Start Button Behavior

The label “Start button behavior” was coined by Eva and Emelie in the early 2000s and spread widely through their “Animals in Control” presentation together with Peggy Hogan in 2016..

What are Start Button Behaviors about?

In a start button contingency the learner gets to control the pace and progress of the procedure. Eva and Emelie (Carpe Momentum) first developed this strategy in the late 90s for teaching “happy and confident” behavior around noise and movement for their agility training – which, by the way, is what lead Karen Pryor to contact them to write Agility Right From The Start and later speak at Clicker Expo. However, they and their students quickly noted benefits for working like this in a wide variety of settings.

Agility dog Scout controls the movement of the teeter with her head
Border Collie Tizla controls if and when the cans fall over

Over the years, E&E expanded their use of these techniques, where the learner initiates a predictable sequence of events, to all possible areas of training with learners of various species, including human beings. In 2015 they joined forces with horse trainer Peggy Hogan  ( who had developed very similar strategies in her work with horses, and together they developed the lecture Animals in Control for Clicker Expo. That lecture covered request behaviors, choice behaviors and this concept of learner initiated predictable sequences, launching the term “start button behavior” further into the world.  If you haven’t already watched “Animals in Control” we highly recommend it as a framework for the concept of startbutton behaviors!

Webinar in english
Webinar in Swedish

This is start button behavior – by E&E
Start button behaviors are behaviors that initiate a predictable sequence of events from the trainer. 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 persistence 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. This is super valuable information to us, because then we get the opportunity to instantly make adjustments and improvements in our training.

Start button behaviors are tools for clearer communication – it is as if the learner is “pressing a start button” through doing some behavior which makes the trainer continue to the next step. Any behavior can acquire the function of a start button behavior.  From the trainer’s perspective: In a certain situation, if I see this response (the start button behavior), I initiate or continue my designated move (presenting an object, moving, making a noise, presenting a cue, et c) which is followed (instantly, or after a shorter or longer sequence) by a reinforcer (treat, toy, belly rub or whatever 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 predictable stimulus will occur – which in turn is followed by a reinforcer either directly or after I have done some more behavior(s). 

“Start button behavior” and “start button contingency” are not technical terms. They are convenient labels for what we just described, and the root is in the practical applications.


The webinars and podcasts listed below can also be found in RESOURCES together with all other Eva material.

Webinars specifically focusing on “Startbutton Behaviors”:

ABC247: Eva Bertilsson, Emelie Johnson Vegh & Peggy Hogan – Animals in Control

Dog I-box: Start buttons – what, why and how! An introduction

KPCT Video on Demand: Onwards with Start Buttons

KPCT Video On Demand: Animals-in-control-start-button-case-studies

Webinars on related topics:

ABC247 English: Chirag Patel – Bucket Game, Out of the Bucket (with Eva Bertilsson)

ABC247 Swedish: Snälla Händer – Kul med Hantering

ABC247 English/German: Choise, control and quality of life with Eva Bertilsson in English. Translated to Deutsch.

Podcasts specifically focusing on “Startbutton Behaviors”:

Drinking From the Toilet – Start Button Behaviours

ATA – Carpe Momentum; Animal Training flow-charts & choice/control

SWEDISH Hälsans Hundar – Frivillighet och startknappar

Podcasts on related topics:

SWEDISH Hundpodden VBV – Frivillig Hantering (Lyssnarfrågor)

SWEDISH Hundpodden VBV – Frivillig hantering – Fear free training

SWEDISH Hundpodden med Kicki och Fanny – Frivillig hantering & kloklippning för din hund

Additional recommendations:

Peggy Hogan – Blogpost about Start Button Behaviors

Eva Bertilsson – Blogpost – MANDS in non-human animals

SWEDISH Eva Bertilsson – Blogpost – Kommunikationsträning, MANDS

Live chat with Eva, Emelie & Peggy- Animals in Control!

Do check out “Animals in Control” partner Peggy Hogan’s horse training!

Join these startbutton relevant facebook groups hosted by Eva:
Startbuttons and more
Choice Control Communication

And if you speak Swedish/Scandinavian, we highly recommend joining KUL MED HANTERING – Eva’s paid membership group for all species where husbandry is the main topic, and where startbutton contingencies are frequently discussed!

Where else can you find Eva and Emelie?

Read more about them in the Carpe Momentum segment
Visit their facebook page

Contact information:

You can reach both Eva and Emelie at,
you can contact Emelie directly at
and as usual you can contact Eva Bertilsson at

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