Bob Bailey

Animal Training: A Personal History by Bob Bailey ScD

This is a fun get together and it is nice to see the smiling faces. I feel a little sleepy because after listening to Dr. Panksepp yesterday, I went up to my room to redo my presentation (laughter). I decided, I don't exactly know how to tickle trainers to get them more enthusiastic to get them more enthusiastic about what they do but I am looking for enthusiasm. I am trying to get people to be motivated to do things. Tickling trainers is probably not quite the way.

I wanted to begin to talk in different terms. A lto of you are used to listening to me talk about the mechanics of trainers, making it worthwhile for everyone. But I want to get more specific about this enthusiasm and where do I come from? Why did I do what I did? Often stupidly. But I kept doing it and I was persistent as you will see a bit later on. Anyway, let's head on.

The seeking system that was talked about here, the really basic approach, do you want to be better trainers? Do you really want to be better trainers? Why? Want to make more money? Well, yes, probably. But there's probably some other reasons and quite frankly I'm not sure why I am where I am right now. I kept doing things. Often stupidly, again. But I kept doing them. So.

Do you "want" it? Now, I usually used in my speech, want as the basic. But Panksepp says that there's basic. It's the seeking or the persistence or what causes this to be persistent. Are you willing to work for it? I have a functional definition of want that I talk to people about. The functional definition of want is how much are you willing to work for it, how much are you willing to invest in it. Are you motivated to work for it? Are you seeking to be better trainers? The fact that you're here, that must be some indication that you really want to. And, what if others done to satisfy the motivation, this seeking, to really effectively change the behaviors of others? You want to change behavior, right? IThat's what you want to do as trainers, therapists, clinicians, or want to change the behaviors of others, or make it worthwhile for them to change their own behavior. You really can't change behavior, other than your own. All you can do is make it worthwhile for others to change. You can do that with punishment or reinforcement.

Way back when, way back when, Keller Breland, one of his favorite sayings is that "Training the animal is the easy part. It's training the damn people that's hard!" It's really difficult to make them enthusiastic about changing their own behavior because often they want to keep doing what they're doing.

Behavior is lawful. But Ogden Lindsey put it into real terms for me. How many of you have heard about Ogden Lindsey? You need to get on the internet and look up Ogden Lindsey. If you want to look towards people who have worked towards changing behavior, well, Ogden has done virtually everything. He was enthusiastic and he wrote a lot about it. I think you'll... you'll like reading about Ogden Lindsey, he's just a very colorful character.

Animals do what they perceive to them is best for them. Remember about perceiving. It's not always the best thing for them as you see later on. I did a lot of things that were not best for me, but I thought they were pretty good at the time.

Animal training had been around for a long time. Some people seem to think that they had discovered the process, but it's been around for a long time. When you trhink about animal training and psychology, they really haven't been met for very long. Most of these images that I'm showing you here, they are from 3000 or 4000 years ago. Animals were taught to attack, they were trained in Roman times, and for the colloseum and all sorts of entertainment things. Animal training has been around for a long time. You're not discovering a new field let's say. Some of the processes that we use now are somewhat different, certainly the technology of training is new.

Psychology for those of you who are not psychologists. Psychology used to be way back when about philosophy and ethics. But how much is really a science? That's another issue of course. Darwin received a lot of heat of this, the real science of psychology when he drew the relationship between humans and non-human animals. So we ended up with comparative psychology and physiological psychology. And then they started to study and test and measure behavior. And then we get to John Watson.. but if you're interested in the history of animal training, particularly the older period of animal training, Paul Mountjoy has written a fair amount about it and you will find him on the internet.

Pavlov began to describe behavior in detail and Thorndike and Watson objectively described and predicted behavior. Things that they could predict would be happening because of experiments. When Skinner came laong, he described and predicted behavior but he actually started to use it. The opperant conditioning or the behavior analysis or the science-based training that we have today is based on what these fellows collectively put together.

