There are few trainers out there who have the breadth of experience across species and techniques that Ken has — today he comes on to talk a bit about his latest book and to share those experiences with you!
Melissa Breau: Hey guys, you're in for a treat today, but I realized after recording the interview that I had forgotten to ask Ken to share where you could pick up his new book, The Eye of the Trainer, and I wanted to just quickly hop in and let you guys know that it is available from ClickerTraining.com or from the DogWise website.
So if you want to go and pick it up — which I think after listening to this, there's a good chance you might — those are the two places it's available right now, so go ahead and check them out. Again, that's ClickerTraining.com and the DogWise website.
Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau, and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school dedicated to providing high-quality instruction for competitive dog sports using only the most current and progressive training methods.
Our guest this week is Ken Ramirez.
Ken is the executive vice president and chief training officer of Karen Pryor Clicker Training, where he helps oversee the vision, development, and implementation of training education programs for the organization.
Prior to his current role, Ken served as the executive vice president of animal care and animal training at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, where he developed and supervised animal care and animal health programs, staff training and development, as well as public presentation programs for more than 32,000 animals. He spent nearly 26 years at Shedd.
That's only the tip of the iceberg. Ken is inarguably at the forefront of the positive-reinforcement training world, inspiring and shaping conservation efforts with elephants on the African plains, canine search-and-rescue in Texas, oil disaster recovery for sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico, butterfly training in England, and animal shelters in Chicago.
If that wasn't enough, he's also an author with a number of books to his name, including Animal Training: Successful Animal Management Through Positive Reinforcement and his most recent book, The Eye of the Trainer: Animal Training, Transformation, and Trust.
Welcome to the podcast Ken!
Ken Ramirez: Thank you Melissa. I'm glad to be here.
Melissa Breau: I'm super-excited to talk to you. To start us off, literally the first line in the intro to the book says that you were fascinated with learning and behavior long before you became a trainer. I'd love to hear more about that. What was it that initially caught and held your attention?
Ken Ramirez: I think there were two different things that happened. I grew up on a cattle ranch, and so my grandfather and my uncle had cattle dogs that they used to herd cattle. They never had any formal training to how to train, but they certainly knew how to use their cattle dogs effectively.
So I was exposed to that, but I don't think that that was what really sparked my interest to begin with. I ended up, while I was in high school, volunteering for the Institute For The Blind, where they train guide dogs for the visually impaired. I enjoyed that work, I enjoyed playing with the dogs and so forth as a volunteer. I prepared the dogs' food and I cleaned kennels, and that led me to becoming a groom, which meant I got to play with the dogs, and I eventually became a handler to manage the dogs in a number of different situations.
It was while I was doing that for the guide dog school that I became fascinated, and I have to say the thing that really sparked my imagination was this concept of intelligent disobedience. It fascinated me that the general rule was that the dogs were to follow instructions from their handler accurately and without fail 99 percent of the time. But 1 percent of the time they were supposed to disobey. They were supposed to say, "No, I won't do this behavior."
I think the one that really caught my eye didn't surprise me that the dog won't cross the street if there's cars coming. There's self-preservation to think of. But what really impressed me was the way the dogs learned to be aware of overhead obstacles — a sign that's too low, a tree branch that's 5 foot above the surface of the ground that the dog can easily walk over, but perhaps his handler would hit his head if he went under that tree branch, a clothesline, a ladder off the back of a truck.
What I saw was these dogs learn how to read the environment and be able to ascertain that although I've never seen this setup before, this looks dangerous, and so when my handler says, "Go forward," I am supposed to refuse. I am supposed to say "No."
One of the things that really impressed me was, because the blind handler doesn't see the obstacle, and they often feel with their foot, feel with their hands, and they don't find it, they will frequently say to the dog telling them to go forward again, and they'll often say it with that insistence that a dog owner often has when their dog doesn't obey. And yet no matter how hard the handler insists, "Go forward, go forward," the dog says, "No, I'm not going forward." But yet in all other instances the dog would follow that cue and go forward.
I was fascinated with this idea that dogs had this intellectual capacity. As I look at it today, I realize that it's just looking at the environment for cues. They really are simply taking any overhead obstacle as a cue that says, "Don't go forward." It's a relatively simple concept, yet it is still advanced. It is still conceptual.
I remember as a 16-year-old, 17-year-old kid working with guide dogs, I was blown away by the fact that dogs could learn to do this. I remember thinking to myself, What cooler job is there than to play with dogs all day long, but to train them for a noble, worthwhile purpose. That's the job for me. That's what I want to do.
It was that exposure that really prompted my fascination with training, because it just seemed incredible to me. Not only was I amazed by all the things that guide dogs need to learn and what they have to do, but seeing what I thought of at that time as this amazing intellectual ability, this idea of intelligent disobedience, because the dogs were so well trained to always, always, always listen and do exactly what you say, except under these conditions. I was just blown away that they could do that, and that's what prompted my path toward training and got me started in that direction.
Melissa Breau: That's such a cool thing. I can't even picture where you would start with training something like that. That's such an interesting concept to have to teach.
Ken Ramirez: Absolutely. And for me, it's also one of those full circle things that happened for me, because when I finally did become a professional trainer, it wasn't with guide dogs. It was in the zoo community. It wasn't until many, many, many years later that I came full circle and became a consultant with guide dog organizations.
But here's the interesting thing. When I first was working with guide dogs as a volunteer more than 40 years ago, as a kid, they were still training guide dogs in the very traditional method. They certainly used positive reinforcement a lot, but they also used a lot of corrections, a lot of aversive tools, and that is one of those skills that at that time was trained using aversive tools, causing the dog to be somewhat fearful of going under objects that could hurt their owner.
As I've come full circle many years later, the main reason I've been invited to consult with guide dog organizations has nothing to do with my kid-time experience working with guide dogs, but more my exposure to positive reinforcement. I have come in to help some of these organizations look for positive reinforcement methods to do some of these harder tasks. So it's really fascinating to me to see that, for example, Guide Dogs For The Blind developed a really great protocol for training that particular skill set using entirely positive reinforcement.
So as I came back to the guide dog community, it was amazing for me to see this transformation that has happened and this embracing of positive reinforcement that has occurred in the guide dog community. It's still slow coming onboard in some corners of the world, but the way it was trained when I first learned it and I was first fascinated by it is much different than the way it is trained today.
Melissa Breau: That's cool to hear that they've changed that much. You mentioned that you went from volunteering and working as a kid at the guide dog organization to a trainer at a zoo. What happened in between those two?
