Conference Topic Abstracts

Ken Ramirez, US

Complex Tools

This seminar is an overview of advanced concepts for experienced trainers, including an examination of misconceptions, science, and practical applications for the selected tools. Tools might include No Reward Markers (NRM), Recall Signals, End of Session Signals, Keep Going Signals (KGS), Jackpots, Timeouts, Least Reinforcing Scenarios (LRS), and Behaviour Chains.

Non-food Reinforcers

Most experienced trainers recognize the value of finding reinforcers other than food or treats. However, not every trainer knows how to establish new reinforcers nor how to evaluate their effectiveness. This lecture will share my perspectives and experiences with non-food reinforcers and explain my approach to implementing them into a good training program.

Concept Training

A look at how we can take animals to a higher level of learning. This seminar will cover a brief overview of various applications of concept training then focus on one or more of the following concepts: modifiers,  mimicry, or quantity recognition. 

Aggression Management

Ken will focus on his approach to aggression management and reduction based on his experiences working with dangerous exotic animals and working with highly reactive dogs in the shelter. 

Handling Animal Mistakes Positively 

In this session, Ken will present the various techniques used to deal with incorrect responses and share the science and practical applications for each tool.  This may include time outs, no reward markers, delta signals, least reinforcing stimulus and others.

Problem Solving

As a consultant, I am frequently called upon to resolve training challenges. These have ranged from problematic zoo animals to difficult working dogs to the more common pet challenges. In every case, I utilize a problem-solving flow chart or matrix that guides me and my clients to an effective solution. This seminar is designed to share that process with participants and use one or two cases studies to demonstrate how to use the tool effectively.

Husbandry Training

In the zoo community, husbandry training is often looked at as the single most important reason to establish a training program. However, in all aspects of training being able to handle and do medical treatment on an animal is of great help and importance. This seminar will explore desensitization techniques, secrets to better tactile, kenneling, clipping nails, injections, and much more. Great topic for both exotic and domestic animals..

Becoming a Top Trainer

A look at the recipe or plan I have used in teaching trainers to be trainers. When is a trainer ready to learn a new concept? What does it take to put all of the theory and techniques together? Although there are many ways to accomplish this, I will share my recipe.

Conservation Training

Ken’s focus over the past 20 years has been on concept training. This presentation looks at some of the amazing stories of working with animals in the wild to promote conservation.

Emma Bermingham,  NZ

The impact of meat-based diets on cat and dog nutrition?

Food Nutrition Health Team, Food & Bio-based Products Group, AgResearch Ltd, Palmerston North, NZ.

Purpose of presentation

The aim of this presentation to is outline the biology and science that relates to feeding high animal protein and fat; low or no carbohydrate diets to our pets.

Take-home points

  • Meat-based diets are increasing in popularity in the global petfood market.
  • Research to support the feeding of meat-based diets is patchy and interpretation is based largely on what is observed in omnivores.
  • We aim to define optimal nutrition that is tailored to the specific needs of our pets.



Cats and dogs are carnivores, and as such have evolved to metabolise diets that are rich in animal protein and fats. There is rising demand for meat-based diets, creating 15% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in ‘natural’ petfoods compared to the 4% CAGR in petfoods globally. So what are these diets? Are they better for pets? Does the science literature support their use?


Meat-based diets contain animal protein and fat with little or no added carbohydrate. If carbohydrate is present it is usually from sources other than grain. There is scant data in the scientific literature on the nutrition of meat-based diets and their impact on the health of pets, and much of what is published pertains to exotic felids. Interpretation of the results of dog and cat studies tends to be based on what is known about omnivorous species. Therefore, our current research is attempting to understand the peculiarities of the carnivore gut through integrated study of diet composition, animal physiological responses (e.g., protein digestibility, faecal metabolites) and the composition of the intestinal microbiome. This presentation will focus on how food resources and dietary intake were the driving force behind the evolution of pets, and how this contributes to their specific dietary requirements today. It will summarise the scientific results relating to feeding meat-based diets.