Those were the days! Yours truly in 1985 with Silas, the wolf cub. Notice the whistle hanging around my neck. I used it as a conditioned positive reinforcer (yes, the precursor of the clicker). Silas preferred, though, my own verbal reinforcer (“dygtig”) because, I guess, it was always associated with a friendly body language and facial expression, and meant accept. For wolves, much more sensitive to social situations than dogs, accept is the ultimate social reinforcer; for the cubs, it is vital. These were the first observations that led me to suspect that the verbal and the mechanic conditioned positive reinforcers were by no means the same. Since part of the verbal reinforcer (the body language and facial expression) was partially unlearned, I later classified it as a semi-conditioned reinforcer.
If you ask me today, I’ll answer you without hesitating that the most powerful tool you have when working with animals is yourself. If you control yourself, your body language, your facial expressions and the little you say, you’ll achieve what you pretend and more. After all, this shouldn’t come as a surprise—interacting with someone is not only a question of conditioning a series of behaviors, it’s foremost a question of building a relationship.
Animal Training My Way—The Merging of Ethology and Behaviorism by Roger Abrantes.