Motivation and emotion/Textbook/Motivation and emotion/Animals/Supplementary information

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Supplementary Information

Perspectives on animal training methods for entertainment, work or pleasure[edit | edit source]

Animals can be trained to do incredible things, the video is of monkeys trained to work in a Japanese restaurant [[1]], a testament to animal intelligence! Using a combination of operant and classical conditioning, circus trainers and wild animal trainers can get amazing results.Knowledge of animal psychology and classical and operant training methods have revealed such excellent results, they should be embraced in any animal training regime.

The biggest advantage of understanding the concepts of reinforcement, conditioning, animal instincts and animal psychology can give a trainer a distinct advantage over other trainers. Dog training techniques incorporating response reward techniques like clicker training have been shown to be very effective. This could be partly due to the dog’s perception of a human as part of the pack suggesting that dogs recognize humans as larger predators. It has been shown that dogs will react to human body postures and will look to humans for guidance (Braem & Mills, 2010) when given a cue by the handler. The fact that dogs are perceptive to body language is important since it is a method of interspecies communication.

The study also found that other factors decreased obedience in dogs, such as lack of attention on the handler and when the handler wore sunglasses, (Braem & Mills, 2010) giving a strong indication that dogs “read” humans eyes as well as body language. Another interesting finding was that obedience decreased when the dog was given additional verbal information, suggesting the dog was a little confused. Some dogs commonly used for security, protection and attack work:[[2]] Dogs and cats alike will respond well to clicker training (McGreevy, 2007).

Big cats do better with positive reinforcement schedules using meat and aversive stimuli to reduce unwanted behaviour which they are taught as cubs, such as a short sharp clap followed by a short punch on the nose if they get rough (McGreevy, 2007). Clicker training can also work with horses and other prey animals, but there must be a trusting bond to begin with otherwise there could be issues of fear to deal with. As initially demonstrated by Pavlov and more recently modern dog trainers, dogs are easily motivated by food. A “sit” command or “come” command is easily taught when the dog is immediately rewarded with a small piece of tasty food. Dolphins and marine mammals are also effectively trained using the clicker training method (McGreevy & Boakes, 2007). Clicker training is generally used to train Dolphins,(McGreevy, 2004) and domestic animals such as dogs and horses can be successfully trained with the clicker. In her book “You can train your horse to do anything!” author Shawna Karrasch discusses her past experience of clicker training marine mammals when she worked at Sea World in San Diego.

She discusses the value of clicker (and target training) based on a reward-reinforcement system, where you work with animals you cannot control by physical means such as ropes and so on. Clicker training is also used by dog trainer Karen Pryor who published a book titled “Don’t Shoot the Dog” which explains her clicker training methods and another trainer, Alexandra Kurland has also published books on clicker training for horses. The basic principles of clicker training are explained in the video.[[3]] The basic principles are based on when the desired behaviour occurs, the clicker is used then the reward (food treat) is immediately given, the clicker is a secondary reinforcer. The animal begins to associate the sound of the clicker with the reward due to the pairing the stimulus with the reinforcement. This can then build to more complex behaviours being taught. To get more information on clicker training see the recommended reading section.

Harry Colebourne and Winnie

To be successful in training prey animals on the other hand, a different approach is recommended. Horses are quite often blamed for "naughty" behaviours such as those in the following videos. What many people don't consider when training and riding them is that they are prey animals and as such, they will react to things that predators won't. An example is that due to the equine instinct to flee from fear, they will often react to something a human knows is harmless such as a plastic bag flapping in the wind. What is not considered is that in the horse's mind, the bag is perceived as a threat and he must run first and think later as instinct tells him to. Here are some videos showing examples of typical problems many horse owners face. There is no need to view the entire videos to get the idea, it is more of a demonstration of the speed, sometimes without warning that a horse will react and the obvious advantage of strength they have over humans.

