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Reaching the Animal Mind: Clicker Training and What It Teaches Us About All Animals Hardcover – Bargain Price, June 16, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1 edition (June 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743297768
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743297769
  • ASIN: B00381B7ZA
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (137 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #724,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A wonderful book that is approachable and user-friendly. A definite must-read for behaviorists, trainers and the general populace.”

--Marilyn Krieger, Certified Cat Behavior Consultant, The Cat Coach, LLC

“Karen has dedicated her life's work to humane and scientifically based animal training and this book provides insights that she is uniquely positioned to supply. Karen's courage, willingness to share, talents as a writer and communicator (and let's face it - downright stubbornness) has changed the lives of millions of animals and hundreds of thousands of humans for the better. This book is a unique gift to the world, with its balance of accessible science and intriguing story telling.”

--Joan Orr, President of Doggone Safe


" Karen Pryor explains positive training methods in an easy-to-understand manner that can be quickly learned by all animal lovers." -- TEMPLE GRANDIN, Ph.D., author of Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human

"Karen Pryor has been at the forefront of humane and science-based training for decades, and this book shows us why. With compelling stories and accessible science, Reaching the Animal Mind is an inspiration for everyone who loves animals and wants to train them with compassion and respect. Whether you're an experienced clicker trainer or someone who just wants their dog to stop barking without having to yell, you really, truly want this book!" -- DR. PATRICIA McCONNELL, author of The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs

"Karen Pryor explores new discoveries in animal learning, looks at old concepts with a fresh perspective, and tells a masterful story throughout. This book should fascinate the scientist, the trainer, and the casual animal lover all at the same time. Karen has always been a compelling storyteller, but this book truly caps off her amazing career. As an animal-care professional, I would put this on the required reading list for everyone who works with or cares about animals." -- KEN RAMIREZ, Shedd Aquarium, and author of Animal Training

"Karen Pryor shows how clicker training has solved problems that traditional training methods could not solve, or worse, that those methods caused. The clarity of her descriptions enables the reader to start basic clicker training right away. Moreover, the book helps readers gain awareness of their own ways of controlling others. Any time criticism, jerking, or punishing can be replaced with clicker-training methods, everyone benefits. The more that people follow the principles in this book, the better off the world will be." -- JULIE VARGAS, author of Behavior Analysis for Effective Teaching

More About the Author

Karen Pryor is a behavioral biologist with an international reputation in two fields, marine mammal biology and behavioral phsychology. She is a founder and leading proponent of "clicker training," a training system based on operant conditioning (isolate wanted behaviors and ignore the unwanted) and the all-positive methods developed by marine mammal trainers. Clicker training is now in use world wide with dogs, cats, horses, birds, zoo animals, and increasingly with humans, in the teaching of sports and athletic performances and developing behaviors in autistics.

Customer Reviews

I've read and re-read this book several times.
Chandra Rogers
Karen Pryor's "Reaching the Animal Mind" is a fascinating look at clicker training and animal psychology.
To Be Simple
Overall,I like this book very much,very informative!
Jason P. Pumphrey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

127 of 134 people found the following review helpful By BookMan VINE VOICE on April 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
At least that's how I feel after reading this wonderful book! To be honest, I had no idea as to what this book might be about - I thought it might be about finding a way to communicate better with your pet (in my case, a very BIG cat, who is the one that really runs my home). I also thought that it might be one of those cutesy animal books that are often fun to read but lack any substance. Boy, was I wrong! Instead, I discovered what a tremendously exciting and wonderful world that the study of animal behavior (include humans) can be through the eyes of an expert in behaviorism, and the study of how behaviors can be developed, learned, and altered that goes back to the work of Pavlov and later Skinner. I digress, however, as I don't want this review to focus on the hard science behind this book as it is wonderful reading for anyone who is interested in animals (of any kind) and how they may be trained. This book will also greatly appeal to those who like fascinating (sometimes even a bit bizarre) and hilarious stories about how humans are learning to interact with animals and each other.

