8th & 9th of April 2017

Hosted by Copenhagen Zoo Denmark

Are you interested in animal training? Join us for this 2-day seminar with Tim Sullivan and Sabrina Brando. How do you bring your animal training skills to the next level? The most accomplished trainers have a greater understanding of the nuances of animal learning, training techniques and novel concepts that make them more successful. The result is more productive training and animals that enjoy learning leading to better welfare. This seminar is packed with progressive concepts that will provide each participant with a deeper understanding of animals and how best to train them.

This seminar is for experienced professional animal trainers, animal behaviour consultants, instructors, specialists and experts in the field of animal training and behaviour (including students with animal training experience).

Download provisional program Advanced Animal Training Seminar

Download flyer Advanced Animal Training Seminar

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Tim Sullivan has been employed by the Chicago Zoological Society at Brookfield Zoo for the last 36 years. He spent 16 years as a keeper in the marine mammal department training and caring for the Zoo's dolphins, walrus, sea lions and seals. In 1997, Tim was asked to implement an elephant protected-contact behaviour management program in the Pachyderm department. In 1998, he was offered his present position as the Zoo's Curator of Behavioural Husbandry. Tim's primary responsibilities are to manage the Zoo’s animal training and environmental enrichment programs. Tim oversees the behaviour of the Zoo's large and diverse animal collection - from aardvarks to zebras and is responsible for developing the skills of over 100 animal keepers who care for them. Tim consults on animal training and environmental enrichment at other zoological institutions and conducts international training workshops. Tim is currently on the Instructor team of the Association of Zoo and Aquariums (AZA) annual Animal Training Applications course. He is active in international training organisations and has been an officer on the board of directors of both the International Marine Animal Trainers Association and the Animal Behavior Management Alliance; an organisation he cofounded.
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Sabrina Brando is a psychologist with a MSc in Animal Studies, interested in the human-animal relationship. She has in interest in animal welfare, particularly from the 24/7 across lifespan approach, how various systems and working methods affect animals short-and long-term. She is involved in various research and writing projects on animal cognition, behaviour and welfare. Sabrina consults with zoos, marine parks, research laboratories, and sanctuaries on animal welfare, behaviour and cognition. Sabrina really enjoys training animals to participate in research project, conservation and education programs and has specifically organised seminars on the topic of research training. Animal training includes thinking about animals learning all the time, informal learning, a two-way communication and play! Today Sabrina works with people on how to train animals for research, husbandry, education and conservation programs with animal welfare first and foremost at the core of all programs.
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Annette Pedersen started as a trainee in 1989 at Copenhagen Zoo. She finished her time as a trainee after three years, and was hired by the zoo to work at the sea lion department. They developed the sea lion training program and she stayed until 2008. In 2008 she applied for a position in the new elephant house working with the elephants in protected contact. Later that same year she was offered a position as Training Coordinator. Since January 2009 she has worked full time as Training Coordinator in Copenhagen Zoo. Annette has since worked on a lot of exciting training projects related to management, husbandry, and problem solving with a lot of interesting animal species. Since 2009 she has, in cooperation with Kirstin Anderson Hansen, shaped and developed the Danish AZAs training education for keepers, and in 2012 we formed the “Animal Training Working Group” under EAZA, where she acts as Chair. Annette also serves as a member of “EAZA Animal Welfare Working Group”. Annette has since 2012 been co-teaching the annual EAZA animal training course with K. A. Hansen. From 2014 - 2016 she served on the Board of the “Animal Behavior Management Alliance” (ABMA) and co-hosted their annual conference in 2015 with Odense Zoo. Today she serves as the European Liaison to the ABMA.


Tim Sullivan


Animals are complex, using behaviour to interact with their environment to improve their situation. While all behaviour is triggered by stimuli, the “fuel” that drives behaviour is motivation. Animals are motivated to either acquire desirable things or states or to avoid undesirable things or states. Understanding WHY animals behave is fundamental to the training process. This presentation will discuss this important topic and provide the participant with information to better understand animal motivation to enhance the training process.