Ken Ramirez: Oh, life happened between those two. I got out of high school, went to college, and as often is the case when you're young, you're not certain where a career will take you. All of your authority figures — parents and others, counselors, etc. — are telling you that training animals is not a profession; you shouldn't look there. It's a great hobby, but you should find something else to do with your life that will earn you money.
Also, I was very active in track-and-field, and so I went to college on a track scholarship, so I was very active in that. I needed money to help pay my bills, and so I took lots of different jobs not related to animal training. So there was a very circuitous route to leading me to animal training.
During my senior year of college, I saw an announcement for an education specialist at a marine life park in Texas. They were looking for someone to help teach classes for kids about the animals, and to narrate some of their public shows with their dolphins and their sea lions and things like that. I thought, That will be a fun summer job. I have one semester left of school, it's summertime now, I'll go take that job.
I did that job and loved it, but I found myself hanging around the trainers, particularly the bird trainers and the marine mammal trainers, and I started finding that so much of what I had learned about as a guide dog trainer, and what I'd learned about in school in studying animal behavior — because that's one of the directions I took when I was in college — I found out that it was all related, that it was very, very similar.
I spent so much of my free time hanging out with the trainers and helping them and asking questions, and I think they found that I seemed to know a little bit about behavior. I seemed to demonstrate that I had a real understanding of how behavior worked, so that by the end of the summer, when I was getting ready to go back to school, the head of the training department approached me and said that they had an entry-level position open, was I interested.
At the time, I had never considered doing that, and I didn't think that I was, but it certainly fascinated me. He asked the question, he says, "The only thing is we require that all of our trainers need to have either biology, marine biology, or zoology degrees." I said, "Oh, well, that's not my major. That's not what I'm majoring in." He said, "You can change your major and we'll give you the job."
You have to understand — while I did reasonably well in school, I was not eager to extend my schooling. I was excited that I had one semester left and was going to be done with school. I said, "But I'm almost done. I have only 18 hours to graduate and I'm finished. If I change my major, I'd have to go to school for a couple more years." He said, "No problem. I understand. We'll give the job to somebody else."
I said, "Wait, wait, wait. You mean to tell me that if I change my major, that's all I have to do, you'll give me a job." He said, "That's not all you have to do. You have to stay in school. You have to take at least a full-time load, and we need you to work five days a week, so you'll need to maybe take Tuesdays and Thursdays and find a schedule that gives you classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or something along those lines, so that you can work five days a week otherwise."
I thought, Oh my gosh, that's going to be difficult. I thought about it and I finally decided to do that. I decided to double-major and take that job. I thought, I'll do this for a couple of years while I'm in school, and then I'll become a guide dog trainer.
But as I started working, I happened to be hired at this facility, and as an entry-level trainer, they had me working with all of the different areas that required training. I worked with the dolphins and the whales and the sea lions, and I worked with the birds, the macaws, the cockatoos, the birds of prey. I worked with their tigers, I worked with their primates, the chimps and the baboons, and I found myself working with this wide diversity of species, and all of them being trained.
I was fascinated by it, and two years turned to three years turned to four years turned to six years. I moved around to different facilities and I gained lots of experience with a lot of different kinds of animals, and I didn't look back for a while. I did not really come into contact with domestic animal training for a long time.
I didn't really come back into dog training until I had become quite experienced in the zoo field and had begun consulting. I easily went my first twelve years or thirteen years in the zoological profession without doing anything with dogs other than my own dogs, but not anything professionally with dogs.
It wasn't until I took a job at the aquarium in Chicago that I built a dog program there, just out of interest. For most people, a dog program at the aquarium just doesn't make sense. But it made a lot of sense to me, and it was a way for us to show our guests that the techniques we use to train our otters and our seals and our dolphins are the same things that you can use with your dogs at home.
I adopted all these shelter dogs into the aquarium, and I wanted them to see that, just like at the aquarium, most of our animals are rescues — rescues from an oil spill, rescues from an injury — you can rescue animals too. Maybe not exotic animals, but you can rescue dogs.
So I put together a formal dog program. We had a large collection of dogs at the aquarium that we used in our public programming, and it brought me into working with dogs again, even though I was still working in the zoo community. That's a really long story, but it shows you how they all connect.
Melissa Breau: I think that's fascinating. You've had such an interesting career, and obviously you've come a long way, even from that point. Care to share a little bit about what today looks like? What does a "typical" day or week look like for you these days?
Ken Ramirez: There is no such thing as a typical day. I think that if you were to take a month, take a typical month, I could give you a much clearer picture.
As the chief training officer for Karen Pryor Clicker Training, my job involves managing the Karen Pryor Academy and our certification courses, and our faculty and instructors who teach that online certification course. But I also oversee ClickerExpo. ClickerExpo is this annual conference that we put on three times a year in different places throughout the United States and Europe, and I schedule that program and manage the speakers that we have to come to that.
When I came onboard with Karen Pryor Clicker Training, I always had this desire to have a ranch that had a collection of animals that I could manage and take care of myself and help me to teach courses, so we developed the Karen Pryor National Training Center. We call it The Ranch. I have courses that I offer here, and so I manage the animals that we have here on The Ranch, and manage the courses that we offer here at The Ranch.
In addition to KPA, ClickerExpo, and The Ranch, I also have consulting. I continue to consult with Homeland Security, guide dog and service dog organizations, and a variety of zoos, and so I do consulting as well. So, to understand a typical month, you have to understand that those four things occupy a big part of my job.
In a typical month — if I look at the month of March, for example — the first week of March, I happen to have a Training for Professionals course at The Ranch. That means that for an entire week I will be hosting students at my facility and teaching a professional course that gives them an opportunity to do hands-on with the animals. That's an all-day, full-week course that completely occupies every minute of my day. From 7 a.m. until 9 p.m., I'm very involved in that. That's one week, but I only do a course like that once a week at The Ranch, so the rest of the month I have other things that are going on.
It just so happens that one of our ClickerExpo events is coming up in March. I have about a week off after this class ends, and I will spend that time taking care of the animals here at The Ranch and being in a lot of meetings to manage Karen Pryor Academy and to manage a lot of my consulting gigs.
I have three very distinctly different meetings where I will be meeting with trainers to talk about a positive-reinforcement snake avoidance protocol that I'm working on, and I'll be working with some trainers in Nevada who will be following the protocol. I just came back from Nevada last week. They'll be carrying it out and I'll be checking in on how they're doing.