The author, Karen Pryor, is an expert on using behavioral techniques to train dolphins and began practicing these principles when she was unexpectedly recruited to train the dolphins at Sea Life Park (Hawaii) back in 1961. At that time, her only qualifications were that she happened to be married to one of the people who ran the park and no one else could get the dolphins to perform (remember, this was in 1961 when very, very little was known about training animals in the manner which is now used all over the world today).
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Karen Pryor does a superb job of describing the "how" and "why" clicker training reaches the animal mind and gets results. She takes classical conditioning (that involuntary or automatic response to a stimulus such as a clicker) and turns it into operant conditioning whereby the animal learns to actively respond to that stimulus. During training you use a primary reinforcer (food, play) which is something the animal wants and is encouraged to work for to elicit the behavior. Also during operant conditioning a cue (such as a word or hand signal) is paired with the stimulus (clicker) and acts as a reinforcer as long as the recipient (animal or human) knows what it means and what to do. Over a period of time you use the clicker (and eventually the cue) and primary reinforcer to shape the behavior into what you want. If the conditioned response is not received, then withhold the primary reinforcer (for example, treat) until the expected behavior is repeated. However, you must remember never to cruelly punish non-behavior or force the desired behavior because you risk getting a fear response to your stimulus that can last forever. This explains why so many trainers and people fail in their training methods; it only takes one bad response on the trainers part.

The author provides many examples of where this training has worked and tells of how she has trained fish, a hermit crab, and other animals. She also gives a good example of horses that were impossible to load in a horse trailer becoming horses who loaded themselves. The trainer used the above techniques along with successive approximation which meant modifying the environment repeatedly to sequentially increase the difficultly of the task until it was similar to the environment the horses were afraid of.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By T. J. Mathews VINE VOICE on April 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
`Reaching the Animal Mind' far surpasses what I expected when I ordered a book to help me get my dog to stop barking. While It has what I was looking for (thank you very much), it also has much, much more.

Pryor's book should be required reading for any animal trainer, veterinarian, zoologist, pet owner or anyone else who interacts with animals on a regular basis. She clearly explains the principles and methods of operant (AKA `clicker') training and cites many examples of how the desired behavior was achieved. Her examples, each with a step-by-step description of how it is done, includes training an entire kennel of barking dogs to sit quietly in their cages, teaching six dolphins to leap out of the water and spin in perfect synchronization, and even to teach a hermit crab to ring a bell.

Another excellent feature about this book is the presence links to online slideshows and videos that demonstrate some of the techniques described in the book.

While not many people are interested in training hermit crabs the point is that the same basic techniques can be used to train just about any animal to do, or not do, just about anything. I was able to successfully teach my dog to catch and retrieve a frisbee using Ms. Pryor's techniques so I can personally vouch for their effectiveness. I highly recommend this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Philp on October 13, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I feel the need to stress, up front, that while this book would appear to be a book about training animals, it has fundamental applications for anyone wishing to change or shape behaviour.

You may have heard of Karen Pryor because of her now famous book, Don't Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training. It was purchased by many dog lovers who then discovered it wasn't necessarily about training dogs!

Reaching The Animal Mind
Karen Pryor's book is based on BF Skinner's research with operant conditioning. The clicker is basically a metal tongue in a plastic housing that makes a click sound when pressed and is used to `mark' quite specifically the desired behaviour. There is hard scientific evidence to back up her work. Pryor, however, avoids the usual boring academic style of writing in favour of a lighthearted approach that makes it fun and humorous to read.

Pryor began training dolphins at Sea Life Park in Hawaii in 1961. Remember that very little was known about dolphins in 1961. Her main qualification for getting the job was that she was married to the Director of the park.

The other trainers were having only limited success with training the wild caught dolphins. This book follows Pryor's journey as she trains creatures as diverse as wolves, dolphins, horses, elephants, fish and dogs. She even trained a hermit crab to ring a bell.

Have an open mind
This book should be read with an open mind and the many step-by-step examples make it easy to understand why clicker training can be used to train ANY animal (including the human animal). There are many short videos on her web site showing how clickers are used with animals and people to achieve amazingly quick and often stunning results.
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