DiscoverAnimal Behavior Conversations: The Podcast of The ABMA
Animal Behavior Conversations: The Podcast of The ABMA

Animal Behavior Conversations: The Podcast of The ABMA

Author: Animal Behavior Conversations: The Podcast of The ABMA

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The Animal Behavior Management Alliance (ABMA) strives to spread knowledge throughout the animal care field to help enhance animal care through operant conditioning. Each episode we will discuss a topic in the world of animal training and break down the science of behavior change. To achieve this, the podcast’s host, Shane Gorbett, will interview fellow trainers and experts from across the world to discuss all things training, behavior, enrichment, welfare, and much more! This podcast will be a great resource for all trainers. Let's talk some training!
30 Episodes
As this is the 30th episode of the podcast we have assembled a panel of guests to answer some of the questions that our listeners have submitted concerning the previous 29 episodes. Tricia Dees, Sarah Dugger, and Justin Garner all join the podcast again to answer and discuss a wide range of questions including: differences between classical and operant conditioning, variable schedules, reinforcement placement, negative reinforcement, and the start of building relationships with an animal. This podcast recording was 3 hours long, so this panel will be back again next episode to finish answering questions. In addition, we ran out of time for a "Training Tale" from the guests so host, Shane, shares a "Training Tale" in honor of the life of Bodega the sea lion that involves a forklift malfunction. For questions or suggestions about the podcast email Let's talk some training! 6:30 Introduction to Tricia Dees, Sarah Dugger, & Justin Garner  11:05 Can you explain the difference between operant and classical conditioning?  18:05 If you have an animal that is afraid to approach you for reinforcement, how could you use operant conditioning to help the animal be more comfortable approaching you and to make training sessions reinforcing rather than potentially aversive? 29:25 Does Negative Reinforcement have to include removing something that is aversive to the animal?  36:10 If we are bridging every behavior, how can we really be using variable reinforcement, even if we are only following up with reinforcement variably? 44:35 What would constitute something as being a baiting strategy vs reinforcement placement?  56:30 “Training Tales”
This episode kicks off a brand new, reoccurring series on the podcast called "The Behaviors of..." which will dive into the human side of the animal care field. Starting this series off is Dave O'Connell and Kyle Alexander, Bearizona, discussing the behaviors of a unified, supportive team. Dave and Kyle talk about what team behaviors have helped to create a healthy, positive work culture at Bearizona and the importance of focusing not just on the animals, but also the people. Dave and Kyle also discuss the benefits of celebrating everyone's uniqueness, changing a culture from competitive to collaborative, creating a "circle of reinforcement" in a team, and building up trust accounts amongst coworkers and leadership. Stay tuned in for Kyle's "Training Tale" about a jaguar and, in the spirit of the episode, he also talks about some the awesome training of others at Bearizona. For questions or suggestions about the podcast email and to reach Dave contact and to reach Kyle contact  Let's talk some training! 4:50 Intro to Dave O’Connell and Kyle Alexander  7:20 Behaviors of a Unified, Supportive Team  10:30 Celebrating everyone’s uniqueness  14:30 How to ask if you can try something new 16:50 Creating a culture of healthy accountability  22:25 Cultivating a “circle of reinforcement” where everyone gives credit and celebrates their coworkers successes   25:55 Changing the culture from competitive to collaborative  32:35 We are here for the animals and for the people  36:05 Information about Behavior Month 2023 39:40 Building up trust accounts with coworkers and leadership 48:35 Everyone on a team can be a leader   1:02:50 “Training Tale”
This episode Becky Wolf, San Diego Zoo, discusses criteria as it pertains to defining behaviors while training. Becky gives examples and a breakdown of the four aspects of a behavior that can be reinforced: topography, duration, frequency, and intensity. The episode ends with a discussion on why it is so important to both the animals, the individual trainer, and a team that a behavior has clear, defined criteria. Stay tuned in for a special treat as Becky shares three "Training Tales" including a unique ostrich recall, a jumping lion, and a cheetah that made special connections with guests. For questions or suggestions about the podcast email and to reach Becky contact  Let's talk some training! 3:25: Intro to Becky Wolf  6:00 Definition of Criteria  6:30 Example of a behavior’s criteria in practice  8:45 Topography  12:30 Duration 16:00 Frequency  17:25 Intensity  18:45 Can a behavior’s criteria have multiple aspects?  20:20 Can a behavior have a lower and upper range of criteria?  22:20 Latency  24:55 When a behavior’s criteria isn’t met  29:00 Why is it important to the animal that we have clear, defined criteria?  31:00 Why is it important to a trainer/team that we have clear, defined criteria? 35:05 “Training Tales”