I have a zoo that I'm consulting with, so I will be looking at videos from them and watching what they're doing, and giving them feedback on that particular consulting job.
I'm also working on a research project that's looking at cancer detection and dogs doing cancer detection. I have a couple of meetings with and watching videos of the people working in that particular area.
All of that will be happening the week after the class, and then I get on a plane and head for Louisville for ClickerExpo and will be managing that ClickerExpo event.
After that, I will be making a stop at one of the locations that I'm consulting with, to check in with them on a couple of the jobs that they're doing.
Then I come back here to The Ranch because Eva Bertilsson, Emelie Johnson Vegh, who are great agility trainers from Sweden, are coming to The Ranch to offer a workshop that we call Guest at the Ranch Workshop that I teach along with them. We will have students here for a two-day weekend workshop that I'll be teaching and helping them conduct here at The Ranch.
Right after that, I will go into a consulting trip that I need to go on, where I will be working with some animals in another location.
Meanwhile, during all of those jobs, in the evenings, in my breaks, I still am taking care of KPA business, I'm taking care of ClickerExpo in the future, I'm taking care of The Ranch animals, and I'm still meeting with a variety of my consulting gigs to try to manage those clients as well.
That's a typical month.
Melissa Breau: I'm going to have to tease Denise and tell her I found somebody who's busier than she is!
Ken Ramirez: I am very busy, and I'm fortunate that I don't need a lot of sleep, so I'm able to do a full day of consulting work, and then, in the evening, I spend my time doing the everyday business that needs to be taken care of for the company, and that's a full-time job in and of itself.
And every month is a little unique. No two months are exactly the same. But the sampling that I just gave you of the month of March is very, very similar. I have some type of Ranch course every single month, I have some type of consulting trip that I do at least twice a month, I have lots of consulting that I do online through video every single month, and so that is a pretty typical month for me. But taking any particular day or week would not necessarily be representative of my schedule because it's very different from time to time. You never get bored doing what I do.
Melissa Breau: Absolutely. Somewhere in there, you managed to fit in putting together your latest book.
Ken Ramirez: Yes, that's true. For me, I do take copious notes on everything that I do. When I'm doing animal training here at The Ranch, I always keep good records. When I go to a conference, I take notes. When I'm consulting, I'm always writing down what I'm working on or what I'm suggesting. Many of those things turned into the articles that ended up being a major part of my book, The Eye of the Trainer, that just came out.
Melissa Breau: I wanted to dive into talking about the book a little bit more. One of the things that you talk about in the book is you share the specific sequence you use when you are training with a new animal — a brand new animal to you, at least. Reading through it, I thought it aligned really closely with a lot of the concepts that we cover at FDSA, but you have a unique take on it, and a different way of thinking about it and arriving at those concepts. I'd love to have you talk us through those pieces and your thoughts behind them, if you would.
Ken Ramirez: Sure. You know, it's interesting. A lot of the articles in the book were written primarily because people ask me the question, "How do you start training? What's the first thing you do? What order do you train things in?" My normal answer is, "It depends." I don't actually have a recipe that I follow.
But if you were to look at all the animals that I train, and the way I make those decisions, there is a thought process that sort of guides me.
I often find people are so eager to jump right into training, and I think a lot of times we are misled when we work with dogs, because you'll come across so many dogs that love people, come over to you right away, are very interested in interacting with you, and so you have the ability to start training almost immediately with formal training and shaping behavior with the dog.
But I tend to start before that. To me, training begins with simply gaining an animal's trust, and when you work with exotic animals, sometimes just getting them to approach you and eat from you is a big challenge. Often, when I've worked with dogs in a shelter, they have similar distrust issues. Consequently, I always remind people that the very first step is just getting to know your animal, feeding your animal, letting them get comfortable approaching you and coming to you. If you can get an animal approaching you and eating from you — and you might not be able to get them to eat from your hand right away. You might have to put food in a bowl. You might have to put food in a bowl and walk away and let them eat. But gaining that trust so that they're comfortable in your presence, and comfortable eating from you, is a start.
Once an animal is comfortable with that, I usually look to see will you follow me. If I move over to this part of the pasture, will you come over here. If I move to this corner of the room, will you come with me. Because what I want is a learner who's an eager and willing participant, and walking away from an animal and seeing if they will follow you — and of course I don't just see if they will follow me. I will encourage them to follow me. I'll make it easy for them to follow me. But certainly, once they are following me, then I know, OK, I've gained their interest and they're not running away. They're actually wanting to be with me.
Usually around that time I make a decision as to whether I want to start target training them or do I want to start teaching them some kind of a default stationing position. But usually I'll start with targeting. I won't worry too much about a default position. I'll just see if I can get them to touch my hand, or to touch a buoy on the end of a stick, because for me, that enables me to extend my reach, and with targeting I can get them to move to different places by moving my target, and so I begin to see whether they're interested in paying attention and following a target.
Only at that point do I then think, Now it's a good time to start using a marker — a clicker or some kind of a marker signal. Again, a lot of people are often surprised that I wait that long to introduce a clicker, but for me, if you're using the clicker, it's supposed to mean "Good." It's supposed to mean "Well done." And until you know that the animal is eagerly taking reinforcers from you, eagerly participating with you, there's no point in using a marker yet, because you're not sure that they're going to eat. You want to make sure that they're really eager to take things from you, so that's when I introduce the clicker.
At that point I start saying, "Now I'm ready to begin what most people think of as formal training." I really want a default position that an animal can learn from. I often refer to it as a stationing position, but it's different for different animals. When you're working with certain animals — dogs, you might want their default position to be in a heel position to look to your left, while other animals, you want them making eye contact. With other animals, you want them to be on a platform or on a mat.
Whatever that is, I start teaching that default position, that stationing position, and that's where I want them to go. It's a place to start behaviors, it's a place to finish behaviors, it's a place to receive reinforcement. And there are a lot of exceptions to that, but it's a good starting place to give the animal a comfortable place to be.
Once I get there, then I begin doing what a lot of people think of as formal training. Then I might teach them to follow a target. I might work on teaching them to allow tactile. I then begin working on what I call management and husbandry behaviors. What I mean by that is, do I need the dog to be comfortable wearing a leash and putting it on voluntarily. Do I need to teach my dog to go into a kennel. Do I need that animal to allow me to clip nails or brush its teeth. I start training those things that will help me manage that dog better.
