“My goal is to share the power of operant conditioning with the rest of the training world, and create a much-needed shift in the minds of those responsible for shaping, conditioning, and leading.” – Simon Prins
About Simon Prins
Simon Prins started off his career as the youngest military diver in NATO (1985). After his military career, he joined the Netherlands Police Force. He’d long had a passion for working with hunting dogs, which naturally folded into working with the police dogs in their canine unit. Shocked by the poor quality of training in those days (1993), he committed himself to doing things differently. He became an avid student of animal behavior, which led him to work with some of the most knowledgeable and influential animal behaviorists in the world.
In 1996, Simon embarked on a new, highly specialized and innovative police project. It was during this time, he discovered the power of operant conditioning (OC). It was through a focus on positive reinforcement, creating safe and supportive learning environments, and setting up efficient data tracking systems, he reached new heights in training.
Clear communication and finely defined criteria to achieve a high rate of reinforcement will shift unwanted behavior into wanted behavior, for both humans and animals. Training animals to perform in high risk operations led to a whole new shade of animal training through the development of protocols, training materials, and specialized equipment. All of this made it possible to train and deploy animals beyond the known limits.
Animal training is a deterministic process. Working incrementally to reach the overarching goal. Collecting the necessary data along the way to gauge the effectiveness of any set track. This data is consistently analyzed to ensure the most promising delivery, giving us clear intel on the performance of the animal, the trainer, and the combination of the two.
Following protocols is a critical ingredient to any training program. Each protocol is comprised of a series of steps that build upon each other to bring us closer to any goal. Following strategically planned and laid out protocols make the training interesting and motivational for both the animal and the trainer.
SPLIT OR LUMP
We often utilize the “split and lump” approach to training. We “split” (or break down) the most complex behaviors into smaller segments, which enable us to train within these segments and shape them into a more complete behavior. Or, conversely, we “lump”, or allow the animal to fully express a certain behavior. We assess whether or not we can use this behavior to our advantage, and, if so, we harness it, reinforce it, and condition it according to our speculations and needs.
1989-2000 Hunting dogs Selection, training and working with hunting dogs
1993-1996 Patrol dogs Selection, training and working with police patrol dogs in the operational environment in the big Dutch city’s
1996-1999 Canine research & development programma Teamleader of a important research and development program with the focus to introduce dogs into special police operations. One of the key elements was to stop the traditional punishment training programs. This started the introduction of operant conditioning, collecting and analyzing of training data. This all gave us the knowledge how to make our own training protocols so we could train our animals and educate our trainers.
1999-2000 Development of ‘specials’ Research and development of new ways to transport special trainers dogs in fast boats, fast cars and in helicopters. And learn how to work with these dogs on heigh buildings, climbing and rappelling.
2000-2001 Development of training equipment Development of our own training equipment like feeders, balmachines, directional lasers, scent wheels, k9 camera equipment and many other technical and electronic devices.
2001-2002 Spin-off R&D program to police schools Teaching them how to use our new training concepts like passive alerts instead of active alters. How to transport dogs on sea and in helicopters. Working safe on heights, etc.
2002-2005 Working with traditional police detection dogs Helping them to renew traditional training programs and make the behaviors better and more reliable. With special attention for hard surface tracking. Working in all the different disciplines like narcotics, explosives, arson, human remains, money, scent identification and more. Accelerating training programs, collecting and analyzing training data. Changing the way how to select new dogs and trainers.
2003-2006 Starting USAR – Urban Search and Rescue unit Selection, training and using 16 SAR dogs and their handlers. And working with a search and rescue dog myself in multiple earth quake operations abroad.
2007 European Attack dog champion Winning of the three day attack dog contest organized in Germany. In total 12 operational teams from whole of Europe were participating in this important contest. My attack dog Iwan became the overal winner!
2007-2010 Back to special ops Focus on operations with dogs, robots and sensors
2010-now Teamleider Team Remote Sensory (police special Ops) were dogs, robots and sensors gather information for and during operations.
2018 Simon Prins ACT! In 2018 the start of my own business Simon Prins Animal Consultancy & Training (ACT!) to train animal trainers all over the world how to use operant conditioning. How to be able to design and write your own training protocols. How to collect and analyse training data.