The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Operant and Classical Conditioning

By Frances K. McSweeney; Eric S. Murphy | Go to book overview

18
Modern Animal Training:
A Transformative Technology

Karen Pryor and Kenneth Ramirez

The shortest path to intentional or deliberate operant behavior is the functionally
appropriate use of a classically conditioned positive reinforcer, or event marker.

(Ogden Lindsley, n.d.)


Introduction

Animal training probably arose with the beginning of domestication of non-human species, currently thought to have occurred some 10,000 years ago (Diamond, 2002). Wherever humans exist, a tradition has evolved of specific methods and equipment for animal confinement and restraint, reinforcement, guidance, and aversive control, differing in accordance with the behavioral traits of each species (Krebs & Krebs, 2003). Conventional animal training has always been an artisanal craft or trade, based on traditional tools and methods, and augmented by apprenticeship, personal experience, and opinion. Modern training, in contrast, is based not on tradition and personal methods but on principles derived from three branches of science: behavior analysis, ethology, and neuroscience. Behavior analysis provides the principles of learning; ethology focuses on the innate behavior of animals. Careful observation can enable the trainer to interpret behavioral indications of internal affect and thus to modify training procedures to reduce stress and improve the rate learning. Neuroscience supplies the understanding of brain functions that explain underlying physical and chemical processes. Much aided by the Internet, the animal training community, worldwide, is in the process of evolving from methods-based traditional training to science-based modern training.

Zoologists, anthropologists, and historians differentiate between wild species, unmodified by human intervention, and domestic species, whose genome, appearance, and behavior have been modified by selective breeding (Coppinger & Coppinger,

-455-

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