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Episode 135: Lisa Clifton Bumpass Pt. 2: Working in Training Teams

Science Camp was held over the weekend of Feb 19-21. Dominique and I didn’t want it to end so we invited one of the participants, Lisa Clifton Bumpass to come share an afternoon’s conversation with us. Lisa is a dog trainer turned zoo consultant. She’s been a regular attendee at the horse clinics I give in Half Moon Bay CA. What Lisa learns from the horses she takes back to the teams she works with in zoos. It is so much fun to think that the work we’re doing with horses is helping giraffes and alligators and other exotic animals to live more comfortable lives.

In Part 1 of our conversation we talked about constructional training. This week we begin with the difference between extinguishing and abolishing a behavior. From there I ask Lisa to describe the team building she does in her consulting work. We got to watch a beautiful example of this at the beginning of Science Camp. One of the participants, Kyle Ketzel, works at the San Francisco zoo. He shared with us a video of one of the animals in his care.

Since it’s a zoo, you might expect that it would be a video of a giraffe or an elephant, but no. The animal Kyle wanted us to see is Slider, a steer who lives in the children’s zoo. After the fall Science Camp Kyle learned he had only two weeks to prepare Slider for foot care. If the procedure couldn’t be done safely with Slider cooperating calmly throughout, he would need to be sedated.

Kyle described Slider’s previous history with having his feet trimmed as a wrestling match, so Slider’s association with foot care was anything but positive. But what we saw was a relaxed animal who put his own foot up on the trimming block and who stood calmly participating in the procedure.

Three people were involved in the foot trim. Kyle was at Slider’s head so he was the one in charge of reinforcing Slider. A second keeper was kneeling by Slider’s bent knee. She was helping to steady his leg, but even more than that, she was monitoring Slider’s pulse. A third person was trimming his hooves. They were all communicating with one another and with Slider. It was a beautiful example of great team work and great training. I wanted to Lisa to describe the team building work that she does so that is primarily what we talked about in this week’s episode.


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