From there, we can start going in any direction we need to. If it's a search-and-rescue dog, if it's a law enforcement dog, if it's a dog that's going to be competing in sports, then we begin training those things that are necessary for those kinds of activities. What comes next will vary greatly for me, depending on what my goals are for that dog or that animal. But I tend to begin with those early steps that I just sort of laid out.
I think that's what you're asking me was to go through that process.
Melissa Breau: Yeah, exactly, because I think that a lot of those pieces get overlooked, but they also tie in with some of the things that we've been talking about at FDSA lately, around getting engagement, and getting your animal locked in, and consent, and things like that, and how they all pull together very early on in the process.
Ken Ramirez: Oh, absolutely, and if you can start there, you gain a good relationship with the animal and you gain that animal's trust, and so training becomes so much more fun for them that they're willing and eager to participate. And that just gives you such a foundation for doing whatever activity you and your dog, or you and the animal you're training, want to accomplish.
Melissa Breau: You cover a lot of ground in the book and a ton of awesome stories. A couple of them — a lot of them, really — require you to step back and think about the situation at hand with a different perspective than maybe the initial thoughts when you first spring into it. The two that came to mind were the story about Carson, the search-and-rescue dog that lost his alert, and also the story about the trainers with the two "aggressive" Bengal tigers. I'd love if you could share a little of each of those stories, and what takeaways you want trainers to be pulling out of these things.
Ken Ramirez: Those are great stories, and they're interesting because the solutions to both of those stories were a little bit different. Those cases were very unique. But what they both had in common was this need for me, as a consultant, to step back from the situation and look at it from a variety of different angles to find out the problem.
Carson was a very, very good search-and-rescue dog, but there came a point when, for his handler, she really had run into a challenge. Her name was Sharon, and she had trained the dog well. I think what started to happen was she found that somewhere along the way there came a point where Carson suddenly seemed to lose his alert.
She could tell by his activity that he had found something. You can really tell, when you're working with a scent detection dog, there's so many things about their behavior that changes. I think one of the things that those who participate in nosework, for example, often don't train an official alert. They're just supposed to read their dog's body language. But for a lot of law enforcement work, it's required for a number of reasons that the dog be trained a very clear, specific alert.
This dog had lost his alert. He wasn't alerting. In fact, it seemed that he was doing everything but finding the victim and was avoiding it. Only after really assessing the situation did we discover that what had happened was … the thing about a lot of search-and-rescue dogs is that they love their work. They love doing what they're doing. And so even though at the end of the search, when he would alert, Sharon would reinforce him with his favorite toy, and he would play vigorously with the toy, it also meant that he was going to be put in the car and that his search time was over.
What happened was finding the victim, yes, was paired with positive reinforcement, but it also meant, "My ability to stay out here in the forest, or stay out here sniffing the ground, is going to be terminated." It was such a predictor of his fun search time being over that he found himself delaying finding the victim, simply so he could stay out and sniff the ground and search.
Once we realized that that was the problem, we still reinforced the find, but we also then encouraged him, after playing, that he could go out and sniff again a little bit more and do more searching.
It was just one of those things where training is so much fun that she had inadvertently ended up creating an end-of-session signal. For some dogs, if an end of session means end of fun, there's nothing fun that's going to happen anymore, we're going to get in the car and leave, for him, it ended up being an aversive, and so we had to change the context.
He was a great dog, and Sharon did a great job of changing that around so that he didn't anticipate that search time was over just because he made an alert. Once he learned that it wasn't automatically over, he began to alert again, he was very reliable again, and he had an excellent career as a search-and-rescue dog.
So that was that particular story.
The tiger story was an interesting one because this was one where, again, in the same kind of way as Sharon, this zoo had called me up. These were cases where I was not involved in the animal's original training. I got called because there was a problem. One of the challenges that we face as consultants is that very seldom do people call you up and say, "Hey, Ken, things are going really well over here at my place. Would you like to come see?" They don't call you for that reason. They wait until there's a problem, and that's why they need you to come.
And so, just like Sharon and Carson, I had no previous knowledge of the history of the training of the tigers. They call me out of the blue and tell me they had started a brand new training program with their tigers, and ever since they started the training program, the tigers hated their trainers. I said, "What do you mean?" They said, "They hate them. They growl, they hiss, and they spit, and we don't know what to do. We have decided that training is just not fun for these tigers."
I said, "That's unusual. Training should be a fun experience. I think you might have set it up in a way that they don't understand what training is." But I couldn't diagnose it over the phone, I couldn't troubleshoot it over the phone, so I ended up going to the facility and watching. I said, "Let me just watch a session."
The keepers would walk up — they were working in protected contact, so they wouldn't go in with the tigers, but they were on one side of the enclosure and the tigers were inside. As they approached the fence line, the tigers started growling and hissing and snarling and growling and spitting and hissing, and the two trainers, bless their hearts, they stayed perfectly still, determined not to reinforce this inappropriate behavior. The tigers growled and hissed and snarled and growled and hissed and snarled, and they stood perfectly still.
I remember thinking to myself, Wow, this is intense. How long are these trainers going to wait? I'm observing, so I'm just watching, and it seemed to go on forever. It probably was four or five minutes, but it seemed like it went on for an hour. Finally, after a few minutes of growling and hissing and snarling and them not stopping at all, the senior keeper looked at the junior keeper and whispered, "Let's take a time out." And the two of them turned around and disappeared.
I remember I went to the office and I said, "Wow, that was intense. Can I ask you a question? How long have you been using a time out like that?" The trainers got very defensive. They started explaining, "It said in the textbooks …" blah blah. I said, "No, no, no. I understand why you thought a time out was a good choice. I'm just asking you how long you've been doing that." They said, "From the very start." I said, "Have you seen any change in the tigers' behavior?" The two trainers thought about it for a second, and they said, "Yeah, it's gotten worse."
I said, "You bet it has! If I can be anthropomorphic for a second, I think those two tigers were high-fiving each other, saying, 'We got rid of those trainers. We didn't like them very much.' Your time out is not really affecting the behavior." And I said, "What really needs to happen is … a time out is a punisher, it's a negative punisher, and all that you're doing is your making your tigers more and more frustrated that you're not providing them with food. It seems to me you've never set up a context that allows the tigers to understand that training is a fun thing, something that they want to participate in."
