Simon Prins ACT!
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Testimonial Brian McGovern
I first met Simon in the early nineties when he was a serving police officer involved in developing canine special projects for the Dutch police. At the time i was actively involved in trying, in my own way, to change the dog training world from punishment to reward based training. At the time this was very controversial, with little acceptance of motivational, reward based training. Simon and I were introduced by a mutual acquaintance who realised that were we had a common goal: To introduce motivation reward based method in dog training and to prove that they actually worked and weren’t just academic theory. Throughout the last 30 years we have occasionally bumped into each other through our canine activities and it is heartwarming to see that Simon has maintained his principles and has applied reward based, motivational training to many types of canine activities. I believe his input into working dog training has improved the quality of life of so many working dogs.
I had the opportunity to hear Simon speak at the Penn Vet online conference this year. I reached out to him with some questions. He was so helpful and generous. He took time out of his very busy schedule to set up a Zoom meeting with my students and me. It was a great boost to our training session and all of my students enjoyed listening to him. Thank you Simon!
Scent Detection – the Next Level, with Simon Prins workshop
I had really high expectations of this workshop, because I was so impressed with Simon after hearing him speak and talking to him at the Impact Working Dog Conference in UK. As soon as Surrey Search Dogs in UK advertised this workshop, I signed up. The workshop was exactly what I needed, it easily met and exceeded my expectations. Simon took the time and energy to get to know each search team and observe them at work to recognise their strengths and areas that needed improvement. He formed a personal connection with everyone and coached us in our progress with warmth and humour. Growing and progressing requires dedication and getting outside my comfort zone. This can be stressful and challenging. Simon took the time to build enough trust, that I was able to face my challenges and make progress:) I’m well on my way to the next level and am looking forward to putting all this learning into practice. And of course, I will be looking for more opportunities to learn with Simon.
Workshop Detection The Next Level
Over the years I have been lucky enough to attend several seminars, workshops etc and occasionally privileged enough to meet individuals who have left a lasting impression; these last three days with Simon Prins were just such an event. It was apparent during the workshop organized by Astrid Lowe (of Enjoy Your Dog and Surrey Search Dogs) that Simon is ‘actively curious’ and not one who support the ‘its my way or the highway’ approach adopted by those who have but a fraction of his skills, knowledge, ability, training and experience. He was demanding and supportive of both handlers and dogs and tailored personalized development plans every day to ensure each team was pushed out of their comfort zone and given advice on how to progress at home. This was particularly of note due to the wide variety of dogs/breeds not to mention the handlers who encompassed the entire gamut of personalities! A true advocate of human behavior change for animals and an exemplar in a world increasingly populated by those too ready publicly denigrate their peers. This was reflected by the handlers/spectators all of whom actively supported each other both emotionally and practically. I, for one, look forward to a future opportunity to learn from a very skilled observer and communicator. Allyson Tohme England.
“Great things never come from comfort zones”
I’ve been following Simon and his work for a while now and it was a special moment for me to meet him in person last weekend.
I have so much respect for him as a police officer and dog trainer who introduced operant conditioning to the police training world.
His knowledge and experience in training dogs is amazing, yet he is so humble.
I hope he’s coming to Germany again in the future, as he is such a good teacher, coach and lecturer.
As if this wasn’t enough, Simon is also very funny, which makes training with him and learning from him even better than it already is.
I remember him saying that “great things never come from comfort zones”, which became my personal favorite quote from my first workshop with him. Thank you, Simon, for allowing others to learn from and with you.
I am living in Luxembourg and I have had the opportunity to participate in a workshop held by Simon in Germany for the TOP Trainers. I love his highly appreciation for everybody, his smart explanations in the lectures, his spontaneous ideas to improve training set ups, his detailed and highly structured training steps and his enormous experience in training dogs but most important in training people. The keyword feedFORWARD is the most important outtake for me and hopefully for my clients. Hope I will have the opportunity to meet you once again!
“Move out of your comfort zone and your training will become more efficient”
Simon motivated us to move out of our comfort zone and rituals to rethink training elements critically by empirically based concepts. He always had a logical argumentation for his input and encouraged us to be creative thinkers! We really enjoyed the lively discussions with Simon as they were intense, data based and very fruitful. Every dog handler is a dog trainer! Be positive and smile, it can be as simple as that! Thanks Simon!
Inspiring and to the point
I had the pleasure to see Simon Prins speak at the Impact Working Dog Conference 2018 in UK. He is an engaging speaker, leaving everyone positive, inspired and supercharged to go and learn more, train better and collect data on what we do. Simon’s knowledge is vast and he is an innovative and creative thinker, but he is also very generous in sharing this and inspiring others. He is a forward force in dog training, contributing to raise standards in quality of training, but also the ethics within the working dog world. Most remarkably, Simon has time and patience to chat and be just as friendly, supportive and approachable off stage. If you are truly hungry for knowledge and aspire to reach your absolute best, you need to meet Simon.