Operant condition was born in the academic laboratory but soon began to solve problems in the real world. But now, I am going to be describing a project, and I'm going to use that as an example of the first real application. There were other applications before that, but this was the first one.

This is Keller Breland with Fred Skinner in 1943. They are working on a project called Project Pelican. How many of you have heard of Skinner's project? Less than half of you. We were at war. Skinner thought that he could press some of his animals into service for the country. He was working with graduate students where pidgins would be trained to guide a bomb. The bomb was called pelican. It was a navy project. Very quickly, the technology or let's say the science he was working on was translated into a technology of guiding this bomb where the animal would pick a certain place at a certain time.. it would operate tailfins and there was a system and an optical system that presented a screen to the pidgin. The pidgin would peck at the screen and keep whatever the object it was supposed to respond to, centered in the screen. It never went to fruition where they actually dropped bombs, but it was operated in a control tower where they had an apparatus where they could simulate a bomb being dropped into a target. Just as if dropping real bombs. This is what it looked like.

The first commercial application of operant conditioning was the animal behavior enterprises.

The pidgin is pecking at the key, they describe that, the admirals that were looking at this, could not believe that bird was really doing this. As you can see, the pidgin was keeping, it was a navy project, later on they used it for other things, but the pidgin did very well. It was, as far as the pidgin was concerned, it was successful at what it did.

Modern animal training. Most would agree that modern animal training is based on operant conditioning. I am stating what most of you already know. There are some people still beating on the dog, that's operant conditioning.. modern training of animals is based on operant conditioning. Skinner is the one that who really created this particular science and technology beginning with the behavior of organisms (1938) and that the first practicioners were Keller and ... and in 1943, Marian and Keller Breland. They decided they would leave school, they finished everything except for their dissertations, theyl eft school and went to Mound, Minnessota, and they went to a farm and began to train animals. They began using such things as conditioned reinforcers, doing it at some distance, these are... some of the animals that they were working with.

Keller trained 6 field dogs and took them to the various training clubs at the time. Won a number of competitions with clicker trained field dogs. And of course the trainers at the time just totally disregarded this. Clicker trained budgy in 1943. Working with other birds, like budgy, and sheeps and goats and so on, you will see the hand-held clicker in front of the parakeet. It was a hand-made clicker because you could not buy a clicker in those days. Why not? Because all of the clickers were being used by the military. They were .. all of the clickers went to the military and they were used as signalling devices. So they had to build their own.

Later on they designed another type of clicker, and this was an actual patent that they got, for a clicker. Of course it was rejected at the time. Breland Master-Mind dog training kit (~1955). Using food to train your dog was just frowned upon as an idea at the time. I want to bring out here.. there is nothing magic about a clicker regardless of whatever... it's an excellent condition reinforcer when used appropriately. But there's nothing special about it. You can use a whistle or just anything you want. It happens to be convenient and precise. I don't use the clicker unless I really need it.

Are you willing to learn the skill of the primary reinforcer? That's much of the "magic" of training if you want to call it magic. That's the key. The mechanical skill that's involved, whether it's the clicker or not, you still have to deliver that primary. Often that is ignored. The clicker ends the behavior- well no, the animal does not stop learning when you click the clicker. Trainers should be willing to invest in their skills. You being here shows that you are willing to invest and shows some enthusiasm and that's good.

How do we inspire that same enthusiasm in people that you want to teach that we would like to teach? That is something that we can inspire if we are good at what we do. The Brelands published a paper in 1951 called A field of Applied Animal Psychology (1951). That announced that Skinner's work, the technology of operant conditioning was ready for prime time even though it wasn't being accepted at the time. It worked.

They were already, the Brelands were already, producing quality behavior at ABE, in large quantities. When I say quality behavior, they were very reliable, they worked for anyone, Brelands caused it overtraining today. Today it is "fluency". If you are interested in fluency, Ogden LIndsey, again read him about fluency and in turn they will refer you to Kyle Binder.. or others who are still working on this.