We went about fixing the problem by teaching the tigers that the trainers were going to give them food, no matter what. This freaked the trainers out for a minute. They said, "You mean, even if they're growling and hissing and snarling, we're going to feed them anyway?" I said, "Yes." They asked me, "Aren't we reinforcing that bad behavior?" I said, "It doesn't matter. At this point they don't trust you. What you need to do first is get the animals to understand that you are a source of food, it's easy to get it from you, and it's not a problem. Once that problem goes away, the chances of them growling and hissing and snarling at you are going to be lessened."
I suggested that they take their food and cut it up into lots and lots and lots of little meatballs. I said, "I want you to walk in with two meatballs. They may be out there growling and hissing at you, I don't care. I want you to take those two meatballs, throw them into the enclosure, and immediately walk away. Thirty minutes later, walk in with a couple of meatballs, throw them into the enclosure, and walk away. Do that over and over and over again."
They were very reluctant to do it, and I said, "I promise you this is going to work." And literally by the start of the second day, after one full day of training — and of course we did this every fifteen to thirty minutes throughout that first day — by the end of that first day, the tigers weren't growling and hissing anymore. They were just waiting to see if that meat was going to get thrown in. The trainer would walk in, they'd toss in the meat, they'd walk out.
When that happened, I said, "Now I want you to wait for just one step forward, when they come one step closer …" — they were already making steps forward — "I want you to walk in, wait for them to take a couple of steps, throw the meat, then walk away. And then we will start asking them to take three steps, four steps, five steps. We'll throw the meat, we'll throw two pieces of meat, we'll start increasing the amount of time."
Eventually the tigers are right at the front of the gate, right next to the fence, waiting for the trainers. Then I said, "Now you can put the meat on the end of a stick and feed it to them." All of a sudden you have tigers who want to be there, who are participating.
I think what happened is I think you set criteria too high at the beginning. You somehow were maybe expecting them to offer something, they didn't offer it, so they got upset, you didn't want to feed because they were upset, and it spiraled into this out-of-control situation. What you're doing here is saying, "I have food. I want you to have it. I'm going to give it to you. It's going to be easy." And then you gradually increase what you expect them to do for that food, but keeping it easy, keeping it simple. By the end of five days, those tigers were targeting, following, and eating from the trainers without a problem. They just had to rethink how they approached the session.
It goes back to your earlier question, Melissa, when you were asking me about how I begin the training process. I think too often as trainers we want to jump into what we think of as formal training. In many cases, formal training needs to begin with just approach and feed, gaining the animal's trust.
By taking a step back and starting all over again, it made all the difference in the world. Now those tigers at that zoo are enjoying training, they're doing amazing things. They just got off to a wrong foot because they didn't really know how to start that training process off, and they jumped too far ahead instead of starting at the very basics and very beginning.
Melissa Breau: I love those examples because I feel like in both cases the trainers did what they thought was right. They followed the advice they'd read or been given, and they followed the process, and it didn't work.
Ken Ramirez: Right.
Melissa Breau: So it's a reminder that when you do these things, you do have to stop at some point and say, "Is the path that I'm walking down working?" and reevaluate.
Ken Ramirez: Absolutely, and normally I would say that you should do that evaluation pretty quickly. One or two interactions with the animal and you should start seeing progress. If you're not seeing progress, it's already time to reevaluate. In this case, they let this go on for seven weeks or eight weeks. It went on for a long time, and it just got worse and worse and worse.
Melissa Breau: I think it's clear, even from the conversation we've had so far, how incredibly varied your experiences and your career have been. I know there's no way we can cover everything, which it would be fun to sit here and do this all day. So I wanted to try and ask you some things that maybe you haven't been asked before. We'll see. Reading through the book, you've dealt with so many different behaviors and species and skills. Has there ever been a scenario where you just felt … stumped? And maybe it took a while to suss out the right approach?
Ken Ramirez: Oh, all the time. It's interesting. When I sit down and write some of the stories in my book, it's with the understanding and knowledge of what happened and how I got there. It may often seem as though, "Oh, Ken knew the answer. He got right to that."
But like the search-and-rescue dog story, it wasn't immediately clear. It wasn't like the very first time that I watched her work that I said, "Oh, he's disappointed that the session's over." It really took me talking with her, watching a training session, evaluating what happened. It was clearly a dog that was eager and was motivated, but yet he wasn't alerting. It was clear that he knew how to alert, but yet he wasn't in this situation.
I want to say it took a couple of days where I was totally baffled and I couldn't see it right away. That happens to me a lot. Frequently I run into situations where sometimes I feel like the client is being stubborn, and I realize I'm the one that needs to figure out a different way of approaching it. I deal with these kinds of problems all the time.
One of the biggest challenges I had was I had a client come to me who was having a wild bird problem. They were having gulls, like seagulls, that were just all over their park. These gulls were pooping on people and swooping down and bothering them. The director asked me if I would come in and take a look at this problem. It was a European facility.
I came in and I thought I had dozens of good solutions. I observed what was going on, and I remember the next day I came in and I said … they sell this popcorn in these unique cones that was a signature for their brand, and I said, "If you stop selling popcorn, that's the biggest source of food that's causing these seagulls to be here." Their response was, "No, no, we can't do that. The popcorn is very popular." I suggested, "Maybe if you redesign the package." "No, we can't do that." "Maybe if you put awnings over the walkways." "No, that's too expensive." "Maybe if you hired more staff." "No, we can't afford that."
After two hours of meetings, nothing was acceptable to him. All of those were bad answers. At the end of several hours, I was stumped. I thought, There's nothing I can do. I said to him, "You know what, maybe I'm not the right guy to do this job. I won't charge you for my time. I'm just going to go home, because I don't think you really are that committed to seeing this project resolved."
He goes, "No, no, we're very interested." I said, "I've given you twenty-some solutions and you're not happy with any of them. What did you think I was going to do?" He looked at me and said, "Well, we heard you were this great trainer. We thought you'd train the seagulls to go somewhere else."
I remember that answer struck me because I realized that one of the things we all always teach our clients and teach our students is, "Don't focus on what you don't want. Focus on what you do want. What is the alternate behavior you'd like to see?"
But, for some reason, in this situation, that had not occurred to me. I was just trying to find ways of getting rid of the seagulls, and as ridiculous as it sounded to retrain the seagulls to go somewhere else, that was the solution. It required me to realize that I don't listen to my own advice sometimes, and that I really needed to be aware that I needed to find an alternate behavior for these seagulls.