Thanks for all your help and tips
There are animal trainers, and there are animal trainers…..and then there’s Simon Prins. I wish I had the opportunity to meet you 10 years ago. That would have saved me a lot of issues and trouble with my dogs. Thanks for your patience and all you helpful tips.
A world of knowledge
Impressive to work with Simon. A mix of theoretical and practical knowledge and very experienced.
Bob Bailey about Simon Prins
In the early 1990s, Simon Prins was a young lower rank Dutch Police dog trainer who used very traditional, that is, punishment based, training methods. Unlike most of his colleagues, Simon was curious and persistently searching for better ways to train the dogs in his charge. Deep inside, his feeling was that there must a better way than the harsh procedures he had been taught by his military and police dog training instructors. He had seen “reward-training,” but saw that the reliability of the “reward-trained” dogs was not high enough to meet his needs. He continued his search.
The story of our earliest contact is for another time and place. Suffice it to say that Simon contacted my wife, Marian, and me in 1998. We were impressed by Simon’s knowledge of dog’s, and of dog training, despite his young age and general lack of training experience. But, most of all, we were taken by his persistence and enthusiasm to learn from us. We were reluctant to take the time to work with someone so young and untested. It was at this time we learned of Simon’s resourcefulness, persuasiveness, and persistence. He met each demand we made, convincing his superiors and colleagues of the importance of the training technology we taught. He and co-workers came to Hot Springs, Arkansas, USA for several weeks, and experienced their first chicken training workshop.
From the first, Simon demonstrated a value for data, especially objective data that pointed to faster, more effective ways to train. From his first days of working with chickens on a table top, to years later, training dogs to accomplish long distance guidance exercises in downtown streets, Simon kept data, analyzed data, and used data to improve the quality of the behavior of the animal, and his own behavior as a trainer. Marian and I believed very early that Simon could develop into very high-level trainer, a behavior technologist. Marian, sadly, would never know what happened; she died in 2001.
In 2002, Simon and I began working together in The Netherlands. Simon learned quickly, and constantly tested what he was learning. Many novice trainers blindly follow their chosen mentor, or teacher; Simon questioned, and tested. Many novice trainers blindly follow training “fads,” or commercially popularized training procedures. I was impressed that Simon was a student who questioned. We often had lively discussions, and, time to time, he had to find out for himself – not a bad idea sometimes. All I really had to do was to point Simon in the right direction, and he was on his own road to self-discovery, as well as the technical mastery of the principles of operant conditioning. Simon learned well the simple lesson that training is simple, but not easy.
It was Simon’s ability to change his behavior, to learn from self-discovery, and his acceptance of a technology of behavior change, that opened the door to the next stage of his development – as a teacher of operant conditioning, or behavior analysis. Simon’s growth as a trainer, transitioning from a traditional, compulsion-based trainer, to a trainer who understood the value of making it worthwhile for the dog to do desired behaviors, gave Simon an insight into the thoughts and feelings of trainers trying to learn a new way. Simon’s often Socratic teaching provides guidance, while allowing for self-discovery, and the questioning of everything, including the teacher. In my experience, few teachers can stand by and watch a student fail without either admonishing the student for failure, or, telling the student how they should have done it; in both cases losing the value of the failure, that is, think about what you did wrong, change your behavior and do it again. Do it again, and again, until you succeed. Simon can sense those times where a student might need a little guidance, and those times where a student is best left alone.
Simon and I have worked together for over 20 years. Few will ever know the nature and scope of Simon’s military and police work, something we called “Systems 101.” But, over the years, from time to time, Simon has moved outside that ultra-demanding world where dog and handler error can be life-threatening. He has developed skills of instructing civilians, pet dog owners, and others, to train their dogs. Years ago, Simon often worked with his very young son in their backyard, teaching their dogs obedience, or guidance commands, just for the fun of it. It takes a very good, and patient, teacher to instruct a seven-year-old child to wait for just the right behavior before blowing a whistle, and to precisely deliver the food. The child either wants to reward the dog a lot for doing little, or nothing, and the dog learns little, or not reward very often, and the dog loses interest. The child either just likes to give the dog a treat, it is fun, after all, or the child is afraid of doing something wrong, so the child doesn’t reward anything. Simon knows this problem, and guides the child, and the dog to success. Simon is a good teacher of dogs, and of students.
Simon is serious about his work, but he has great humor and can laugh at himself. Simon is still curious, and he is still looking for a better way to train. He is not an ideologue, teaching “do this to get that!”. He does not claim to have the only way of doing things. He does not claim to teach “The Truth.” He can admit error, a trait not common with many teachers or advanced practitioners. We all make mistakes. He can be a demanding teacher with very high expectations, but, that is what a student should want – a teacher who expects a student to learn, to master the subject. Simon and I have shared a stage many times, teaching students to train dogs or chickens. I hope to teach with Simon again.