Thursday, October 29, 2009

TAGteach YouTube Channel

Hey, we figured out how to create a YouTube channel. Check it out!

TAGteach at the Niabi Zoo

by Laura Monaco Torelli

This past week I introduced the basic concepts of TAGteach to the trainers at Niabi Zoo. We acquired amazing video of myself tagging the trainers during Colobus and Lion training on Tuesday (stay video to come!). Below is the initial feedback I received from the trainers after they were "tagged":

Colleen (Head Keeper):
"TAG teach made me more conscious of what I was doing as a trainer"

"TAG teach made me realize that what I was trained to do is actually what I'm doing right"

"It was great positive reinforcement as a trainer to let me know I was moving in the right direction"

"It was interesting and helpful to have positive feedback on "my training" behaviors, not always how I am working with the animals"

"TAG teach was helpful because it made me focus in on exactly what I was doing at a certain moment. It's always nice to learn through positive feedback!"

Thanks again to Colleen and her great Team at Niabi for allowing me the flexibility and positive teaching atmosphere to always try something new!

Here is a video showing Laura tagging one of the trainers. The tag point is "hand at home base". This is to help reinforce good training technique and to prevent superfluous hand movements during training that the animal might interpret superstitiously.

Laura is using a ping sound to tell the trainer when she has performed the tag point correctly.

There is more than one clicker training session going on here and so many of the clicks you hear are not directed at the animal in the video. Try to ignore the clicking as you watch and focus on the trainer's left arm. Listen for the "ping" sound when she returns the hand to home base (at her side). Being able to focus only on the tag point and not on all the other things that are going on is one of skills of a good TAGteacher.

Here is another video in which Laura uses "ping" sound to tag the trainer when she meets the tag point. The tag point here is "feed with forceps". Previously the trainers had been feeding from their hands and so using the forceps is a new skill that must be learned. Rather than nagging or reminding, Laura uses a tag point and reinforces with the ping sound when the trainer gets it right. Notice at about second 37, Jessi, the trainer begins to feed with her hand, realizes there was no tag, self assesses and then uses the forceps.

Find out more about Laura at

Friday, October 23, 2009

CE Credits for TAGteach Online Course

The Introduction to TAGteach online course has been approved for 9 CEUs from CCPDT.

This course also satisfies partial requirement for TAGteach Primary Certification.

The course covers the following topics:

Lesson 1: Course Information
Lesson 2: TAGteach Overview
Lesson 3: A New Perspective
Lesson 4: TAGteach Triangle
Lesson 5: Identify – Creating a Tag Point
Lesson 6: Highlight – Using a Marker
Lesson 7: Reinforce – Positive and Practical
Lesson 8: TAG Tactics
Lesson 9: Integrating TAGteach
Lesson 10: Wrap Up

Download a detailed course outline

Download a free demo with working videos

Find out more

Discounts are available for anyone who has attended a live TAGteach seminar as well as students, graduates and faculty from the Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training and Behavior. Contact Theresa (TAGteachers) or Tia (KPA) for more discount codes.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Theresa Goes to Jail

By Theresa McKeon

I was invited to visit the James River Correctional Center for Men and the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Virginia to introduce TAGteach to groups of specially selected inmates. These groups of men and women are involved with the Pen Pals program in which they are paired with a shelter dog to train. Since they use clicker training to train their dogs, they are familiar with the principles underlying the TAGteach approach. Even so, I was a bit concerned that going into a maximum security prison to teach inmates to communicate and be nice to each other might be somewhat of a challenge.

The inmates were very cooperative and enthusiastic about TAGteach. In fact they were the politest, most attentive group I have ever worked with. The women were kind enough to take the time to provide written comments after learning about TAGteach. Some of these are framed below in terms of the TAGteach principles they embody:

Because a core component of TAGteach is to highlight success, leaders become proficient at looking for what is right, instead of focusing on what is wrong. Building on success is a skill that generalizes into a lifestyle.

"It has made me be on the lookout for my teammates’ TAG points, which encourages them while helping create a habit of observation in me.” Theresa- Inmate at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women

“It also made me realize that I need to start looking at the positive in my teammates.I have to rearrange my way of thinking and even communicating.” Tracey- Inmate FCCW

"We are so apt to notice the bad things in people that we overlook the positive.” Denise - FCCW

TAGteach is also designed to prevent confusion and build trust between leader and learner. Condemnatory language inherent in punishment based teaching is replaced with a collection of nonjudgmental tools like, “the tag point is” to initiate behavior, and a non-verbal marker to highlight it.

“In this type of setting, it’s difficult to receive feedback without looking for judgment and/or negativity.
The neutrality of the TAGteach technique makes it possible.” Theresa- FCCW

“It’s not so much a compliment – which can be hard for us to accept – but more of an affirmation that we are being mindful of our actions.

"It has really helped me to focus on my issues, and instead of feeling bad when I do wrong, I now feel positive about myself when I do something right.” Denise - FCCW

The program provides a platform upon which anyone can create achievable goals with clear beginnings and well defined endings. The audible marker component provides a non-judgmental method of marking, magnifying and instantly reinforcing any targeted response. The marker also adds an element of fun, encouraging repetition of success.

“Having taught more than half my life, I’ve always believed any learning should be fun. TAG is fun.” - Janice FCCW.

Success is guaranteed from the first moments as every first tag point is a point of success, something that is already within reach. This reinforces the leader’s goal to look for the positive while setting up a safe learning environment for the student. Each challenge subsequently builds from this point of success and moves towards a finished product.

“Learning TAGteach is a great self-esteem builder and positive reinforcer.
I would suggest that everyone try it.” Tecia - FCCW

“Positively reinforced teachers seeing success in their students due to TAG become more dedicated teachers. Students being positively reinforced by pointing out (tagging) their successes will be more dedicated students. It’s a wonderful positive circle!” Janice – FCCW

"On the next day at work (teaching math and computer aided drafting), I found myself thinking, How can I TAGteach this? Instead of fussing…I started discussing. The immediate result…improved performance and mood. At the end of a fraction session, I had several women tell me this was the first time they hadn’t hated math or felt stupid when dealing with it.” Theresa – FCCW

The men were willing to let us videotape their comments: