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If you've ever wondered, "How do I train my animal to _______?" we're here to help!

Jessi shares the base concepts of behavioral training. The first in a series on Behavior.


Softest Fur
Cat in box link:
Law of Effect: Gray, Peter. ‘'Psychology'’, Worth, NY. 6th ed. pp 108–109
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Welcome back to Animal Wonders. I get asked all the time, "How do I train my animal to...?"

Living with animals in today's world can be a challenge, especially if the animal has a hard time conforming to human societal and house rules. Before I can teach you how to train an animal, first we need to learn what training is.

Let's start with some questions.

What is seven plus eight? Thirteen minus four? Twelve times fifteen? If you got those right, congratulations! You were trained basic mathematics.

Here's a few more questions! What's the softest animal in the world? Which is a rodent: a skunk, a rabbit, or a porcupine? And, who put a cat in a puzzle box to study psychology? If you got those - great. You've been trained to know some animal stuff. If you didn't know that, that's alright you can go Google them, or you can go to the links below. If you didn't know that, those answers, it's because you haven't been trained, or taught, that information. You can't know what you haven't been taught.

There are many ways to teach and to train, but to understand training we need to start at the very beginning. So training started a superduper long time ago, before there was actual documentation of it occurring. So the study of animal behavior and animal training as a tool used to modify animal behavior... scientific studies really started to get going in the 1900s.

So let's talk about the Law of Effect. This law came from Edward Thorndike, and I like how my buddy Edward puts it, "If an association is followed by a satisfying state of affairs, it will be strengthened but if it is followed by an annoying state of affairs, it will be weakened."

Basically, if it feels good, your keep doing it. If it feels bad, you don't do it. This explains how habits and addictions are hard to stop. So let's relate this to animals.

If an animal feels good immediately after doing a certain behavior, it's more likely that that behavior is going to happen again. But, if they feel bad immediately after that certain behavior, they're much more likely not to do that behavior again. I want to add one more thing. If nothing happens after a behavior, again, it's less likely to occur again. So pay attention to those things because you can use this in real life.

So here's a real life example. If you would like your partner to do more dish washing, give them something that will make them feel good for doing it. But remember, do it as close as possible to the actual dish washing behavior so that they're going to associate the good feeling with washing dishes. Don't wait a couple hours or the next day to show them that good feeling, get them to feel that good feeling, because you want it as close as possible to the behavior. Timing is one of the most important things in training. And consistency. Consistency and timing are two of the most important things in training.

So, Edward Thorndike, he came up with a hypothesis and he tested it on cats. He would place the cat in a box with a simple latch system and then he would place some food on the outside of the box. The cat could smell this delicious smelling food but they couldn't get to it. And that sounds terrible! Kiki, how would you like to be able to smell the most delicious thing but not be able to get to it? I mean, it sounds pretty cruel. Come on, Edward! I thought we were buddies.

So Edward didn't just leave them to drown in their own drool in that box. He did put a small hole in the box so they could reach out and try and get that piece of delicious food. But they couldn't actually reach it so they just tried and tried and tried until finally they would give up and then they would just attempt to just try and get out of the box. And as they were trying to get out of the box, they would accidentally step on the simple latch system and open the box and then they could get out and get their piece of food.

Edward Thorndike repeated this process until the cat accidentally hit the latch enough times that it started associating being in the latch area with getting out of the box and getting the food. Pretty soon, as soon as the cat was put in the box, she immediately went to the latch area, bumped the latch and got out and got the food. And that, my friends, is some of the early experimentation on animal behavior.

We'll continue to talk more about training in episodes to come. But for now, I can't do a video without an animal to share! So, let's visit with my old friend Charlie.

This is Charlie. Charlie is a street pup that Augusto and I rescued in 2007. We have no idea what kind of puppy he is but it's safe to say that he's part terrier. Charlie has been with us before Animal Wonders was founded. In the early days, we did a lot of training with him. He was going to work in film but since we moved to Montana his skills have been just a fun and healthy activity for us to do together. So this isn't going to be one of those amazing videos with ridiculously awesome things that this dog can do but it's something that you and your dog, or any animal for that matter, can work towards, once you learn about and understand training.

Mark - good boy!
Sit, down, roll - good boy! Over here!
Up - good boy!
Paw - good!
Up, (gunshot noise)
[Clicker sound]

Law of Effect is the basis for training. And once you start seeing it manifesting in real life, you'll begin to see how behavior is shaped by everything and everyone around you. We have more on training for you in the following weeks, so keep a look out for those videos.

I want to give a huge, huge thank you to all of our supporters, especially our Subbable subscribers and all of our other donors that make it possible for us to create this content for you each week. Thank you, thank you! If you would like to subscribe to our channel and learn more about animals or about training or you have any questions, you can subscribe to our Animal Wonders channel and you can follow me on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. Links are below, guys. Bye!


Welcome back to Animal Wonders, I'm Jessi. She came from across the ocean, she has an awesome accent, and she makes me drink proper tea, but let's start from the beginning.