This episode Grace Sullivan, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo , discusses another one of the most fundamental yet powerful training tools: Targets. There are so many applications for target training and Grace breaks down some of the practical applications of targets and how this "simple" behavior can enhance dialogue and give animals' control in their management. This episode is full of tons of practical examples to help get started with target training and then transition that behavior to more complex ones. Stay tuned in for Grace's "Training Tale" about a collaborative win that lead to a really unique target behavior for some ring-tailed lemurs! For questions or suggestions about the podcast email and to reach Grace contact  Let's talk some training! 3:00 Intro to Grace Sullivan 7:25 Definition and practical application of targets 10:40 Training a target behavior 18:40 Why target training is a great, early fundamental behavior for novel learners 23:00 Why is target training important? 28:35 Replacing a baiting strategy with target training 30:40 Training duration of a target behavior 39:15 Using target training to train more complex behaviors 42:55 Training targets to other body parts 46:10 Distal targets 51:50 "Training Tales"
This episode Christina Lavallee, Zoo Atlanta and ABMA Board of Directors, discusses thoughts and ideas for creating, writing, and implementing a Training Plan.  There is no one way to write a Training Plan and what works for everyone may be different, however, Christina gives ideas on what can be included in a Training Plan, how to get started, and how to give and receive feedback on Training Plans.  Additionally, she talks in depth about the need to be flexible while implementing a Training Plan.  Stay tuned for Christina’s "Training Tale" with a famous screaming-hairy armadillo! For questions or suggestions about the podcast email To reach Christina email For more information about the IATCB scholarship visit this link: Let's talk some training! 2:55 Introduction to Christina Lavallee  4:00 What is a Training Plan?  4:55 Why is it helpful to write a Training Plan?  8:45 Giving and receiving feedback on a Training Plan  12:10 Why is it important to be flexible when implementing a Training Plan?  21:30 Ideas that can be included in a Training Plan 28:10 How to start writing a Training Plan  33:25 Record keeping  34:40 “Training Tale”  37:55 Information on IATCB 
This episode Daisy Barrett, SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast Aquarium in Australia, discusses the science and application behind the Discriminative Stimulus (Sd)/Cues. Daisy walks through the many different types of Sds, when and how to introduce a cue, and how to adapt Sds as an animal ages. Stay tuned to hear about Daisy and Shane's favorite cues and for Daisy's "Training Tale" with little blue penguins! For questions or suggestions about the podcast email To reach Daisy, you can message her on her social media channels and check out her new podcast, "Trainer Talks and Tails" focusing on all things animal training and conservation!  Let's talk some training! 5:35 Introduction to Daisy Barrett 10:00 Definition of Sd (Discriminative Stimulus)/Cues 11:25 Why is it called a Discriminative Stimulus? 12:00 Types of Sds/Cues 19:45 What needs to be true for something to be a Sd/cue? 22:10 How and when to introduce the Sd/cue? 24:10 Can a behavior have multiple Sd/cues? 27:20 How to tell if an Sd/cue is actually conditioned? 29:35 Adapting Sd/cues for aging animals 36:05 Training Tales 37:55 Information about “Trainer Talks and Tails” Podcast
This episode is the second of our two part dive into enrichment. Elly Neumann, Jerusalem Zoo and President Elect of The ABMA, joins the podcast again to talk about the connection between behavior, enrichment, and training. Elly discusses training as enrichment, how training can help an enrichment program, and creating enriched environments and lives for animals. Stay tuned for Elly's "Training Tale" with tapirs. The only hint is: "From six months to six seconds." For questions or suggestions about the podcast email and to reach Elly with questions contact Let's talk some training! 2:45 Intro to Elly 4:00 Is training enrichment? 7:25 Situations when training may not be enriching? 11:00 How can training help an enrichment program? 16:40 Training animals to interact with enrichment opportunities 25:45 Enriched environments and lives 28:40 “Training Tale”
