Here’s the really awesome thing about working in the training field (well, there’s many but here’s one) there is no right or wrong way to train something! That being said, you’ll find so many different trainers training behaviors in just that many ways. It means there are more people to look up to, and more ways to learn.
Most of my trainer inspirations vary with what species we’re talking about. When I was first headed into the marine mammal field I, along with most others, were taught a good deal by Karen Pryor. She is a renown trainer with a fascinating background starting out with marine mammals in Hawaii, to now owning her own dog clicker training school in Washington. Her platform is strictly positive reinforcement and focuses heavily on markers. Her work is really excellent and I would highly recommend checking out some of her books and videos.
The Monks of New Skete are a great group which has dedicated their lives to raising German Shepard’s and putting them through a rigorous training program. They are balanced trainers, meaning they use training collars to help guide their dogs in the right direction. They have published many books listed below to help others in raising obedient dogs from puppies to adult.
Chad Mackin and Jay Jack have become two of my biggest inspirations as of late. They had a podcast, Dog Training Conversations, together for years up until recently. They are both “balanced” dog trainers, but the reason that I enjoy learning from them so much is because they are constantly evolving and willing to change their methods. Many times trainers will get stuck in a rut that if something works, why change it? In the podcast, they are always challenging each other and playing devil’s advocate for the sake of learning. These guys are a big inspiration because they have dedicated everything they have to evaluate each dog as it walks through their door, and evolve with them. Check them out, they have some seriously good ideas!
Ken Ramirez has been prominent in the marine mammal field for some time now. He’s worked at many facilities but is best known for his work with Shedd Aquarium, and most recently began with Karen Pryor’s Clicker Training Academy. He started a seriously cool behavior where a dog is counting objects, you must check that out here! Also, he was asked recently to help save vanishing wild species through training. Essentially, he and his team were able to train these animals (chimps and elephants) with little to no human contact, how to warn park rangers when poachers were near them saving hundreds of their lives! That project is incredible to me and speaks volumes to what training is capable of doing and why our field is so valuable.
Of course, there are many mentors and other icons I’ve seen through conferences, interviews, etc. along the way that I really look up to as well. As trainers, we all have such unique experiences to be shared, and the possibilities of what is to come from your animal are endless!