ABE trainers worked for a minimum one year before they could train animals under supervision. We look for seekers. To find out those people who are really seekers. They had to work for our company for 1 year before they were allowed to train. They worked for a hard-bitten marine that went through the pacific campaign, Greg Wiley was his name, you had to be a Wiley helper for 6 months or a year. You took care of animals for a year. This took care of the non-enthusiastic non-seeker people, they were gone. We had a good selection system. We were a for-profit company. We were interested in people who would adhere to our protocols and training efficiency. They learned to maintain behavior accuracy, they had to keep records, and they learned the value of time.

By 1984, our trainers had trained over 15,000 animals and I have no idea beyond that, and I didn't keep track after that. Over 140 species. We were known for reliability, speed and accuracy, and ABE animals would work for any handler. Our secret was training our own trainers and our own clients' trainers. So we worked on training trainers. And again we looked for enthusiastic people. They were usually seniors in high school, college kids and the like, and they were usually pretty enthusiastic, that was part of the selection process. How do we build on the enthusiasm? That was on the heart of our work.

ABE animals were trained by many trainers and they adapt to any handler during their performance. Our trainers because of their enthusiasm routinely worked with 12 chickens at a time. There are training 12 chickens, or six rabbits at the same time. They are really training 6 rabbits. 6 ducks at a time. 3 dogs at one time. 3 macaws at one time. Often all doing different behaviors. That means focus. They have to pick and choose what they are doing, and that's part of the teaching process.

Reinforcement, what we considered to be the key to training success, our trainers learned about the process of reinforcement. You get exactly the behaviors, reinforced exactly what you want. Reinforced only the behaviors that you want and never keep, most important, never reinforce behaviors that you don't want. Ever hear of the matching law? The dear old matching law. Look it up. Very important in training, probably one of the keys of success of ABE is that they recognized the matching law long before there was a matching law. You get what you reinforce, not what you want.

Just as an example of what research did for them is the fact that in the space of 10 years, they cut the time for training a chicken to dance and operate in the environments in which they had to operate, they cut it in half in 10 years. They cut it in half. They were pretty good to begin with. But they improved with research by a half. Why was speed so important?

Why was the speed of training and accuracy of the animal so important? Well, ABE made more money. I missed a slide here. Talk about the matching law, the fact of fluency, and any time you talk about fluency, time is important. Again, read Ogden LIndsey you will find that if you take forever to train an animal, the behavior will not be as good, it will not usually be as precise as if the animal formed the behavior quickly and accurately and right from the very beginning. And also it made us money of course.

Very early in the game, the Brelands invested 10 to 20% and I continued that when I began running the company. I put 10 to 20% of our gross. Now think about that. The gross. Into developing new things. 10 to 20% went into development of new things. Trainers received cash bonuses for developing new techniques, faster ways, more accurate ways of training behavior using reinforcement to get enthusiastic behavior.

We worked with Arkansas farm boys. All of you have clients and you may think that our trainers who are sophisticated college people and so on, well virtually no trainer that we had was a college graduate. I can say that we never had a college graduate as a trainer.. well we had one. Collin. But they were Arkansas farm boys, they knew the value of hard work, they were enthusiastic and it just seemed to come from them.

At the time, this would not be true in this room, at the time, contemporary trainers did the training quickly cheaply and wrong. So much of the time when we saw it, whe nI saw the training that was going on at the time, and I'm afraid thats still the case. There are inefficient techniques, really harsh treatment of the animal. Things that went on there that just don't need to be going on.

This was an early manual in 1955. It was kind of a viral thing it spread over the country. Marine Studios training manual. This is what the Brelands wrote at .. now in Florida. It was all over the country. That was the real beginning of manuals in ocean area.

Instinctive dirft and "Misbehavior of Organisms" by Keller and Marian Breland; American Psychologist, 1961. They developed this idea early on that there was a concept of instinctive behavior, something you have learned about this morning. This was back in the early 60s. They tried to convince the animal training communities in the 1950s that this was the case, but it wasn't until the "Misbehavior of Organisms" that it got into print.