This episode is the first of a two part discussion about enrichment with Elly Neumann, Jerusalem Zoo and President Elect of The ABMA. The focus of this episode is Goal-Based Enrichment and the evolution of how we view and implement enrichment opportunities. Elly discusses what goal-based enrichment looks like, how to plan it, how to record it, and how to get a team to buy into it. And make sure you tune in for Elly's "Training (or Enrichment) Tale" about an "enrichment miracle" with a squirrel monkey. For questions or suggestions about the podcast email and to reach Elly with questions about the episode or Behavior Month contact  Let's talk some training! 4:30 Intro to Elly  7:25 Info on Behavior Month and Engage  11:40 What is Enrichment?  14:00 What is an EED and why are we moving away from that term?  18:50 What is Goal-Based Enrichment?  24:50 Starting a Goal-Based Enrichment program 32:30 Planning and recording 37:50 What is enrichment and what is good husbandry and care?  40:00 Team involvement and buy-in  46:35 “Training Tale”  
This episode Jake Belair, Nashville Zoo and the First VP of The ABMA, discusses another strategy for training behaviors: Baiting. Jake breaks down the challenges of baiting and why it shouldn't be the first option when training a behavior, however, it is still a tool in the training toolkit that has some practical applications. This episode is full of many real life behavior examples with a multitude of species including hornbills, caracals, sea lions, skunks, and clouded leopards. But make sure you tune in for Jake's "Training Tale" about how the trainers at the Nashville Zoo use their heads (literally) during Kookaburra free-flight training. Jake also gives a tease for the 2024 ABMA Annual Conference hosted by the Nashville Zoo! For questions or suggestions about the podcast email and to reach Jake contact  Let's talk some training!
This episode features the first (of many) interviews with a guest currently not living in the United States. Zooming in from Singapore, Rodrico Michel (CPAT) with the Mandai Wildlife Group, joins the podcast to discuss capturing/scanning. Rodrico breaks down what this technique looks like in practice and the advantages, but also challenges of capturing/scanning. Tune in for some really interesting and fun training stories involving innovation behaviors, double back flips, ring-tailed lemur stink fights, and Rodrico's "Training Tale" about how changing an animal's routine from predictable to dynamic can completely change an animal's life and relationships! The podcast has currently reached listeners in 50 countries so thank you to everyone who has tuned in and formed this community! For questions or suggestions about the podcast email and to reach Rodrico either email the podcast or reach out on his social media channels. Let's talk some training!
This episode Shane Gorbett, the host of "Animal Behavior Conversations", is joined by four other incredible hosts of three other like-minded, zoological and behavior-based podcasts. Joining Shane in this episode is Chris Jenkins and Ari Bailey, the hosts of The TEC Talk Podcast, Dr. Grey Stafford, the host of Zoo Logic, and Ryan Cartlidge, the host of Animal Training Academy Podcast Show. These five podcast hosts nerd out about all things podcasting and behavior while also pulling back the curtain to give insight in to the podcasting process. The hosts also comment on the future of the zoological field and the importance of sharing information. For questions or suggestions about the podcast email and make sure to check out and tune in to Zoo Logic, Animal Training Academy Podcast Show, and The TEC Talk Podcast: Presented by Natural Encounters, Inc.  Let's talk some training (and podcasting)!
Welcome to the first ever "Animal Behavior Conversations - Podcast Throwback!" This episode is not in the traditional, interview style but rather is a recording of the keynote presentation for the 2022 ABMA Virtual Annual Conference. The keynote speaker was Dr. Joe Layng and his presentation was titled, "Consequences, Superimposition, Coercion and Their Non-Linear Alternatives." Dr. Layng’s history is in the laboratory of the science of behavior change, however, his discussion applies to the application of the science of behavior change. Also, get an update from your host, Shane, about his move across the country and new adventure working with some amazing African animals. For questions or suggestions about the podcast email Let's talk some training!
