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Kicked, Bitten, and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the World's Premier School for Exotic Animal Trainers Hardcover – Bargain Price, June 1, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
This book was a guided tour through the fascinating world of animal training, at the school you attend if you want to train animals to perform in movies, at Sea World, and so on. The school has a "staff" of exotic creatures who do their best to keep the students on their toes. The risk of learning the hard way -- by tooth and claw -- is real and severe. But as the school year progresses, the students gain mastery of a reward-based method that's as applicable to the family dog as it is to the school's resident baboon, cougar, and camel.
The training approach might be summed up by the phrase, "Put that on a cue." When an animal naturally performs a motion -- especially if that motion is part of a larger trick you want to teach -- you reward that motion and give it a command name. So when my dog looks up, I could give him a cue -- "up" -- and a reward; before long, when I say "up," he'll point his nose skyward. Step by step, trainers build complex behaviors, like dolphins leaping in synchrony or a sea lion holding her mouth open for a dental exam.
It's harder than it sounds. The author reports that a number of students can't stomach the rigors of early rising for poop-scooping, book-learning, and pigeon-killing (to feed the carnivores), and wash out of the program. Others lack the patience necessary to teach a rat to perform in the mandatory rat-tricks class. But some human prodigies do rise to the occasion, and absorb the subtle language of wild animals. These are the lucky souls who will spend their lives in that privileged realm that separates most of us from the wild creatures we love.
The daily grind of waking up early to clean the zoo, long days of very challenging course work and dealing with your 2nd years lording it over you while having to endure all the of the petty squables in your own class. She also did a good job at showing how the school affects all aspects of your life, in essence you have to give yourself over completely for 2 years and everything else (family, spouses, income,...etc) are all subordinate to EATM.
But on the other hand she captured the wonder and joy of working with the animals and being able to have close personal contact with them. Being able to walk Rosie the baboon or sitting next to her cage and grooming with her made all the other cares and worries go away.
If you are thinking about going into the animal field or just interested in it I highly recommend this book. If you are thinking about applying to EATM then this book is a must read, nothing else will allow you to make an informed decision about attending the program like this book.
Overall for me this book brought back the roller coster of emotions that I felt while attending EATM and a lot of good memories, thanks for the book.
It was just fascinating to read about how certain animal behaviors in films and on TV that we may take for granted require countless hours of patient positive reinforcement training.
I also admired how the author freely described the fear she experienced in the few animal interactions she was privileged to take part in.
I just regret that Sutherland didn't include an index. She wrote about such a wide variety of animals and people it was sometimes hard to keep track.
Some photos would also have been helpful. But using Google was an easy enough solution for that.
Overall, this book was a joy to read!
I want to point out that there is a minor error in the later part of the text. As the book indicates, Karen Pryor is, indeed, a revolutionary teacher. She has been awarded by the International Association of Behavior Analysis for her dissemination of behavior analysis to the public. I credit her book, Don't Shoot The Dog, and thank her as the author for my decision to become a behavior analyst.
However, the book implies that Karen Pryor's TagTeach system (referred to but not directly named in the book) is the entree of operant conditioning into the teaching of yet another species-humans.
In fact, behavior analysts and psychologists have been using operant conditioning with humans for many decades. This is one case in which work with humans has actually informed work with animals, as well as the other way around. There are published articles on this work as early as the 1950s. Marian Breland Bailey used a clicker (then called a cricket) in training children with mental retardation in the 1950s. The autism treatment field today is dominated by behavior analysts who rely on the knowledge of operant conditioning to develop teaching and treatment programs for beneficial behavior change.
What Karen Pryor and the TagTeach instructors have done is popularize this technology, making the public more aware of it, and that's valuable and honorable.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
At the time I was contemplating joining the EATM program at Moorepark College. This book gave me a great insight to the program and sparked my interest even further. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Ryan B.
Of course I loved this book not just because I was in the EATM program as a first year, but helps to bring back those memories.Published 6 months ago by Dennis M. Davis
Fun book for anyone interested in training animals - It is not as easy as you think. This book goes into details about both the animals personalities and also the trainers. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Darhl Whitlock
The author put a lot of work into her research, and gives you a good feel of what it would be like to be a student at America's Teaching Zoo. Read morePublished 14 months ago by jagplates
Do we really need animal trainers? Why not just let them live in the wild or go extinct?Published 15 months ago by Joel Hamby
This book is about a very interesting topic. The writing is poor. I only got through it because I wanted the infoPublished 15 months ago by Diana Jacobs
If you are an animal person, you will love this book! I am a volunteer docent at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle and we are reading it for our zoo book group. Read morePublished on July 19, 2014 by Sue
Informative and well written. I will be attending the program this fall and it has prepared me for what is in store! I couldn't put it down!Published on May 16, 2014 by Breanna