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Clicker-Mad
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In 1993, Pryor started Sunshine Books, which publishes various clicker training manuals, and that enterprise grew into her larger company, Karen Pryor Clicker Training. In 1998, she moved from Washington state to the Boston area to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren. She lives on the first floor of a two-family house that borders a golf course in the western suburb of Watertown. She shares her digs with Twitchet, her 15-year-old Border Terrier, and Misha, an eight-year-old German harlequin Poodle. Both are clicker trained.

Though Pryor is a celebrity in the dog-training world, that is just one facet of her very busy, productive life. Her 1963 book on breastfeeding is still in print and has sold over two million copies. She’s authored many scientific papers. She has worked with a large variety of species, and is a regular consultant to zoos, which explains why, during her Newport talk, she showed video of a warthog and a lion who had been clicker-trained. She has joined forces with a scientist, a gymnastics coach and a dance teacher to see how clicker training can be used to teach humans. And she is writing a new book, Reaching the Animal Mind, due out from Scribner’s in 2008. A philosophical approach knits all this varied work together, she says. Her central thrust is to “reduce gratuitous cruelty in the world.”

To that end, she’s made some headway in the pet dog world. Though there’s far more work to be done, she’s set the ball rolling. Clicker training “has a life of its own now,” she says. “I can almost kick back now and let it take its own course.”

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 39: Nov/Dec 2006
Amy Sutherland is a journalist and author whose books include What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love and Marriage (Random House), and Kicked, Bitten and Scratched. Her work has appeared numerous times in The Bark. amysutherland.com

Photo: Karen Pryor

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