That's what we ended up doing and it was a successful project. But it was the client who actually ended up giving me the solution. I never came up with it myself. In fact, I was so frustrated, I was ready to walk away from that consult because I felt like the client was just being pigheaded and stubborn and not cooperative and not listening to the many wonderful suggestions that I had given.
And he, in his simplest ways, make me think, Ken, you need to look at the behavior you do want and not focus on what you don't want. That's something I have taught my students for decades, and yet I didn't see it myself because I was too close. It was too mired in the politics of all of that sort of thing.
I come across situations like that all the time, where the solution doesn't present itself right away, or I'm not able to see it as clearly as I should be able to. Often it does require someone else to look at it for me, or for me to take a step back and look at it from a big-picture perspective before it finally resonates.
I think because I've had so many varied experiences, it does become easier and easier for me to be able to take an objective look at a problem. When I can't solve it, I need to take a break, I need to step back, I need to look at it from a fresh perspective. Once I start doing that, I start seeing new ideas and new suggestions, and sometimes the solutions are actually very simple. It's just I was either overcomplicating it, I was overthinking it, or I just got too much in my own head about it, and it just required me to look at it from a new perspective.
Melissa Breau: I've got to ask: What did you teach the seagulls to do instead?
Ken Ramirez: They happened to have this lake that was way over on the other side of their property, and they had many restaurants that had all this waste food that they were getting rid of all the time. I ended up having the various food venues — they had different hours when they were supposed to go dump their food waste on the other side of the lake. We did that, and very quickly these seagulls learned to go to the lake, where they could have almost unlimited amount of food, and they were able to maintain that with relative ease.
I did request that they stop selling popcorn for just a few weeks while we were training. I remember the director was so magnanimous. He goes, "Oh no, we'll give you more than two weeks. You can have two months." It was very helpful, though, because there was no food available for the seagulls in the park proper, and so during those two months they learned food really was available on the other side of that lake, and that became the way. There were thousands, I mean, twenty or thirty thousand seagulls. There were so many of them, and we were able to get them to all go to another location because they had that waste food that they were able to use for the seagulls.
Melissa Breau: That's so funny. I know you've taught a number of things. We've talked about a lot of the animal solutions, but you've also taught a lot of conceptual things where you push the envelope in terms of training beyond the basics — asking dogs to count, playing with modifier cues. I'd love to know what it is that drives you to continue to experiment, and if you have a "favorite" experiment or advanced training technique.
Ken Ramirez: I don't know if I have a favorite, but I will say I'm driven by a very interesting set of circumstances. I worked for a long time in the zoo world, and I happened to be the trainer assigned to a number of research projects that studied primate and cetacean cognition. I wasn't a principal researcher, but I was the trainer involved in training animals to participate in these cognitive studies. So I was really practiced at that.
I remember when I started working with dogs again, one of my first formal kind of work besides what I was doing at the aquarium with the dogs was … I taught a graduate course at Western Illinois University for a long time on animal training, and one of my first students was a search-and-rescue trainer in Illinois. He was fascinated by the positive reinforcement techniques that we used, and he asked me to help him learn how to do that.
So I became very involved in the search-and-rescue community, and during the time that I was involved with that, one of his dogs was injured. During that injury period, the dog was restricted from any kind of active duty work. But the dog was very motivated, wanted to learn, and so I thought, While he's on "bed rest," maybe I can teach this particular dog some fun cognitive projects" that I had done with dolphins and whales and primates.
So I first taught modifier cues, and then I taught imitation, and then I taught counting, and I did all of those things without awareness that that had not been done very often with dogs, that it wasn't common in dogs. And so I wasn't really experimenting. I was just taking training procedures that I knew really well, and using them to give a dog mental activity that didn't require the dog to use his body too much and allowed him to continue on his bed rest.
That was my introduction to doing that, and I ended up doing that with a number of dogs. After we trained this one dog to imitate — we taught her to imitate other dogs — my colleague, whose dogs they were, said, "Let me show you what Ken trained. Have your dog do something, and watch. My dog will copy it." We would demonstrate that and they were amazed, and so they said, "Can you train my dog to do that?" So we would train their dogs to do that. And the same was with the counting and some of the other things that I did.
I was doing a lecture, and it was really a lecture that I was doing in Europe, where someone had asked me about these cognitive training. They were asking whether or not dogs could do imitation, and I said, "Yes, of course they can. I've trained it."
There was this famous dog behaviorist in attendance. He was at the back of the room, and he raised his hand and he said, "I'm sorry, Ken, but dogs are not capable of imitation." I knew who he was, and so I said, "Well, I would imagine that you're right, that maybe it's not natural for dogs to imitate, but they can be taught to do that." He said, "No, they can't." And I said, "I've actually trained it." He said, "Do you have video?"
I remember looking at the audience and I could sense them watching this back-and-forth exchange, and I could almost feel them going, "Fight, fight, fight, fight!" But I respected this guy, and I believed that he believed that it wasn't possible.
When he asked if I had video, I said, "No, I don't have video." That's like you telling me that you have a switch in your house, and when you flip it, the lights come on, and I said, "Do you have video?" I didn't know it was that unusual, so it never occurred to me to videotape it. And so I was spurred on by that to say, "Let me train it again."
It was actually having the ClickerExpo started up — we've been doing the ClickerExpo now for seventeen years — and Karen invited me to the first ClickerExpo and asked me. She had seen me do some of this kind of training and I was talking about doing it with dogs. And so suddenly I started teaching these concept training seminars, but I didn't have examples of dogs doing it, so I started acquiring dogs and trying it out.
This time I would do double-blind trials and I would videotape every angle, and I began going through these different procedures. For a couple of them I realized there hasn't been a lot of formal work done with that. So then I began going down the path of actually doing scientific publications on those topics.
For me, it was just another kind of training that was fun to do. I really didn't intent to break new ground. But it is something that has fascinated me, and I think when you think about the story I told you about guide dogs and intelligent disobedience, that was the conceptual thing that fascinated me from the very start.
So I definitely think that the idea of concept learning and teaching ideas that are applied under new context is conceptual in nature, and I think that's the kind of training that totally fascinates me, so I'm driven to that. Not so much to experiment as much as just exploring what a dog can do with these kinds of concepts.
Melissa Breau: They're such neat ideas. It's interesting that people are like, "Dogs can't do that," and you're like, "But we've done it. What do you mean?"