The first video is a horse pulling back for seemingly no reason, note the speed of reaction with no apparent warning[[4]]The second video of a horse not overly willing to get on a float[[5]]and a more difficult customer[[6]].Someone's idea of a solution - although they have not taken into account the potential danger and risk of injury to both horse and human. Not only that she couldn't out-muscle the horse should he be unwilling to get on, but once he's on, to tie him up to the chest-bar of the float, she doesn't realize that should he panic a pull back, he could wreck himself, the float and her! The flaws of such mechanical equipment should be obvious but many still believe these types of solutions are effective.[[7]] Here is what happens when they want out![[8]] and other classic issues owners face. The opposite of that is of a training method using positive reinforcement to trick train horses.[[9]]

Many modern horse trainers are called horse whisperers due to their seemingly mysterious techniques of communicating to horses as that depicted in the movie of the same name starring Robert Redford. It would be extremely beneficial for individuals who have anything to do with horses, be it in a professional sense or recreational sense to understand the basics of horse behaviour. Horse psychology is explained in many publications, some of them listed in the recommended reading list. Advocates of natural horsemanship methods effectively use horse psychology as part of their training systems as they understand what motivates horses and they understand how to effectively apply the appropriate operant and classical conditioning techniques. Examples of what they can achieve are amazing, many videos on the internet demonstrate not only what the trainers can do, but what their students can do once they learn the secrets.

Big cats are trained as young cubs for circus performance

Horse training methods have changed considerably over the years and harsh methods of restraint are losing popularity. Dr. Jim McCall tells how horse breakers worked in the old days (McCall, 1988). He describes a mustang who was caught, tied securely to a solid post, blindfolded and had a leg tied up just so the rider could get the saddle on. Then once the horse was saddled, the rider jumped on, took off the blindfold and released the horse which then started to buck as hard as he could to get the rider off. After a while the horse gave up due to sheer exhaustion and was considered "broke".The problem with this old style of force is that it is extremely stressful for the horse and most average horse owners cannot or do not wish to ride bucking broncos.

Modern horse trainers/clinicians practicing "Natural Horsemanship" have been recently popularized. They all understand what motivates prey animals otherwise they wouldn't be so successful. Pat Parelli is one who has been known to tame the wildest of horses with gentle methods and gives bridle-less riding demonstrations, even on mules. Mules have a reputation of being stubborn, he obviously understands what motivates them. Stacey Westfall trains horses for the specialized sport of reining and Monty Roberts is an expert on liberty. Buck Brannaman and Mark Rashid are also successful trainers.

As Robert Miller (Miller, 1999) proposes, horses can be motivated by control of their movement. They are also motivated to flee from that perceived as dangerous and they have a rapid response or reaction time. This is the instinct of a prey animal, it must be faster than a predator or the prey animal will get eaten. (Miller, 1999) Horses are great learners and respond readily to behaviour shaping techniques and they have superior memory – they don’t forget anything (Barakat & McCluskey, 2009). This is important for trainers to be aware of as they will learn and remember everything the handler has taught them, good or bad.

Other horse trainers understand these concepts outlined and use them to motivate horses to do incredible things. Only one of them however, has also incorporated the horse’s “personality” into its training program. They have come up with solutions based on the horse’s extroversion or introversion, right brained or left brained behaviour based on what symptoms the horse presents at the time. An example of a “right brain extrovert” would be that of a horse that outwardly displays negative behaviour (bucking, bolting or rearing etc.) when it is reacting from fear (right brain behaviour). Left brain behaviour is suggested as that when a horse is calm and “thinking” about a situation, he may lick his lips during this process.

Pat Parelli outlines this program in his book “Natural Horsemanship” and information on the horse's personality is on the Parelli website. The basic outline is that the philosophy is based on gaining respect (dominance hierarchy) through control of movement (impulsion) and only when those are mastered to ask for flexion (softness in the bridle and in the body). Dominance hierarchy from the human puts them in an alpha or herd leader position in the horse’s mind due to utilizing the natural hierarchy horses have, (Barakat & McCluskey, 2008).

Parelli utilizes this natural leadership in the horse’s mind by playing what he calls “the seven games”. The games are designed to challenge dominance based on games horses play with each other. Once the seven games are mastered, the ultimate relationship with the horse can be acquired. The seven games incorporate habituation (J. J. Cooper, 1998) known to be effective by getting the horse accustomed to frightening stimuli by frequent exposure, sensitization and desensitization techniques, flooding and approach retreat (successive approximation) techniques as these techniques build trust and reduce fear. Once fear is reduced the horse’s movement is controlled, either in the round pen or by ground schooling.