Pygmalion Effect

Over the last few decades, the animal training community has successfully honed operant conditioning principles and techniques to meet the challenges presented in applied settings. By being technically correct, the modern trainer hopes to set the animal up for success. But, good techniques alone will not guarantee that the animals will learn or respond as desired. A phenomenon known as the Pygmalion Effect refers to the situations in which students perform better than other students do simply because their teachers expect them to. In animal training, a trainer’s own prediction of how an animal will perform or how a situation will play-out often affects the outcome in self-prophetic ways. Careful planning can help bring this bias out of the subconscious rendering this phenomenon an asset rather than a liability in training programs.

Ying / Yang

By observing the physical world, the Chinese developed the idea behind Yin and Yang. It was noticed that nature appears to group pairs of mutually dependent but opposite concepts. For example, the concept of night has no meaning without the concept of day. This philosophy also relates to positive reinforcement training, as reinforcement cannot exist without the concept of punishment. Each time a trainer delivers a cue, the animal has the real possibility to either fail or succeed. The question is which of these potential outcomes provides the motivation to respond- the avoidance of failure or the desire to succeed? The author believes that animals are motivated by one or the other based on their individual experience with the learning process. Trainers, who create and implement this process, are ultimately responsible for an animal’s attitude towards learning. This paper will discuss the above ideas and hopefully provide additional insight into the relationship between reinforcement and punishment and the effect this particular yin and yang can have on the animals we train.

Weight Management

Modern training practices rely on positive reinforcement, primarily food, to train animals. Utilising this necessary resource can provide a very ethical means to create animal motivation and subsequent learning. To be ethical, trainers must maintain a delicate balance between proper body condition and a healthy appetitive state. Striking this balance can be challenging at times. The process can be confounded by many factors including: natural history, seasonality, training history, risk/reward ratios and many others. This presentation will discuss these challenges and provide insight and practices to maintain the best possible welfare of the animal during training.

Sabrina Brando

Abstract concepts in training sessions

This presentation will introduce abstract concepts and the role they can play in expanding animal training opportunities, choice and control for the animals when trainers / caregivers are present and/or absent.

Human-animal interactions

Dog bites man, man bites dog… Man loves dog, dog loves man… Humans and other animals have interacted for millennia and both have known for a long time that their behaviour influences one and other. Understanding how animals learn and interact, and how your behaviour affects animals is an important component of being a professional animal trainer. When going beyond the basis of animal training the human-animal interaction and relationship evolve into friendship and a two-way street where both parties have a fairly equal say, it is time to let to let go of some of the conventional control conditions prevalent in animal training today. This presentation will discuss the human-animal interaction from various angles and challenges you to think beyond what you are doing considering the environment, training and enrichment.

Positive reinforcement training: What do you mean?

As professional animal trainers we pride ourselves focussing on the use of positive reinforcement when interacting and training animals. But what do we mean when we say that we use positive reinforcement? Can you learn everything through R+? Is it always the best choice? Why or why not? What does your session look like, what is the balance? Is training enriching and does it stay that way just because we use R+? This presentation discusses and challenges you to critically think about the use of R+.

Beyond basic animal training: advanced concepts to promoting good animal welfare

This presentation will approach animal training from a broad perspective in it’s role in promoting good animal welfare. A short review of research advances in animal training, training as a tool to promote and improve animal welfare, habitat management and the use of animal training in conservation, education, and research as important cornerstones of modern animal care programs today.


This seminar will be held in English.


Registration includes lectures, tea/coffee breaks, workshops and certificate of attendance.

Regular registration Euro 175 +25% VAT
Student registration (fulltime students only) Euro 95 + 25% VAT



Copenhagen Zoo
Roskildevej 32
2000 Frederiksberg

Participants will receive a confirmation upon reception of the registration form. You are then officially registered. Cancellations received at least 3 month prior to the first day of the conference or workshop will be honoured and fees if already paid refunded even if invoice is not yet send and if payment is still outstanding less a processing fee. Cancellations made after this date up to 2 months before the start will be refunded at 50%, and cancellations made less then 1 month before the seminar are not refunded (even if invoice is not yet send and if payment is still outstanding). In fairness to all attendees confirmed participants who do not attend their scheduled workshop or conference are liable for the entire fee unless other arrangements have been made with AnimalConcepts prior to the start of the event. AnimalConcepts is a registered company under Dutch law and by accepting the cancellation policy at registration you agree and are bound to these laws regardless of your geographically area. All payments have to be received prior to the start of the seminar if this is not possible then only a cash payment on the day will allow access to the event.