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Benefits of Positive Dog Training and How to Clicker Train.
With Guest: Laura Monaco Torelli, Certified Clicker Trainer and Founder of Animal Behavior Training Concepts.

Original Air Date: 07-02-2010

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Clicker training is an animal training method that relies on marking desirable behavior and then rewarding it. Through the use of a simple, inexpensive, plastic tool, the clicker, your pet is told exactly which behavior earned it a reward and this makes this type of positive reinforcement training highly effective and consistent. In today's episode, we'll talk to a Certified Clicker Trainer, Laura Monaco Torelli who I had the great pleasure of meeting and seeing in operation as she worked with one of her clients, the cockapoo, Max. (See the video I made with Laura and Max for the Oprah Winfrey Contest I entered to win my OWN show.This is a photo of Laura Monaco Torelli and the dog Max Guida when they earned their Delta Society Pet Partner Therapy Dog registration.

This is an official Karen Pryor (the founder of clicker training) I-clicker with a handy elastic cord to keep it around your wrist. See her website, www.clickertraining.com to order one. Other types of clickers can be found at pet supply stores.

Laura Monaco Torelli training at a park with Bludger.

Dash, the Yorkie, learns basic good manners. Here Dash is touching a target.

Winston Bear, the Mini-Golden Doodle companion of the musically gifted Bear family. Laura trains the whole family to clicker train Winston.

Winston sits and listens while Emily Bear plays piano. Emily Bear, currently eight years old is well known for her outstanding composing and piano playing abilities. She performs worldwide. See this most interesting article about Laura Torelli and working with the Bear Family. See the additional resources section below for more information about Emily Bear.

Laura Torelli with all the Bear children. The whole family practices training Winston.

A group session. Looks like fun! In 2005, Laura created a partnership with Chicago Animal Care and Control, offering free training for dogs and new family members who have adopted them from CACC.

It is important that all members of a family including the children learn how to train the family dog, in the same manner. This is the dog Callie and her human companions who work together as a team.

Laura is not simply playing in a wagon. She is doing distraction training with this dog, Allie.

Laura Monaco Torelli's company, Animal Behavior Training Concepts, collaborates with clients and animal health professionals to provide high-quality care for the animals in their lives. Here Bludger is getting an ear exam.

Through training we can help our pets accept some of the procedures we do as part of caring for them. Here, Pumpkin plays the nail trim game.

Luca, one of Laura's dogs demonstrating a play bow on cue.

Clicker training works with many other types of animals besides dogs and cats. Here Laura is working with a Pacific White-Sided Dolphin at the Shedd Aquarium. She started her career working at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, IL
(photo courtesy of John G. Shedd Aquarium)

Laura with a Beluga Whale.
(photo courtesy of John G. Shedd Aquarium)

Laura and a Blue and Gold Macaw at the San Diego Zoo.

A Sea Otter. Laura helped rehabilitate sea otters affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Here Laura is training a Bobcat at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, to accept voluntary weights.

Laura Monaco Torelli has worked with many different animals from this Turkey Vulture to this Fjord Horse. If animals such as these can be clicker trained, then you can take heart that your dog can learn too!

At the Niabi Zoo in Illinois, Laura is their Animal Training and Behavior Consultant applying positive reinforcement training with exotic species, such as these reticulated giraffes.

At the Niabi Zoo, a Cotton-top Tamarin is targeting in order for Keepers to perform an exam on the little animal.

Laura holding a Black Bear cub at the Niabi Zoo.

One of the zoo staff practicing with a Lion after being trained in positive reinforcement techniques by Laura. Here the lion offers an open mouth behavior after a hand cue so that it can have an oral exam.

A baby Monkey explores a target with its Mom training behind.


Laura began her professional animal training career in 1991 with the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. As a Senior Lead Trainer, she trained beluga whales, dolphins, sea otters, seals, river otters, and penguins. In 2000, Laura moved from marine to terrestrial animals, working for the San Diego Zoo and Brookfield Zoo as a Supervisory Keeper. She has trained a wide variety of species, including primates, large cats, birds of prey, horses, parrots, macaws, tree kangaroos, red pandas, and dogs while in the zoological community. Laura's experience with horses has provided numerous opportunities to teach them to cooperate in their daily care.