Monty Roberts getting a horse used to crossing a tarpaulin

The round pen techniques are used by many trainers, the most famous being Monty Roberts. The concept is that of sending the horse around the round pen until it starts to want to stop (it is tiring or needing air), then when the horse looks at the person, the person immediately takes the pressure off and walks away. As shown earlier, some animals are motivated by being left alone the horse is one of them. After a few times doing this the horse eventually will follow the handler since the handler has at no time hurt or harmed the horse, but provided him with comfort. Going back to the drive reduction theory, the horse needs air and needs to stop to reduce the drive for air, if he has to do it by being close to the human he becomes highly motivated. Since the drive for air is a need, it becomes more powerful than his desire to be far from the human. It has an extremely powerful reinforcing effect. The secondary factor is that the movement of the horse has been controlled. Once the horse follows the human which is against its very nature (it’s easy to get a dog to follow you but not a horse) then it builds confidence and trust. This aspect of giving the horse a cue to stand still or move at a given time has an extremely powerful effect as it causes the horse to perceive the human as a leader (Miller, 2007).

To develop the horse further using motivational techniques, teaching the horse to move away or yield to pressure is important from a safety perspective. Understanding the importance of this would prevent such instances like pulling back when tied, which is a normal reaction a horse will do when he feels trapped. His instinct is to remove or pull away from that which will restrain him from flight, as restraint from flight could mean death. The restriction of flight and the resultant hormones excreted as a flight response can also manifest itself in other ways such as self–mutilation in extreme cases (Mclean & McLean, 2005). The important thing is that horses cannot learn when their flight response takes over so this must be addressed first.

By using desensitization and sensitization techniques a horse can learn to accept being saddled, bridled, tied up and have its feet picked up. (Miller, 1999) He also discusses methods where drive reduction modify behaviour, citing the example of water deprivation (in controlled ways only) to where the horse needs water badly enough it will motivate the hard to catch horse to be caught. This is a much more gentle method than forcing the horse against its will by tying up its legs and forcing it to submit by breaking its spirit as Dr. Jim McCall outlined as the old traditional method of horse breaking (McCall, 1988). An understanding the motivational factors can help shape behaviour.

Circus trainers such as Circus Knie also recognize the importance of positive reinforcement by food rewards. They use stallions in their act that they constantly reward with tidbits throughout their training program (Miller, 1999). The last and probably the biggest motivator of them all for horses is that of comfort and discomfort, this is mental as well as physical. (Miller, 1999)Getting a horse onto a horse float is probably the most difficult thing to motivate a horse to do apart from laying him down at liberty, as both represent danger and flight restriction. It could be said that the horse perceives the float as a “cave on wheels where predators such as bears lurk”. Horses are normally extremely fearful of floats since they are not only extremely confined spaces, they also move under a horse’s feet. Stables also confine horses and it could be suggested that due to a stable being an unnatural environment for a horse, it causes unnecessary stress and it has been associated with the development of displaced or stereotypical behaviours such as crib biting or weaving (Heleski, Shelle, Nielsen, & Zanella, 2002).

Many trainers “punish” horses for unwillingness to load (or anything else deemed as bad behaviour). Many traditional methods incorporate punishment even though it is not perceived as such and is often through ignorance of understanding the four concepts of reinforcement and prey animal psychology. Punishment is an ineffective method of training horses because all it does is make the horse more fearful and the horse cannot associate the punishment with the behaviour (J. J. Cooper, 1998). Punishment has no positive reinforcement and the horse cannot learn the desired behaviour (McCall, 1988).

Pat Parelli has mastered the art of training horse to load in horse floats so well they load at liberty. He uses operant and classical conditioning, drive reduction, aversive and appetitive techniques and the seven games of controlling the horse’s movement. He may not use the same terminology as scientists but the concepts are the same. He will first get the horse to where it will move in all directions obediently (while on line with a halter and lead rope) then he will build challenges into the schedule by driving or sending them over scary things like tarpaulins and see-saw type bridges. This allows the horse time to learn and become confident in the leadership of the handler. Horses learn and develop habits through consistency (Mclean & McLean, 2005), the horse becomes calm through consistent training as its environment is predictable.

The main difference between Parelli’s method and traditional methods is that Parelli will never lead the horse in or shut it in immediately when it gets in there. He will drive or send it in preceded by first sending it across the tailgate until such a time that it become comfortable and confident (just like walking over the bridge or see-saw). He will allow the horse to rest (reward) once he has sent it from one side to the other. Sending the horse from one side to the other and allowing it to stop frequently also allows the horse to think and get confident. Because he is not forcing the horse in and is using successive approximation techniques allowing the horse to build confidence near the float and on the tailgate, it is very effective.

