Training the Animals
The staff at Animal Behavior Enterprises referred to training the animals as the "most exciting, challenging & rewarding part" of their jobs. ABE staff trained over sixty different species and thousands of individual animals. The animals were trained in steps. Each step built upon the last until the animal consistently exhibited the desired behavior. The ABE training procedures were based on basic Skinnerian principles of operant conditioning.
Principles of Animal Training
|Reinforcement. Animals receive food or praise when they perform a desired behavior.
|Extinction. If the desired behavior is not rewarded, the animal will stop performing it.
|Discrimination. Animals learn that a particular behavior will be rewarded only under certain stimulus conditions and not others.
|Discriminative stimulus. Animals learn that behavior in response to a particular stimulus (a discriminative stimulus) will produce a reward.
|Differentiation. Animals learn that there is a range of responses that result in reward, along with many responses that will not lead to reward.
|Intermittent reinforcement. Animals are not rewarded every single time they produce the behavior. Instead, they may be rewarded every third or fourth time, or perhaps randomly. This decreases the likelihood of extinction of a given response.
Patient like the Chipmunks by Bob and Marian Bailey, 1994.