Thursday, February 03, 2011
Ollie has grown quite a bit in the months since she arrived at the Aquarium last fall. So much so that the staff has already begun her basic training.
How do you begin training a sea otter? Well its the same type of training that we do with our seals and sea lions and that anyone can do with a pet dog or cat.
Positive reinforcement is the main method that we use in training our critters at the Aquarium of the Pacific. What it basically means is that we reward an animal for doing something we want. For a more detailed description on training animals check out my blog on How to Train a Sea Lion (and a Rabbit) from a couple of years ago. Click here to check out that blog.
To begin Ollie’s training we’ve started to use a whistle during her feeding sessions. Each time that we would give her a piece of shrimp or clam we would blow the whistle. The idea behind this is that Ollie would soon begin to associate the whistle with the food. In that way we can start using the whistle as a “bridge” to let her know that her favorite piece of clam or shrimp would soon follow the sound of the whistle. In other words the whistle is saying to Ollie “Good Job! A reward is coming!” We been using the whistle with her for the past few weeks and she is already beginning to understand what it means. Ollie is showing that she’s a good student.
One of the behaviors that her main trainer, mammalogist Caitlin, will be using the bridge for is teaching Ollie to come out of the water when asked and going back in when asked. This will be one of many husbandry behaviors that will be taught to her so that the staff can more effectively care for her needs. Stay tuned for more on the education of Ollie the Otter.
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