This is a typical statement from writings of the 1950s and 1960s. "In any operant situation, the stimulus, the response, and the reinforcement are completely arbitrary and interchangeable. No one of them bears any biologically built-in fixed connection to the others." (Teitelbaum, 1966, pp 566-567). Any animal can become anything, the same as any other animal, that was a very strong opinion that was held back then. This was the 40s, 50s and 60s.

This book by the way, by the Brelands, "Animal Behavior", you can still buy it on ebay. It's a good book. By the 1980s and 1990s, Gary Wilks and others, really opened the dog training in the mass market. They are the ones.. it wasn't the Brelands who brought it to the mass market. There was no mass market at the time. There was no internet for transmitting information.

When Sealand opened, everyone knew about dolphin training. But flipper was probably the first introduction. It was the Brelands who really pioneered the use of the technology many years before that. And here is where I am going to talk about myself.

Try to think fo this kid. Why did he do what he did in those days? I am not very sure right now other than what I've been listening to this morning and yesterday. I consider myself a systems engineer right now. I did do some things that were unusual. You can see some of the sorts of the things that we were doing at the time. I am working in Europe with the military and covert operations over in Europe. There is nothing special about me. It is kind that you give me wonderful words, but there is nothing special about me, anybody can do what I did, I was at the right place at the right time, I prepared myself. Why did I prepare myself? I have no idea, it was just fun. I was enthustiatic about myself. I figured it was a good thing to do, and sometimes it did not wtrun aout well, and it was fun at least part of the time. I had a standard upbringing and a standard family.. My mom tolerated a bunch of things, I mucked around in the ground a lot.

WW2 came about and that moved me from the east to the west and I ended up in Southern California, mostly in .. and the san ferdinand valley. We went out to the desert a lot. Our family enjoyed roaming around. It was an enthusiastic family. And there's.. mom and my silings with me. We went rabbit hunting and other wonderful things. Where I lived in the Valley, Dad was a precision machinist and he was in the industry and they built aircraft. That was the San Fernando Valley that I knew back then. Well now there's 2 million people living there now. There were less than 100k people when I moved in back then. It was an agricultural community.

An early experience that I had that really played on my enthusiasm. How many of you know Bill and Coo? Oh man, that's terrible. Absolutely terrible. You all need to get on the internet and order Bill and Coo from Amazon and see what they were doing in 1947. It has only little birds in it. No people. It's a story. It's a short thing. But it won an academy award for something. Bill and Coo, you can get it today.

I watched animals in those days. Animals were all over the place. Rattle snakes. Scorpions. I emptied out the classroom when I brought in the scorpion. I thought it was a good idea at the itme. My heroes were Martin and Osa Johnson. Look them up on the internet. They were recording animals in the 1920s in Africa. I learned to carry a notebook and record my observations.I don't know what a 12 year old can really know about recording behavior, but I was enthusiastic. My classmates at the time.. Marilyn Monroe was there before me. It was a bedroom community for the movie industry. I did lots of things.. active. I was enthusiastic.

I operated lathes. My dad was a precision machinist and he had a complete workshop in the backyard. When I was 12, I operated lathes, punch presses, mills, and surface grinders. I kept all of my fingers. I built Tesla coils. I built a Wilson cloud chamber, an 8-inch telescope, ground the mirrors myself, I built the high school ceremonial cannon that can fire whenever you make a touchdown, boom. And I made zip guns. That's how I earned my money. The kids couldn't buy guns, so I made zip guns clandestinally in the workshop. I was not an academic major, but I took physics, chemistry, solid geometry, algebra, that was my electives, it was fun. I was blown up in a rocket explosion at age 14, I spent 6 months in a hospital. I fell while climbing 10,000 feet in Mt. San Jacinto, fell 50 feet, because ... I didn't drive it in properly. I raced boats and cars at 18. I went surfing every chance I got.

