Feline Behavior Solutions: Teaching Foundation Behaviors for Modifying Behavior
About the Course
Overview: Modification of any problematic or unwanted behavior requires mechanical skill, knowledge of species-specific behavior, and experience with a variety of strategies and techniques. This course will provide opportunities for anyone who works with cats to gain all of that, and more. Each of the five weeks is packed with information that can be directly and immediately applied to a variety of cat behavior cases, from aggression to anxiety and from fighting to fear. This course was created for cat behavior consultants who are looking to take on more advanced cases, or cat lovers simply looking to teach cats specific skills. Content is relevant to anyone who works with cats in a professional, volunteer, or personal capacity. Students must possess a basic understanding of marker training.
Class Schedule: The class will run for five weeks total.
Required Course Materials:
- Access to at least one cat…
- Throughout the duration of this course
- That is social and friendly
- That has not been previously, formally trained
- That is food, touch, praise, or toy motivated
- Note: Access to multiple cats is recommended as “backup” in case your primary isn’t feeling well or isn’t in the mood to train
- Ability to record, trim, and upload videos with audio of cat training sessions
- Clicker (iclick recommended)
- Target stick (to be discussed in week 1, can be made or purchased - check out examples here and here)
- Cat rewards (to also be discussed in week 1)
Week #1 - Tools, Techniques, and Targets
- Summary: We begin this course with a review of various tools, techniques, and tips that can be useful when addressing feline behavior problems. One such example is target training, which can be an incredibly useful skill for addressing a variety of behavior problems, such as aggression, scratching, boredom, and more. Students will establish a baseline understanding of what could be in their toolbox, ideas for determining reinforcers, determining rate of food delivery, and more. This knowledge will be applied as students learn how to target train a cat using clicker training, discuss applications, and practice target training to their cats.
- Identify which rewards your cat prefers, the marker your cat is comfortable with, and define that marker for your cat (pair with reward).
- Post a video of one of your training sessions and discuss what you did well and what could use improvement.
- Post a positive comment on at least one fellow student’s training video.
Week #2 - Improving Mechanical Skill
- Summary: I explain marker training to my clients like this: training with just food is like cutting bread with a butter knife. It gets the job done, but the edges are a little rough. Marker training is like cutting bread with a scalpel, the edges are clean and precise.” To modify many cat behaviors, skill in marker training is essential. However, the results are only as clean and precise as the skill itself. This week students will learn about setting criteria, adjusting rates of reinforcement, assessing progress, DRI/DRO/DRA, and more.
- Post video of target training your cat, in which you repeatedly make the same mistake. Discuss the mistake, how you felt when you “caught” it, and how you plan to move forward.
- Post a video of target training your cat, in which you are no longer making the mistake.
- Post a positive comment on at least one fellow student’s training video.
Week #3 - Building Toward Useful Behaviors
- Summary: There are many other applications for marker training besides target training, of course, but I find it to be a clear concept that clients allows to become proficient quickly. Soon, they can apply it to building more complex skills that will be useful in addressing specific behavior concerns. This week, students will learn how to take target training to the next level and begin teaching cats skills that can be applied to the real world.
- Post a video of you training the skill you selected. Discuss why you chose this behavior and what kinds of problem behaviors you think it might be useful for.
- Review at least one fellow student’s training video and discuss what kinds of problem behaviors you think it might be useful for.
Week #4 - Achieving Fluency
- Summary: Achieving fluency means an animal is always able to successfully perform the trained skill reliably and quickly. This week, students will learn to assist their cats in becoming fluent in the behaviors they have been working on throughout this course. Focus should be on setting realistic criteria, determining what components of fluency are important, and tackling one component at a time. Components to be considered include the “3 D’s,” “PaLS,” and stimulus control.
- Post a “before” video of your cat learning the skill you chose early on, as well as an “after” video of the same skill once you began addressing fluency.
- Review at least one fellow student’s training videos and help come up with ideas for how they might help the cat to become more fluent or comment on a component of the training that impressed you.
Week #5 - Critical Self-Assessment
- Summary: In behavior consulting, it’s not the destination so much as it’s the journey. If we spend too much time focused on the end goal and too little time focused on what is right on front of us, we won’t be as successful as we might have been. This week, students will critically self-assess their work throughout this course to identify where they excelled, where they succeeded, and where they could have been done better. It is important for consultants to constantly reassess their process throughout each case to ensure they are working at an appropriate pace for the client AND for the cat, have realistic expectations, are not setting criteria too high nor too low, are able to adjust and adapt as needed.
- Discuss (in a video or in writing) what you are most proud of having achieved in this course, what you need to work on the most, and what plans you have for being more successful in the future.
Recommended Supplemental Materials:
- What is My Cat Saying? Feline Communication 101 (Munera) DVD
- Understanding Cat Behavior (Roger Tabor)
- Clicker Training for Cats (Karen Pryor)
- Starting from Scratch: How to Correct Behavior Problems in Your Adult Cat (Pam Johnson-Bennett)
- Twisted Whiskers: Solving Your Cat's Behavior Problems (Pam Johnson-Bennett)
Full Course (Assignments and participation required – receive certificate of completion and CEUs) - $300 for non-members, $225 for IAABC and KPA
Audit (No CEUs and certificate and no requirements) - $200 for non-members and $125 for members
IAABC Members – log into your member account for the discount codes to use
CEUs: IAABC and KPA - 12.5 CEUs; CCPDT – 9.5 CEUs
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About the Presenter
Through her business Jones Animal Behavior, Katenna Jones provides private dog and cat behavior consulting services, group classes, and seminars at both local and national events. Katenna is the former Director of Educational Programs for the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, Animal Behaviorist for the American Humane Association, and Behaviorist and Investigator for the RISPCA.
She has been involved in animal sheltering and rescue since 2000, is a disaster responder, is author of Fetching the Perfect Dog Trainer: Getting the Best for You and Your Dog and has contributed to numerous local and national publications.
Katenna earned her Master's from Brown University where she studied animal behavior, learning and cognition. She is an Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, Certified Cat and Dog Behavior Consultant, and Certified Pet Dog Trainer.
She shares her RI home with her husband, two adopted cats, and adopted dog.