Ep14 Al Kordowski on relationships with animals, trust, and life-long learners

2020 ibuzz podcast Oct 23, 2020

We are delighted to be joined by Al Kordowski in this episode of the iBuzz podcast! Al is an animal behaviour and training practitioner who has trained with 125 different species over the course of his influential career. Though his work training animals has spanned from marine mammals to service dogs to hawks, his number one goal with every animal is the same: building a trusting relationship.  

In our episode, Al begins by sharing with us the evolution of the animal training world from using adverse methods to using positive reinforcement and providing animals with as much choice and control as possible. When he started working as a professional animal trainer, methods for providing veterinary care were far less developed than they are today. Thanks to hard work, it is now commonplace to teach husbandry behaviour to animals, making care safer for both the animal and the animal care professional and further developing their relationship. 

To make animal training the best experience for the animals, Al points out the need for a common language to avoid confusion between animals and trainers. Additionally, he highlights the need for creating a balance of types of sessions (play, learning, exercise, socialisation, relationship), as well as the need for each trainer to consider their own faults in the training process and to recognise when they need help to avoid frustrating both themselves and the animals. 

Al dives into some personal anecdotes that highlight the importance of relationships with animals and shows how, through a small change in training, rather than being a “walking food station” he becomes a walking opportunity for something that is going to enrich the animals’ lives. 

After decades of animal training work, Al still learns something new every single day. He says this attitude towards learning is essential not just to animal care professionals, but to animals as well. Trainers should not work with their animals to establish followers, but life-long learners. Al clarifies that though some skills can be mastered, a true master always wants to learn more.  

In looking to the future, Al points out that it is vital to consider past information and to create a mix of both science and application. The future animal trainer is both a skilled training practitioner and behaviour analyst. He hopes that the animal care community will never lose focus on the importance of an effective training program for the success of an animal welfare program. 

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