This episode Tricia Dees, ABMA Sponsorship Chair, breaks down shaping and you can't talk about shaping without also talking about successive approximations. Tricia discusses how successive approximations can be utilized when training novel behaviors and their role when behaviors break down or regress. Tricia also offers ideas on what to do and think about if an animal is not reaching the criteria for the next successive approximation in the shaping plan. Tune in for one of the most unique "Training Tales" we've heard on the podcast involving sea lions and a waterpark! For questions or suggestions about the podcast email and to reach Tricia reach out on her social media channels or contact . Let's talk some training!
This episode Marni Wood, Zoo Miami and ABMA Board of Directors, talks all things bridging stimulus. Marni breaks down the many types of things used as bridges and how a bridge is trained using respondent conditioning. She also talks through something we will have all done in our career and that is what to do when you bridge at the wrong moment. Tune in for Marni's "Training Tale" about the first behavior she trained with a sea lion! The conversation talks a turn when Marni discusses how the sea lion's rear end was stimulated. For questions or suggestions about the podcast email and to reach Marni contact or . Let's talk some training!
This episode Katie Stevens, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, breaks down what it means to "label" an animal and the risks associated with using labels while training. She discusses how labels can lead to poor communication and potentially set up an animal or a training session to fail before it even begins. Katie provides strategies and alternatives to labels that allow us to discuss training through behavior and observation. Tune in for Katie's double dose of "Training Tales" about a miniature donkey who overcame his labels and an alligator who learned to crate with his own personal "gator elevator". For questions or suggestions about the podcast email and to reach Katie contact . Let's talk some training!
This episode we take a break from discussing a specific training topic and instead talk about a challenge that most of us in the animal care field have faced: finding the time to train. The core of this episode stems from a quote by Ken Rameriz which is "Don't look at training as a luxury or fringe benefit: it is an essential part of an animal's life." This episode's guest, Stephanie Tien from the North Carolina Zoo, offers some tips in order to ensure that we all are finding the time to train and advice on ways to communicate with others in order to make training a priority. Tune in for Stephanie's "Training Tale" about a gorilla who she describes as "the gorilla version of Winnie the Pooh." For questions or suggestions about the podcast email and to reach Stephanie contact Let's talk some training!
May is National Pet Month so this episode Sarah Dugger from Good Dog and Company discusses that, while the environments may be different, the principles and applications of the science of behavior change is the same between training in a zoo and training pets.  Since Sarah started her career in a zoological setting, she is able to provide a unique perspective on the future of animal training in the home. Sarah also does some functional assessments of some common behaviors in the pet training world and how her experiences in a zoological setting helped to inform the best, most ethical interventions. Tune in for not one, but two, Training Tales from Sarah as she talks about walking her dog off lease down a mountain and the resiliency of a young, injured mountain lion cub. For questions or suggestions about the podcast email and to reach Sarah contact Let's talk some training!
This episode Justin Garner of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, returns to break down both Positive and Negative Punishment. We discuss practical applications of using Punishment and the "side effects" of its usage. Punishment focuses on what the animal shouldn't do, as opposed to providing the information of what they should do. Tune in for Justin's fun "Training Tale" about a dog that helped to teach a cheetahs ]how to shift. For questions or suggestions about the podcast email and to reach Justin email The ABMA or contact  Let's talk some training!
This episode current President of The ABMA, Anaka Nazareth of the National Aquarium, continues our discussion about reinforcement from Episode 9 by breaking down Negative Reinforcement.  We discuss practical applications of using Negative Reinforcement including using this method as a way to give animals control and a voice in their training. However, the episode ends with an explanation of why we want to focus on positive, not negative reinforcement during behavioral interventions and training. Tune in for Anaka's fun "Training Tale" about an African pied crow who recycles vegetables (talk about a spirit animal!) and to learn more about The ABMA's Glossary of Terms. For questions or suggestions about the podcast email and to reach Anaka email The ABMA or contact  Let's talk some training!
This episode Wouter Stellaard, Behavior 360 and The Kuzo Group, continues the discussion about Tokitae, the killer whale, and touches on the importance of using data to make informed welfare decisions. Additionally, Wouter discusses the importance of putting the animals' successes first and how we talk and think about training. Tune in for some amazing training stories from Wouter including providing more control opportunities for bears.  For questions or suggestions about the podcast email and to reach Wouter contact email  Let's talk some training!
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