The final challenge he gives the horse is to “find the comfort spot” in the float. He uses aversive training outside the float and allows the horse to rest every time it even looks like it wants to go in, or pokes its head in. The horse learns by consequence that it only finds a reward (rest) when it looks like it is trying to go in.

Over time, the horse gains confidence and learns it is not getting comfort outside the float so it eventually makes the decision to go in on its own. Once in there, Parelli does not shut it in. Shutting the horse in at this stage of training may frighten the horse at a critical point and could destroy any confidence or trust the horse has gained. Instead, Parelli just allows the horse to rest for as long as possible until it catches its air again and stress levels come back down. The relaxation time in the float reinforces the desired behaviour as the horse becomes comfortable in it and the horse is always given a choice, this is a very effective method. Parelli also does not put a time frame on a session, just keeps persistently and patiently wait for the horse to make the right choice. This very effective method is outlined in his video series available at

Why do animals suddenly attack their owners? It must be remembered for any animal trainer when dealing with big cats and large marine mammals that they are by their very nature, predators. If they feel they can't escape, they may well attack their handler with a moment's notice. They could perceive the handler as being lower in the pack or pride as dominance from the human is momentarily challenged and lost.

Prey animals such as elephants have been known to kill humans they felt threatened by and it could all come back to their initial training. It is possible they were trained using force, it is possible the handlers really didn't have an in depth understanding of motivational reinforcement techniques and kind training methods. There is no excuse for cruelty of this sort.

Intensive pig farming

Welfare should always be considered for any animal related industry. It has been suggested that emotional stress affects animals physiologically and if they live in an environment contrary to their natural environment,therefore they can become even more stressed. The housing and comfort of the animal is paramount. Consideration of space requirements and an enriched environment in a captive situation can provide them with things that mentally stimulate them. A holistic approach should always be taken and training methods should never use force or harsh punishment. Understanding the concepts of reinforcement and classical and operant conditioning should be an integral requirement for any animal owner, regardless of what the animal is used for. There is no longer any excuse for the old harsh training methods to achieve positive outcomes when more modern methods have been shown to be far more effective.

Recommended reading[edit | edit source]

Bostock, Frank Charles. The training of Wild Animals. ISBN 978-1-60386-190-8

Bruce, G. How to Click with your Horse. ISBN 978-0-646-52515-0

Deutsch, R. The Click That Does The Trick:Trick Training Your Bird The Clicker Way ISBN 0-96110-7499

Eicher, S & Weiland, E. Freddie Knie ISBN 3-440-06672-X (Printed in German)

Heidenreich, B. Good bird: a guide to solving behavioral problems in companion birds. ISBN 0-96110-7499

Johnson, M. Clicker training for birds. ISBN 0-96110-7499

Karrasch, Shawna & Vinton. You can train your horse to do anything! ISBN 1-872119-27-1

Kurland, A. The Click that Teaches. ISBN 0-97040-65-0-9

McCall, Dr. Jim. Influencing Horse Behaviour, a natural approach to training. ISBN 0-931866-37-5

McGreevy, Paul. Equine Behaviour, a guide for veterinarians and equine scientists. ISBN 0-7020-2634-4

McGreevy, Paul & Boakes, Robert. Carrots and Sticks, principles of animal training. ISBN 0-521-68691-1

Miller, Dr. Robert. Understanding the ancient secrets of the Horse's mind. ISBN 0-929346-65-3

Miller, Dr. Robert. Imprint training of the Newborn Foal. ISBN 0-911647-22-8

Mills, D & Nankervis, K. Equine Behaviour: Principles and Practice. ISBN 978-0-632-04878-6

Parelli, P. Natural Horsemanship. ISBN 0-911647-27-9

Pavlich, Leslie. Clicker Training: Colt Starting the Natural Horse. ISBN 978-1-4196-8475-3

Powell, R; Symbaluck, D & MacDonald, S. Introduction to Learning and Behaviour. ISBN 0-534-63451-6

Pryor, K. Don't shoot the Dog! ISBN 1-86054-238-7

Pryor, K. Reaching the animal mind: clicker training and what it teaches us about all animals ISBN 978-0743297769