Ken Ramirez: But I had not really looked into the history of it. I was just a dumb zoo trainer who had tried it with dogs. Had I been told it wasn't possible, I'm sure I would not have wasted my time trying it. I'm almost happy I didn't know. I often think we're limited by information that we're given. You believe something's not possible, then why would you try it?
So that's really kept me thinking in a more open-minded way about the capabilities of any animal. Anybody says to me, "That's not possible," I question that. I say, "Maybe you're right, but I question whether that's true or not." And if it's something that interests me, I'll go down the path of testing it. If it doesn't interest me, then I encourage someone else to test it.
Melissa Breau: Fair enough. I can't let you go without asking you about something that you address in the book that's been at the forefront of a lot of conversations that I've had with other trainers lately, which is this idea of what it means to be a positive reinforcement trainer, and how can we set an example that inspires others to pursue positive training without alienating them, even if they're already using other methods.
Ken Ramirez: For me, that's probably one of the most important things that we could talk about. I realize we're probably running out of time, but to me, teaching people how to train is a passion of mine, and I'm motivated to teach people humane training techniques. I'm motivated to teach positive reinforcement techniques. But I think the thing that is most important to me right now is helping people recognize the importance of working with others and working together well.
In our community, it's unfortunate, but there's such a divide, and there's all these different factions. We can be so judgmental, as a training community, about techniques that other people use. I really feel like we have to back off from that a little bit and be more accepting.
Nobody … I don't want to say nobody, but very few trainers use a technique because they deliberately want to be mean, harsh, or abusive to their dogs. Most people who train, train because they care about their animals and they want only the best for them. And oftentimes we use the tools that we know. We use the techniques that we have been shown.
If I had not been invited into the fold by a series of positive reinforcement trainers, I could be stuck back in the days when I first was introduced to guide dog training, doing leash corrections and popping my leash, and doing corrections and aversive tools, because that was the way I knew to get rid of unwanted behavior. It wasn't that I didn't want to use a better technique. No one had ever shown me another technique. I don't use those techniques anymore, but I have real compassion for those individuals that do.
I would not be able to work with law enforcement or some of the guide dog organizations that I work with today if I was going to shut them out because they use aversive tools. They invite me in because they're interested in learning more about how to use positive reinforcement effectively, and the best way for me to share that with them is for me to be open-minded about the tools that they're already using.
Most people use the tools they use because they work for them, and so if they're earning a living using those tools in their profession, you can't expect them to just drop those tools and start using something that they've never learned how to use. So if you have to give someone a replacement tool that accomplishes the same task, let them learn how to use that. Then they can quit using the older tools.
I believe that we have to look at those who train differently and say, "OK, you train differently. I bet I could learn from that. Let me learn more about that. And let me show you some techniques that work for me." If, in that conversation, that dialogue, that working together, that partnership, they begin to learn how to use some tools that they didn't know how to use before, then what I can start to see is an approximation toward the desired result of using positive reinforcement more effectively.
We don't expect our animals to jump from doing things that we don't like to things that we desire overnight. We teach our animals through successive approximations. We have to accept the same small steps in our colleagues. And we have to try to be less judgmental about the fact that someone uses a tool that we disagree with.
Just because you disagree with it doesn't mean that that person is evil, doesn't mean that person is bad. That person has a job to do, and right now, that tool is the only tool they know how to use to deal with this situation.
So if I want to see that change, I need to be tolerant, I need to be patient, and I need to be willing to show an alternative response, help them learn to use those alternative tools, and help them get there.
That's exactly what I have begun to see in some of the law enforcement areas that I'm working in. They haven't completely gotten rid of those tools, but when I look over the last fifteen years that I've worked with law enforcement, and I compare where they were fifteen years ago to where they are today, that needle has moved a great deal.
Has it moved all the way over where I'd like it to be? No. But as long as clients are working with me and we're working together, I believe we can make a better world for all animals and teach people about better training.
I have to admit that when I work with some of these skilled trainers that work with guide dogs, that work with search-and-rescue, that work in law enforcement scent detection, some of these trainers are exceptionally skilled. They're really good at timing, they're really good at breaking behavior down, and there's a lot that we can learn from them.
And so, for me, when I start thinking about how to move forward in this world, it's really about teamwork, about working with people, about tolerance, about working together, because if we become such an insulated circle of positive reinforcement trainers, and you can only come into our circle if you fully accept positive reinforcement, then we become an incestuous community that cannot grow.
If we truly want to see it spread, we have to open our doors, we have to not be judgmental, we have to say, "Come on in," because those trainers that you think are doing something so different from you — they actually have a lot to offer, and they have things that each of us can learn from.
In my mind there aren't really different camps. There are just lots of different ways of training. They straddle a mixture of different styles and forms of training. I am a big believer in positive reinforcement. I am a big believer in helping people become better positive reinforcement trainers.
But anybody who says they're purely positive and they never, ever, ever use a punisher can't really understand the science. They're either lying or they just don't understand, because there are aversives in our environment all the time. We may not purposely apply them, but we have to work around them, with them, and understand that they exist.
So being more open to talking about these very difficult subjects is the first way that we're going to be able to work more closely together, and get everybody's buy-in, and move the needle in the right direction.
This is such an important topic, Melissa, and I apologize if I'm going on for too long, but it's really something that matters to me, because I want to see more people adopt positive reinforcement, but I don't want them to be turned off by the vitriolic way some extreme positive reinforcement trainers seem to adhere to that. It's almost like they want to use positive reinforcement with their animals, but they're perfectly OK using punishment with people. And to me, if we really, really want to be excellent at this, we have to learn to use it with everyone. That's a delicate balance, but it's a fight and it's a struggle and it's something that I will continue to strive to make happen.
Melissa Breau: I think it's such an important topic. I couldn't agree with you more. One of the points that you touched on in there that I think is worth driving home is nobody is going to be super-effective with positive reinforcement when they're first learning it. Nobody's good at a new technique right away. If they're extremely effective with their existing techniques, it's going to take a little while to convert them or to teach them how to be effective with new things, new tools.
Ken Ramirez: Absolutely. I know that when I wrote the book The Eye of the Trainer, I ended up dedicating almost two chapters to teaching trainers without turning them off, and talking about the importance of being thoughtful about using these techniques with people, so that we can be better trainers, because so much about being an effective dog trainer is about being an effective people person.
I counsel a lot of college students who are interested in going into veterinary medicine, or going into becoming a trainer, and what I often hear them say is, "I'm really interested in this career because I love animals, but I hate people."
I always have to say, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. You're not going to be successful as a consultant, as a veterinarian, or anything like that, if you're not good with people," because it's very rare that we get hired to live on a deserted island and train animals without any input from anybody else. You are always going to be dealing with people, and it's about working with people, convincing your clients to follow a certain strategy, working with them. You're training your animals, yes, but you're also training people to do that, and we have to get better at using these positive reinforcement techniques with the people in our lives. Parents, coaches, teachers, all of us need to be thoughtful about that when we think about how we interact with each other.
Melissa Breau: I love that. I just think it's incredibly important and so worth having the conversation — and being open-minded to have the conversation, even when it's hard.
Ken Ramirez: Right, right.
Melissa Breau: I've got three questions here that I usually round out my interviews with, and I'd love to talk through those. The first one is: What is the training-related accomplishment you're proudest of?
Ken Ramirez: Oh my, that's a hard one. I think, for me, it's usually the most recent thing that I've done, because I always find challenges. When I worked on the butterfly project that I did in England, I had no idea how to train butterflies. I didn't even know what they ate, whether they could hear or see. I was thrust into that project, had no idea where to begin, and when that project was finished, I felt really, really satisfied.
Another project that I'm currently involved in is an elephant migration project in which we're teaching elephants in Zambia to take a new migration path to avoid poachers. That was a challenging project, but right now we're seeing the beginnings of success with that project, so that is something that I'm really, really proud of.
I'm currently working on a snake avoidance protocol using positive reinforcement. For so many years, a lot of people thought you have to use aversive tools for that. And we're seeing real success with that project.
So the two that most come to mind most are the elephant project and the snake avoidance protocol, just because they're current projects that I'm working on. But when I think back over my career, I was proud of a lot of the things that I've done, because I like taking on new tasks, I like taking on challenges, and each time I have a new challenge, when I finish that project, if I'm successful, I'm usually pretty proud of it. And when I'm not successful, I'm usually proud of what I learned.
Not every project always results in success, but I try to look at, when I have a project that fails, or when I have a project where we didn't come up with the solution that the client wanted, we've usually found a solution that is satisfactory, or at the very least, we've learned something that I can take away and go, "This was valuable for me. I'm going to file this away in my memory bank and don't forget this valuable lesson, because it will be useful to me in the future." When I'm finally able to reframe it in a way that helps me look at future projects, it makes me proud of that.
Melissa Breau: I totally get the most recent thing top of mind. I think that's true for many of us. Whatever we're working on right now, we're excited about and want to share. I know in the book you share eight of your favorite training sayings, but I'm going to ask you to narrow it down and pick just one. What's the best piece of training advice that you've ever heard? Or, if it makes it easier, the one that you think would benefit the most people to hear?
Ken Ramirez: It depends on which audience that I'm speaking to, but one of my own sayings that I use a lot is I like to remind people that training is not a luxury. It is a key component to professional animal care.
So often I come into organizations or situations where people go, "Yeah, I know training's important, but I'll get around to it if I have time. I always am baffled by that, and I say, "That's like saying, 'I know nutrition is important, but I'll get around to feeding the animals if I have time.'" Nobody would think that's acceptable. Animals need to be fed every day. We need to be thoughtful about the learning that they have every day.
I think the reason that nine million pets are euthanized in the United States every year is because too many people take pets into their home without recognizing the importance of training. They just don't think about it as being a part of it. They'll get vet care, they'll take care of making sure they get the right food, but they don't think about the fact that they need training. And so I really believe we have to start with the fact that training is not just something we do for fun. We do it because it helps the animals have better lives. We do it because it helps give them exercise, give them mental stimulation, helps them cooperate in their own care.
That's the advice that I learned early on that I now help impart in almost every consult and client that I take on — reminding them that training is a critical component to good animal care. That's what I try to drive home every single time I work with people, so that they don't brush off training as, "Yeah, yeah, I'll do it if I have time." No. It's important that you do that for this animal's wellbeing.
Melissa Breau: Yeah, yeah. My last one here, and I know that there are a lot of people out there who certainly look up to you in the training world, but who is somebody that you look up to in training?
Ken Ramirez: That's a good question. I have to start by saying Karen Pryor, mainly because I've known Karen for a really long time. I remember picking up Don't Shoot the Dog when that came out. I remember reading Lads Before the Wind. Everything she's written, I remember in my career. She's always been there, she's always been a fixture, and she's somebody who didn't necessarily start with a training background, but yet she gave good advice.
When she turned 80 years old and decided that she was thinking about retiring, and approached me to take the reins of her company and take over her position, I was humbled by that because she had been somebody who I had looked up to, I had looked to for advice, who I'd followed. And so Karen has been one of those people that's been really, really inspirational to me, and someone that I really look up to.
There are other people that I look up to for various other reasons. I think of Dr. Susan Friedman as someone who has inspired me to really embrace the science and look at the science that underpins all the things that we do as trainers. She prompts me and encourages me to think in critical ways about the work I do and to think about it from a scientific perspective.
Other than that, there's been a lot of people that I've come in contact with in my career that really have made a difference. So many trainers inspire me because they do unique things, the way they work with their animals, the advice that they give.
I also had a boss several years ago. He wasn't a trainer. He was a businessman who was the CEO of the Shedd Aquarium. His name was Ted Beattie. He was one of those managers that embodied kindness, teamwork, and positive reinforcement. And although he may have never studied those things, positive reinforcement in school, he managed in a kind way. He got great production from his employees, but it was because he trusted them, he encouraged them, he gave them lots and lots of positive reinforcement, and he is somebody I model myself after when it comes to how I work with people and how I manage people.
I don't know, if I hadn't worked with him for twenty-five years, if I would have gained that kind of background, because I grew up in a very traditional punitive environment. From parents to coaches to teachers, all I remember is being told "No," and "Stop," and "Quit. You're not doing it right." He came into my life, was a manager for me at a time when I was managing other people, and he set this great example for me, and I think it's been exemplary in allowing me to see positive reinforcement in action in a business setting, and it can be done in a way that's very, very effective. So I think that would be another person.
I'm sure if I thought about it longer, I could give you a dozen more people, but those are three names that really have helped me a lot.
Melissa Breau: Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast Ken! You've been so generous with your time and I really appreciate it.
Ken Ramirez: Oh, my pleasure. I enjoyed talking to you. I felt like we could have talked for another hour.
Melissa Breau: You and me both! And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in! We will be back next week with Emily Strong to talk about enriching the lives of our canine companions.
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Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training!