If there is a stupid mistake that a kid could make, I'm sure I made it somewhere. I wanted to have fun and I was willing to pay the price. The question is, are you willing to pay the price with whatever you want to do. Ask yourself these questions. Are you having fun? Are you really having fun with what you're doing? Do you want to have more fun? Are you looking to have more fun? Are you really looking to have fun? Are you willing to pay the price for having more fun? Are you enthusiastic about having fun? Ask yourself every day, am I better off now than I was yesterday? Are you? And I mean really ask the question, and then let your behavior be governed by whether you are better off now than you were before.

By the late 50s, when UCLA, I went to .. I was hired as the head collector and I went all over the place and did neat things. I joined the military by then, I was going to UCLA and the military at the same time, I went to the US navy diving school at Terminal Island CA. I had scuba gear. But i thought it was more impressive to show a hard hat because that's more impressive.

What I do today, what I was doing back then was really influenced greatly by my understanding of biological evolution. I suggest that all of you, any of you that trains animals should have some idea of the biological history or the evolutionary history of the animal you're working with. This is just.. it was where I worked. I was being paid for this. The university was paying me as a photographer and a field collector to do these things. I earned a lot of money, $15/diving hour in 1957 and that was a lot of money.

I learned how to track animals. I had another friend who worked with me a lot who was tracking animals. The animal behavior that I saw in the wild, and I spent a lot of time watching animal behavior, there it was more complex than what I was taught in the few psychology classes that I had. Animals changed behavior and they would solve complex problems. I actually began to modify behavior.

With Kangaroo rats, coyotes, wood rats, and the like, I began to change what they were doing. I can't really describe the process, in the middle of the desert, if any of you know where Palm Bail, there were 3 fields of this al falfa, you have fields, you're going to have rabbits and where you have rabbits you have coyotes. I had located the coyote dens. And I was starting to track how the coyotes got to the fields. For some reason, I decided that I wanted to know if I could change the behavior. In a space of 9 months of work, of screwing around, 6 months of, after 3 months of failure, I found the way to do it. After 6 months, I could change the behavior of coyotes 85% of the time. I could figure out which field they could go to. They were a pack. I hadn't realized at the time, that was the first time in this sort of environment that anyone had really predictably changed behavior. That's what I did. Coyotes, to al falfa fields, and I could predict 85% which way they could go. I could make them go the way I wanted them to.

When I described this to the psychology professors, they said, "it's just instinctive behavior, there's nothing really going on there". I disagree vehemently. The psychology class was the only class I've ever been tossed out of. I won't describe the details. The behavior that I was seeing out there, not just what I did, but the animal behavior was too variable and complex and too much changed with experience. I learned to distrust formalized schools of psychology. I became a skeptic of what was being taught. I was just an undergraduate. My interpretation of the psychologist behavior was too much lever pressing and not enough real world animal behavior. I am not being judgemental...

What I learned in physics, chemistry and biology was to ask the right question. The first question is probably going to be wrong. You keep asking the question. You follow the data. Don't jump to conclusions. You have to get rid of your biases. It's a smell test, is it really right? At least the first two answers are wrong. You learn to be wrong and to change your behavior. If your answer cannot be disproved, there is no way to disprove this, then you're not doing science. You're believing something that can't be changed, that's not science.

After UCLA, I became a biochemist and I worked on chromatography and other things, and I went to biology at California Fishi.. sometthing. I went down to the desert, but not with all the wonderful equipment, I had my own VW beetle and I went mucking around in Mexico. Then I was hired along as a US Navy dolphin project. I met the Brelands. Bailey joined ABE in 1965. keller Breland died in 1965. Our objective, our objective was to combine animal training with evolutionary biology, whatever you wish to call it, I joined in 1965.

One of the experiments from the early 1950s.. the pig was doing things, it did a behavior and they found that if they played a sound between the time the animal did the behavior and it got to the food, the food delivery, and sometimes that was 40 or 50 feet away, the animal's behavior was much faster than if there was no sound. There was some reinforcing quality that the sound finally evolved into. Later on I used that in this program here where we were guiding the cats. And I'm sure you were familiar with the CIA and the guided cats that they have in the Smithsonian. These cats were being guided.

This was my view of what my animal is. Animals have been successful for a billion years. They are good at what they do, otherwise they wouldn't be there. And we need to take advantage of that. Animal training is all about that. But you don't really have to know about all of those things.

Observe the animal's behavior, correctly apply principles, develop the mechanical skills, just do the circumstances. Know what you want. Know what you want and make the training worthwhile. You make the animal happy if you will with what's going on so that they will play your game. I was fortunate here, I was awarded a doctorate and I was very proud of this.

What can a mentor do for you? What can you do as a mentor for someone else? You can motivate them. Make use of their skill or their seeking behavior. Inform them. Question gently, but don't beat on them. There's the solace, there's a time when someone is going to be wrong and you turn to your mentor, and you mentor someone and you give them solace, that's okay because we're all wrong sometimes.

Ken Norris was one of my mentors (1924-1998). A method of asking questions and making it difficult to lie about the answers. That's all it is. A bunch of guys can do science for weeks in the desert without killing each other. They do stupid things. Marian and Keller.. they were just fantastic. They were both geniuses in their own ways, and I was fortunate to work with them. Grant Evans (1914-1997), a real technical genius and he understood the principles and he was willing to talk about them. All of these people were good with philosophy. Kent Burgess is probably the most productive and accurate animal trainer that I've known. He was really good.

How could I go wrong with all that? When you have people like that directing your behavior, how could that go wrong? It was good knowing Skinner. My suggestion to you is to get good mentors and be a good mentor. Trust but verify. Don't believe it just because you heard it. Check it out for yourself. Be prepared to admit when you are wrong. Be ware of something something who claims the truth. My kind of animal training. Get precise behavior, make it worthwhile to play the game for the animal, gather data, be prepared to record what you do, and base your work on science.

This technology that I am describing does not belong to me. There is nothing secret about it. I did not originate it. This technology can be taught to other people without any problem. Always owrking with people is more difficult than working with animals. Repeat, I don't own nor did I discover that work. These are my practices. Precise timing. Quick decisions. Observing behavior. Fast trials. More reinforcement. If you want more, then expect more. This is the last part right here. Okay.

We have evolved a way of teaching trainers and here are some examples of ... The Brelands and Baileys have taught animal trainers for over 65 years using chickens as behavior models. The chicken is making changes from the left and right based on red or blue lasers. As you can see this chicken going from left and right, .. and here the chicken has to negotiate a course and peck at a target on cue at the end. It has to wait for it to peck. And it so happens that the trainer selected a picture of my partner and myself to be pecked and I'm not sure if that's some indication of frustration on the part of the trainer, or a sign of affection, I'm not sure, but.. Anyway, the bird is going to go through the course and it is going to wait until it is given the cue, and I will tell the trainer when to do it. The trainer does not decide when to turn it on, I will tell the trainer when to turn on the cue. And she is describing now the course work here. The chicken is put down, it has to go through the tunnel, and believe me, chickens do not like going through small places. Make a color selection here, it has to wait, and wait, and wait. It has to wait. There, okay. That's it. And there's a lot of cheering when that takes place.

Critical thinking. When this came out, has anyone seen this? How did they train the fish? I could not believe the people that were emailing me and telephoning me. How did they get the fish to do this? Did they really train the fish to do this? If it doesn't pass the smell test, there's something wrong with it. You get the idea.

Life is a risk. Be prepared. Training the animal is the easy part. Being a skeptical inquirer. Know your source of information. Don't waste your time rediscovering the wheel. Make it worthwhile for the animal. Have fun. Learn the matching law. There's a paper in the Animal Behavior Analyst in 2005. That's all, thank you very much.