Laura's belief is that training should be fun, exciting, and educational for both people and their animal companions. Her unique professional background, which encompasses animal training, public and outreach programs, and educational seminars, allows her to create a dynamic and engaging environment for each client class. Laura's personal philosophy and unique skills keep her clients coming back for more training.

In 2005, Laura created a partnership with Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC), offering free training and management advice seminars for dogs and the new family members who have adopted them from CACC. Her determination to build a positive educational forum for rescue dogs and caregivers was driven by the desire to decrease the number of dogs returned to shelters.

In August of 2008, Niabi Zoo (Niabi Zoological Society) invited Laura to be their Animal Training and Behavior Consultant, bringing her career full-circle and back to applying positive reinforcement training with exotic species. She is collaborating with Niabi Zoo staff, focusing on training programs with the primates, large cats, Arctic foxes, and reticulated giraffes.

The APVMA (American Pre-Veterinary Medical Association) invited Laura to speak at the 2009 Symposium hosted by the University of Illinois College Of Veterinary Medicine in Champaign-Urbana, and the 2010 Symposium hosted by Purdue University. She presented papers and provided interactive hands-on Labs for students to learn about positive reinforcement, marker-based training.

She currently serves as the Student Application Coordinator for Karen Pryor Academy.

Laura continues as a volunteer for the Shedd Aquarium as a SCUBA diver for the Wild Reef exhibit. She holds a TAGteach Level 1 Certification, and is studying toward earning her Graduate Degree in Biology. Laura also volunteers as a Delta Society Pet Partner, and a Doggone Safe "Be A Tree" Presenter.

Laura and her husband share their lives with spirited, energetic, and entertaining Rhodesian ridgebacks and lively cats.

Animal Behavior Training Concepts (Laura's) Website

Laura's Page on Karen Pryor Academy Website.

Karen Pryor's Clicker Training Website

Karen Pryor Academy Website.

Additional Resources

Here again, is the article about Laura and Emily Bear. Within the article there are links to Emily Bear's website and video's of her performances.

See the WGN video about Emily Bear, "The Next Mozart? 6 Year Old Piano Prodigy Wows All.

An article by Laura about the Training Program at Niabi Zoo. featured in Quad-Cities Newspaper.

See the Video with Laura talking about clicker training exotic animals.

Clicker Training at the Niabi Zoo: Part One

Clicker Training at the Niabi Zoo: Part Two

For anyone who wants to learn clicker training there is an excellent workshop called Clicker Expo that is offered to the public each year. The next one is January 21-23, 2011 in Newport Beach CA.

Hear my interview with Karen Pryor, founder of clicker training, and see the accompanying photos.

Here are the additional resources mentioned by Laura during the interview.

1. American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior - Position statements addressing the use of Dominance and Punishment in dog training.

2. Association for Pet Dog Trainers - More position statements about how different types of training affects human dog bond.

3. To learn how to play the training game at home, see Karen Pryor's books, "Don't Shoot the Dog" and "Reaching the Animal Mind."

4. Dogwise.com - a good source for books about dogs.

5. Doggonesafe.com - Dog bite prevention and safety.

6. Dogs&storks.com - Helping your dogs accept the new baby.

7. For help with serious pet behavior problems, here is how to find an animal behaviorist:

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists

International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants

8. Free Dog Training Classes. If you adopt a dog from Chicago Animal Care and Control, free dog training seminars are available to you on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month from 10:00 - 11:00 a.m. Reservations are required by writing laura@abtconcepts.com. Please bring proof of adoption papers from CACC and please leave your dog at home.

9. Association of Zoos and Aquariums - Read about the Species Survival Plans.

10. The Whole Dog Journal - A good publication devoted to the whole dog.

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