a perfectly behaving pet from a formerly murderous beast (with ease!) while I am unable to replicate similar seemingly simple behaviors with my own dog. For example, training a dog not to bark was four clicks and a quarter of a hot dog in the book, and didn't seem to require any particularly strong set of training skills (e.g. timing ...more
Doreen L.
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An excellent and detailed explanation of operant conditioning. Great examples of animals learning through positive reinforcement. Lots of fun examples.
Hadassah Holl
Mar 04, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a good introductory book for understanding clicker training. I enjoyed learned about all the different ways clicker training can be used. For me since I have already been through a clicker training class, I don't think I got as much out of the book. All in all a worth while read.
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animal behavior 2 6 Aug 16, 2013 12:36PM  

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Karen Pryor is the CEO of Karen Pryor Clicker Training and Karen Pryor Academy.

Karen is an active, leading spokesperson and teacher for effective force-free training across the globe. Her work with dolphins in the 1960s revolutionized animal training by pioneering and popularizing force-free training methods based on operant conditioning and the conditioned reinforcer.

Karens 40-year career working

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“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” That’s Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani human rights...
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“When you stop relying on aversive controls such as threats, intimidation, and punishment, and when you know how to use reinforcement to get not just the same but better results, your perception of the world undergoes a shift. You don’t have to become a wimp. You don’t have to give up being in charge. You lose nothing of yourself. You just see things you didn’t see before.” 4 likes
“...that aversives stop behavior, they don’t start it; and that fear and pain produce completely unpredictable and usually highly undesirable side effects, including being both exciting and reinforcing to the punisher. (p.15)” 2 likes
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