Magic Tricks! A Secret to Improving Training for You and Your Learner

Saturday, Oct. 7

11:00AM - 12:40PM

Experience Level: Lecture Only

Trainers don’t always take “trick” behaviors seriously, but trick behaviors are a powerful method of motivating handlers and learners of all levels.

Ask anyone what a “trick behavior” is and the response will likely be similar to:

  • “Behaviors that are fun to train!” 

  • “Behaviors that are fun for the learner.” 

  • “Something entertaining to watch.” 

  • “An unusual behavior put on cue.” 

  • “Behaviors not taken seriously by the trainer.”

Successful trick training requires the same effective skills that more commonly trained behaviors require. In many cases, training a trick behavior can require handlers to use tools they have never (or rarely) used before. This often increases the handlers’ overall skills.

Michele Pouliot began training trick behaviors when she first discovered clicker training in 1999. Although her career prompted Michele to develop a very serious use of clicker training for guide dogs for the blind, she believes that her deep experiences with training tricks are most responsible for her personal development as a positive reinforcement trainer. Why? Trick training provides variety for both the trainer and the learner. Variety prompts more creativity in training decisions and keeps training sessions more interesting.

Trick training is not “assembly-line training.” It continues to bring something new and stimulating to a learner’s repertoire and expands the training skills of the teacher. The intrinsic results are eagerness from the learner and continued enthusiasm for training in general for the trainer.

Join Michele for this enjoyable presentation to learn how trick training can help motivate trainers and learners and result in more joyful training sessions for everyone involved.

Presenter Bio

Michele Pouliot

In 2016, Michele retired from her 42-year career as a guide dog mobility instructor with Guide Dogs for the Blind, the largest North American guide dog school. She personally trained over 350 guide dog teams during her career. Before entering the guide dog field, she was a professional in equestrian disciplines, mentoring under Linda Tellington Jones.

In 1972, Michele began her interest in dog training when she acquired her first puppy, a Labrador. She became fascinated with the comparisons of how dogs and horses learn, stimulating her interest and pursuit in professional dog training. This resulted in her flipping her hobbies and seeking a career in dog training. She continues to have horses in her life.

After 30 years of traditional training experience, Michele discovered Clicker Training around 2000, and her training has never been the same. As Director of Research and Development for client and dog programs at Guide Dogs, Michele initiated the adoption of positive reinforcement methods in guide dog training. Michele also served as an International Assessor of guide dog programs for the International Guide Dog Federation, completing assessments on guide dog schools in Norway, Austria, Czech Republic, France, Japan, Holland, and Great Britain.

In her “hobby world,” Michele has actively competed in both horse and dog sports since 1970. For 20 years she successfully competed in dog obedience and agility with her Labradors, English Springer Spaniels (3 OTCH Titles), and a Great Dane. She qualified a client’s Great Dane for the Gaines National Obedience competition, scoring in the top ten.

In 2006, Michele became fascinated with a new sport, Canine Musical Freestyle, and began a dog sport journey she continues to love. The sport was a perfect fit with positive reinforcement methods and provided challenging training experiences for her ongoing development as a trainer. Michele competes in canine freestyle with her English Springer Spaniels and Australian Shepherds. She thoroughly enjoys this artistic sport that combines precision obedience with trick behaviors, and challenges her creative side through music and choreography. Over her 16 years in this sport, Michele has won 4 international competitions and attained 9 Championship and 7 Grand Championship titles.

In 2007, Karen Pryor invited Michele to join her faculty for Clicker Expo Conferences. At Clicker Expo, Michele presents on the effective application of clicker techniques for a variety of dog sports, general training, and guide/service dog training. Michele has an online freestyle course through the Karen Pryor Academy and an online course through the IAABC on training desired behavior around distractions.

Michele is sought after for her seminars and workshops due to her clarity of instruction and entertaining style of presentation. Over her 51+ years of animal training she has presented scores of seminars across North America and abroad. Michele has been a driving force in bringing science based Clicker Training to the entire guide dog training industry. She has extensively promoted the adoption of positive reinforcement methods internationally within the guide and service dog fields. The International Guide Dog Federation presented Michele with a lifetime achievement award, in 2016, for her global work to improve programs by maximizing positive reinforcement methods.