Kynology Symposium Two July 1-5, 2024


The Michael Ellis School for Dog Trainers
3641 Stony Point Rd.
Santa Rosa, Ca. 95407

Email if you have additional questions before registering. However please note that this event will sell out very fast, so we can’t guarantee a spot if you send us an email and miss out on registering before all spots are filled.

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A five-day conversation about dog training with Michael Ellis, Forrest Micke, and Stewart Hilliard– This event will be an exploration of the science, historical development, and practical technique of one of the enduring technical challenges of working with dog behavior—aversive control of behavior.

Our theme will be how to use aversive contingencies to gain positive control of dog behavior without a) causing tension, avoidance, or fearfulness in the dog, b) damaging your relationship with the dog, or c) making of your dog a passive object of the training process rather than an active learner.

We will delve deeply into the science of aversive control and the history of conceptions about aversive control, and then use what is known on scientific and practical levels to present methods and techniques. The focus will be on meticulously preparing dogs to successfully and actively negotiate situations featuring aversives, and then using aversives in minimal form, and effectively, to accomplish three categories of training goals: Suppress undesirable behaviors, render trained behaviors stable and reliable across a very wide range of situations under extinction (no + reinforcement or – reinforcement) conditions, and to make our dogs more resilient to stress.

The event will be anchored by scientific presentations from Dr. Hilliard about specific behavior and training topics, but only loosely scheduled so as to permit discussion to “flow” as interests and events guide it. Organization of the event will be unconventional—There will be no “handling slots.” Participants are encouraged to leave their dogs home and bring their intellectual appetite and their notebooks only. We will support the lectures by conducting training/demonstration sessions with select dogs made available by their owners for the event, to show the principles and operations and, most importantly, the training progressions as behavioral requirements/criteria are methodically advanced.

Both working dog and companion dog specialists are welcome and should find much to inform their daily pursuit of the art. Whether in working dog pursuits or daily life, dog behavior is dog behavior, and on a deep level the specific technical challenges in working dog and companion dog disciplines have more commonalities than differences.

Topic 1—Pavlovian Conditioning
The functioning of the brain and the measurement of dog spit; why Pavlovian Conditioning is not as simple as you were taught it is, and why it is not secondary in importance to instrumental/operant conditioning.

Topic 2—Instrumental Conditioning
So what’s the deal with Instrumental vs Operant Conditioning, why are there two f%&ing names? And how does the contingency square steer us wrong?

Topic 3—Ivan, again, that a$$hole? The Misbehavior of Organisms
Why and how Ivan (Pavlov, not Balabanov) is out to f%#k you and your dog over……

Topic 4—The Aversive in Aversive Control
The slippery and relative topic of hedonic value, and how a + reinforcer can cause stress, and how a + punisher can bring comfort.

Topic 5—Punishment
The changing “truth” about punishment: Does it work? And is it the opposite of + reinforcement?

Topic 6—Escape and Avoidance
How escape and avoidance bring the Pavlovian and Instrumental threads together, and how a stimulus that doesn’t feel good can be a + reinforcer.

Topic 7—Signals for Punishment and Reinforcement
When inducive methods aren’t nice anymore and compulsive methods aren’t mean anymore– turning the contingency square on its head.

Topic 8—The Creation of New Behaviors: From Col. Konrad Most to Patient Chipmunks
Historical methods to create new behaviors in dogs under training, so that these behaviors can be rewarded and modified, and how the leash has come full circle from instrument of force to conduit of information.

Topic 9—Bill Koehler’s Revenge—Contemporary Methods for Punishment and Negative Reinforcement
Putting it all together—Use of informative and minimal coercion against a background of + reinforcement to produce an active, unafraid learner with agency and spirit, but also obedience to command.

Event Details

Start date: July 01, 2024

End date: July 05, 2024