Eva and Emelie
Eva and Emelie

Introduction to Start Button Behaviors

Let your learner be in control!

course starts
1 December 2020


Level 2

Previous editions

November 2020

October 2020

And 6 more

Next editions

January 2021

More TBA

Self-study course, auditors only (no premium spots in this course),
with extensive material including step-by-step exercises for you to practice with your learner!


Through start button behaviors, we can give our learning partners control over various procedures by having them tell us when to go ahead and when to stop. This course will serve as an introduction to understanding and working with start button contingencies. You will learn how to structure your training sessions to include clear yes and no opportunities, and we will dive into the concepts of choice and control and begin incorporating start button behaviors in various settings. Learn these techniques and you’ll be able to take another giant step towards a place where you and your animal are true partners in the training process!

Course syllabus – these are the lessons we’ll go through in this six week course:

  1. Welcome to the start button course
  2. Start button behavior – what and why?
  3. Getting started – pairing procedure with a twist
  4. Let a start button behavior emerge
  5. What if my learner doesn’t say ”yes”?
  6. Shaping meets start buttons
  7. Adding behavior between the presentation and the reward
  8. Working with ongoing stimuli
  9. Duration behavior as continuous start button
  10. Predictability
  11. Further options for starting and stopping
  12. Summarizing start button work
  13. Some final inspiration
  14. Goodbye!

Start button behaviors are behaviors that learners perform, and that functions as cues for the teacher to make the next move. If the learner doesn’t do the start button behavior, the teacher doesn’t progress.

Through start button behaviors we as teachers get information about how we are doing in our training.  If the package that we present after the start button behavior is functioning as a reinforcer, then there will be short latency and high persistance in the start button behavior. If, on the other hand, we see latency, or the start button behavior doesn’t occur or is interrupted – then we know that the package we have presented contingent upon that start button behavior isn’t reinforcing enough – which is super valuable information to us, because then we  get the opportunity to instantly make adjustments and improvements in our training.

So it’s never about the specific start button behavior as such – that behavior is just a tool for clearer communication!  It is as if the learner is pressing a start button which makes the trainer continue to the next step.  From the trainer’s perspective: In a certain situation, if I see this response (the start button behavior), I present my stimulus (object, movement, noise, cue or whatever it is that you start) which is followed (instantly, or after a sorter or longer sequence) by a reinforcer (treat, toy, belly rub, or what the maintaining reinforcer might be). From the learner’s perspective in turn: In a certain situation, if I do this response (the start button behavior), then that stimulus will occur which in turn is followed by a reinforcer either directly or after I have done some more behavior(s).

Having the learner be in control provides us with a good way to be able to listen, making sure that we’re not pushing the pace of the training or moving in the wrong the direction all together. Thus, start button work is a tool for us as trainers to help us become even better partners for our learners!

To learn more about where we’re coming from with this subject and find a variety of other resources, please check out www.animalsincontrol.com

Welcome to the course! //E&E


  • course lasts 6 weeks
  • lectures
  • access to other Premium member's threads
  • video tutorials
  • certificate of attendance
  • 24 hours, 7 days per week access to course materials
  • access to Tromplo: students group on Facebook
  • access to materials after the course is finished
  • 4 points to spend on future purchases



Reviews for this course

Sabine Martini-Hansske
2019-06-13 21:34:09

I enjoyed this course from the first to the last minutes and would have liked it go go on much longer.

Eva and Emily present clear to follow lessons and instructions, keep the pace of the learning curve for both human and animal learners at a good to follow level and make sure that the progression of the behaviour makes sense.

Their feedback is well thought-out and offers the help needed to make progress and solve training problems.

I will and have already recommended this course to other people and will visit the lessons surely in the future to find inspiration and new nuances in this exciting part of animal training.

Can't wait for an advanced Start Button course to hopefully hapen.