Sunday, October 10, 2010

Book 5: Carrots and Sticks

I was very excited about this book, a textbook on animal training! A new one! Carrots and Sticks, Principles of Animal Training by Paul McGreevy and Robert Boakes is a 2007 book that is a very science based look at training.

The layout is great. They use a ton of citations to studies, but could have cited more for other information sources. The pictures are great. I learned about several researchers and projects I had not been aware of before. The content was very well organized, but it definitely seemed that the authors are more familiar with the scientific papers than how training is actually applied.

Griffin apparently chooses sticks...?

The first half of the book goes through instincts, learning theory, fear/punishment/avoidance, and animal intelligence. The other half is about case histories. Descriptions are giving of various species and various tasks. I loved reading about all the training solutions and was constantly surprised about how these solutions were NOT what I would have done most of the time (a lot of modeling!).

I was surprised to quite a few errors. There were a few places where stuff did not make sense and seemed to be filler that was never deleted. The section on LRS (least reinforcing stimulus) seems to be incorrect. There were mis-spellings and misunderstandings of some animal training activities or props. For example... bird trainers have these little training stands called "T stands" ...because they're shaped like a T. The book called them 'Tea-stands." It's not a big deal... but it was mildly annoying.

It also might be a more interesting read for people who have NOT just taken five million psychology classes. Most of the content was rather repetitive to what I have recently learned, but I would have probably had a different experience if I read this even just a few years ago.

I wish it had a greater emphasis on how to apply what we know from studies. I'm familiar with the information, I just don't always know how to apply it to make my training sessions more efficient.

I would pass this on to what types of people...? This is a great book for anyone wanting an overview of the science behind training. It is not for someone who wants to train his or her dog to do X or as a how-to of any sort. It's not the most thorough overview, there were many parts that left me with quite a few questions.
Favorite part? I loved the case studies. They could be more detailed and I sure wish there was video to accompany the sessions. I can't believe progress was made so quickly for some of the behaviors. And for others...I'm just surprised the training plan worked.
Least favorite part: There seemed to be a few possible errors and a lot of modeling that supposedly worked. I wish the authors knew more about animal training and would piece together more information directly. I'm not entirely sure who the audience of the book is supposed to be. College students? Animal trainers?

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