Empowerment Training is a guide for professional animal trainers to promote behavioral well being in companion animals by conditioning for empowerment. It brings together a vast body of research on topics related to empowerment and general behavioral well being, summarizing the research findings and providing practical rehabilitation strategies and tactics. It presents a triadic model of empowerment, rehabilitate disempowered companion animals and contribute to allowing the best possible experience in life.
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What reviewers are saying...
Midwest Book Review
Creativity lies in all of us, it's drawing it out that proves to be difficult. Empowerment Training: Training for Creativity, Persistence, Industriousness, Resilience, & Behavioral Well-Being delves into the specifics of empowering animal trainers to empower their animals using research of recent years. With extra advice on dealing with companion animals who have lost the drive to be trained and helping the animal find their own happiness in their lot, "Empowerment Training" is a powerful read for animal trainers who struggle with getting the most out of their animals. James A. Cox
THE APDT CHRONICLE OF THE DOG
“One thing you can count on in reading a James O'Heare book is that it will be scientifically sound, and any methods or techniques suggested will always be in support of positive, force-free techniques and methods. I commend him on both counts. In his recent book, Empowerment Training, O'Heare shares information for professional animal trainers so they can train in such a way as to promote behavioral wellbeing, which includes training for creativity, persistence, industriousness and resilience. O'Heare is well qualified to impart the information, having many certified behavior designations, being the Director of The Association of Animal Behavior Professionals, as well as having written 10 books about animal behavior. The design of the book non-glitzy, which is what one expects from a scientific book. No photos, one flow chart and one diagram. It's also rather short - a mere 105 pages, compared to another of his books I've read, Aggressive Behavior in Dogs, which is 451 pages. However, don't let the number of pages fool you. There's a wealth of scientific research information summarized within the first half of the book, followed by a review of the basic principles of behavior, before moving into the empowerment training strategies. The point of the book, as O'Heare states in the preface, is to "... explore the notion of empowerment and describe a training strategy and set of tactics that will promote empowerment." This intrigued me, as when I'm feeling empowered, I feel confident, capable, and happy, which certainly gives me an overall sense of wellbeing. Having read a variety of books on the science of learning in animals (EXCEL-erated Learning by Pam Reid, Carrots and Sticks by McGreevy and Boakes, How Dogs Learn by Mary R. Burch, Ph.D. and Jon S. Bailey, Ph.D., and Don't Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor, to name a few), I must admit to having to read diligently to get through the first half of the book (consisting of chapters 1 and 2), which summarizes a wealth of scientific research studies and lays the groundwork for providing practical rehabilitation strategies and tactics. I appreciated O'Heare admitting to not condoning some of the methods used in a few of the studies, even stating that they are horrific, prior to summarizing them; nonetheless they were difficult for me to read because of the abuse the animals received in the process. His summaries in these chapters help the reader understand the serious unintended consequences of positive punishment and negative reinforcement. For anyone knowledgeable about behavior, respondent conditioning, operant conditioning, and schedules of reinforcement, you’ll find chapter 3 a nice review (and perhaps good study material in preparation for the CPDT exam). In chapter 4, Empowerment training: strategies and tactics, O’Heare gives us the general tactics of empowerment training versus specific tasks, and suggests the trainer make their own decision about specific behaviors to train and how to arrange specific environments to achieve empowerment effects. His underlying strategy is to “establish a history of reinforcement for behavior patterns that are generally productive and efficient under circumstances that are potentially frustrating (extinction) or aversive.” He believes this will “prepare them [the animal] with the general problem-solving skills needed to contact the greatest possible enjoyment in life.” These general tactics include such things as:
• ensuring physical needs are met
• sharing fun experiences with the animal (relationship building)
• maximizing positive reinforcement
• precluding aversive stimulation and when aversive cannot be avoided, training a highly effecting coping behavior, as well as using a safety signal to minimize stress (such as an "I'll be back soon" cue when leaving a dog with separation distress
• persistence/industriousness training and using specific suggested reinforcement schedules, with a strong emphasis on moving to an intermittent schedule
• using shaping to train creativity (for those not familiar with shaping, you'll find some solid and useful information in this last chapter)
I'd recommend this book for someone who loves the science of learning and who has been training professionally for a few years. Otherwise the scientific language that makes up all of the content could be a bit overwhelming. While O'Heare does periodically use examples, a less experienced reader could benefit from more examples to help him or her understand the concepts and theories. Overall, the book gave me some insight into the qualities that make up empowerment, caused me to give thought to how I train and finally, confirmed to me, with supportive evidence, that manipulating the environment to set the animal up for success, using positive reinforcement to train behaviors and using shaping techniques can not only bring out the best in our companion animals, but will allow them to have the best possible experience in life. Isn't that what we all want for ourselves and our animals?” Lisa Lyle Waggoner CPDT-KA, founder of Cold Nose College