Training animals the way zoos do!Posted: Updated:
Over the weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) conference in Louisville, KY. My topics were on what zookeeping teaches all of us about training animals constructive behaviors with only positive reinforcement, as well as, dealing with and reducing unwanted behaviors like aggression, again with only positive reinforcement. Much of the information dog trainers and zookeepers of today rely on to train animals with only reinforcement comes from decades of experiences from the marine mammal training community. In fact, Karen Pryor's landmark book, "Don't Shoot the Dog," still a top seller after many years, draws from her time as a dolphin trainer in Hawaii.
As I mentioned to the hundreds of trainers in attendance, it is an exciting time to be a animal trainer, whether at a zoo, vet clinic, shelter, or obedience class. Increasingly, zookeepers are revealing their creative and behavioral talents to teach wild and potentially dangerous animals how to participate in their own care and ultimate survival. From daily body weights and exams to voluntary blood sampling, animals are learning to engage in cooperative behaviors that help ensure long-term health and wellbeing. This creates a safer, healthier and more productive environment for the animals and the people caring for them!
As part of the conference, several attendees were treated to an afternoon hosted by the Louisville Zoo. While there we witnessed several innovative exhibits in which animals were actually rotated on and off public exhibit several times each day. This has the effect of increasing animal wellbeing by utilizing the entire exhibit and making it seem novel each day, as well as increasing public interest.
The effort in positive reinforcement training lead by zoos and aquariums today is one of the reasons I wrote . You can always hear more about positive reinforcement training by tuning in to our zoo and pet training call in segments every other Saturday on Good Morning Arizona!
Grey Stafford, Ph.D. is the Director of Conservation and Communications at the Wildlife World Zoo and author of the new pet-training book, " ". He appears frequently on 3TV with some of the zoo's fascinating animals.
Wildlife World Zoo, which is located at 16501 W. Northern Ave., Litchfield Park, is open 365 days a year, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Daytime admission is $16.99 (plus tax) for adults and $8.99 (plus tax) for children 3 to 12; children 2 and younger get in free. For more information, call 623-935-WILD (9453) or visit .