SMAF Manual

SMAF Cover Page

SMAF Cover Page

Mission SMAF—Bringing Scientific Precision Into Animal Training

This is the SMAF manual, latest update. The SMAF manual is in a way a super concentrated course in animal learning. This is only a booklet, but it will take you time to read and digest. Don’t rush thru it.

We update this manual regularly, sometimes even daily. Come back often to check if there are any new updates. Each manual has a version number (v.YYMMDD).

Changes in this version v.120302:

  • Updated and improved syntax with some new symbols.
  • Updated examples of how to transcribe the teaching of skills in SMAF.
  • New Chapter 4 “Quick guide to designing a POA in SMAF.”

Enjoy your reading!


Click the full-screen view icon for better reading. Zoom in and out as you please.

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Changes in version v.111023:

  • Definition of command with example, page 10: “While a signal is everything that intentionally changes the behavior of the receiver, a cue is everything that unintentionally changes the behavior of the receiver. A command is a signal that changes the behavior of the receiver in a specific way with no variations or only extremely minor variations.”
  • SMAF syntax corrected, page 22: “25.2. Example 1: Sit,sound + Sit,hand + γSit,treat  ⇒ The dog sits ⇒ “!+sound” + “!-food”.” (The second ⇒ was missing).
  • Minor typos corrected.

Changes in version v.111017:

  • Semi-conditioned reinforcers have their own code.
  • Non-SD has its own code.
  • New code for reinforcers and punishers.
  • Signal and cue slightly redefined.
  • A new POA example (POA example 3).
  • New photos.

25 comments on “SMAF Manual

  1. Roger,

    I foresee that the SMAF Manual will become the defacto standard for organizations seeking to get everyone in their training staff on the same page when it comes developing, executing, and refining training plans. I will gladly share it when I consult with K9 and Working Dog trainers around the world.

    Good job, buddy!


  2. Hi Steve,

    That’s the case with the GNR and APOPO where several operators need to work with the same animal or one operator with various animals and where all operators need to show a determined level of profienciency.

    The intricacies of the SMAF language itself are perhaps too much for the casual pet owner and yet, in a recent seminar in Holland, Sacha Gaus of the Martin Gaus Academie intrigued me when she said “I use SMAF without SMAF every day.” She proceeded to explain that she used the SMAF way of thinking, analyzing, planning and implementation of plans all the time only letting out the syntax. I had not thought of that, that SMAF could be useful that way, and I found it very interesting.

    Thanks for your encouraging words.


  3. Hi Roger,

    I LOVE the idea of a manual, but find this UI a challenge. (The default text is too small, and the magnified version requires me to scroll constantly in a dizzying fashion.) There’s a downloadable PDF version of SMAF at the Ethology Institute, although it’s more than two years out of date — would it be possible to update it, or provide a PDF here? I really think it would help you reach more people with your message, and then life would be great! 🙂


  4. Hi all,

    It’s difficult these days, with so many options, to choose a format that accommodates all and to publish in all possible formats is very resource consuming. We chose this e-book format after evaluating all possibilities. I’m really sorry that it is not the optimal format for some of you. I understand you perfectly well. Personally, I’m old fashioned, I like paper and I’m trying to get used to the new e-book trend. The manual reads though nicely on the newest computers with a good resolution (though not on the iPad, because it doesn’t accept flash).

    The manual is being constantly updated and this format suits that purpose because it is easy to upload new versions. However, there will be a stable version of it on print (good old paper) on my new book to be published soon, “Animal Training Handbook.”

    Until then, sorry for the inconvenience and thanks for your comments.



    PS–One more thing: Some of you say the text is too small. It is on the thumbnail and preview, but have you clicked the full-screen view?

  5. Love the text. Can you turn on the download or print options within Calemeo? Creating a PDF is beyond simple even with free programs like CutePDF.

    • Hi Mel,

      Thanks for your kind words. It’s on purpose that we haven’t turned on the print option. This is a document that we update often and we want to avoid having too many outdated versions circulating out there. Also, we believe that we should be good to trees and save paper (even though, personally, I like paper copies much better). Sorry for the inconvenience.

      Keep smiling!


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  7. As a fan of your work Roger, I found the on-line manual easy to read and I do like the concept you promote. I think SMAF is a great way to have several operators use one training language. Using the concept reduces the risk of errors therefor increases the chances of success. It is surprising how many errors can be made in the early phases of training schedule do to a language barrier. That said, wouldn’t it be amazing if you could figure out a way to continue with the concept –signals- so that there is no need to speak one fluent language except for SMAF? SMAF does require a learning curve, albeit, if SMAF is implemented, its by-products of self- discipline in report writing is second to none! I think SMAF should be incorporated in every working dog operation, as well as zoo’s and even in dog training operations where there are several trainers on staff.
    I’m looking forward to your book!
    I will continue to support your work!
    Teresa Lewin, co-founder Doggone Safe inc
    co-founder creator of Doggone Crazy!tm dog bite prevention products

  8. Roger can you say when your new book will be available to purchase ‘Animal training Handbook’ I can’t wait to read it,

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  10. I am reading SMAF now, but had already seen examples of its use in your other posts. I was constantly thinking: These are all classical ‘IF > THEN > ELSE (IF)’ constructions (sometimes nested to two or three levels deep).
    These are used in almost all computer-languages and are best known from there.
    However, generally everyone uses them all the time without being aware of it.
    Example: IF ‘raining’ THEN ‘use raincoat’ ELSE ‘stay in’.
    Or: IF ‘hungry’ THEN ‘check fridge’ ELSE – (IF ‘fridge empty’ THEN ‘go to restaurant/friends/neighbours and eat there’) ELSE ‘prepare a sandwich and eat’ END.IF

    SMAF makes things easier to understand AND follow (once you know its conventions), which is beneficial to the one who is using it. It also gives a sound and logical basis for formulating new POA’s and DLO’s.
    So, please go on with SMAF and your blog, both of which I have only discovered today.

    Note: in a coming revision of SMAF you could eliminate doubling an explanation in the same (often short) paragraph or even in the same sentence, as in this example: page 14, top, Verbal reinforcement. > *** “!±sound”(the Danish word ‘dygtig’) is a semi-conditioned reinforcer, the Danish word ‘dygtig. ***
    The easiest way to eliminate these, is to have someone read it who has not done so before.

    • Hi Hans,

      Thanks. We are aware of the problem and building a complete new website at the moment to resolve those problems and implement a myriad of improvements. Sorry for the inconvenience. Please, keep updated thru our Facebook page.



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  16. I would like to read your articles for going to your guinea pig camp but I am unable to see anything on my iPhone or iPad. Could you convert them to a PDF or text or kindle format? Thank you!

    • Dear lowcarb365,

      Sorry for that. It’s an Apple problem. I know it for I also have an iPhone and an iPad. The books will come soon for iPad and Kindle, though.



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