Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Another Look At Clicker Training and Operant Conditioning

So, you operant conditioning / clicker training fans might want to consider some facts before you start spouting how your all positive training theories are superior to all others.

Check this out…

• Scientists still consider some species particularly unsuited for confinement:

• "A newly-captured porpoise or small whale is certainly frightened, and death from shock is not uncommon. Spinners and kikos [spotted dolphins] are particularly high-strung and apt to go into shock; some oceanariums will not even attempt to capture animals from this genus because they are frightened so easily." Karen Pryor (1975).
• "Few species seem to be genetically incompatible, but for some reason the common dolphin does not always co-exist well with the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and other large dolphins." Joseph Geraci (1986). Walker (1975) described common dolphins as "the most delicate of the four routinely-captured species" and "the most difficult to keep in captivity.
• "Shallenberger (cited in Reeves & Leatherwood, 1984) described the melon- headed whales at Sea Life Park, "In captivity they can become quite aggressive and must be handled carefully."
Pryor (cited in Reeves & Leatherwood, 1984) described pygmy killer whales at Sea Life Park, "They proved aggressive and did not adapt well."
• The Fraser's dolphin, was described by Hammond & Leatherwood (1994): "we believe the nervousness and general ‘fragility' of this species probably makes it unacceptable for captivity."

So, after hearing all these great stories about how operant conditioning works with sea animals, we find out that THEY ARE ONLY WORKING WITH THE MOST SOCIABLE AND MALLEABLE SPECIES! You mean, these techniques won’t work with all marine life in an aquarium? These experts can’t control the aggression or fearfulness with these techniques? These noted experts need to skip working with some species?

Does this mean therefore that you clicker trainers (all positive trainers) are willing to accept that maybe all positive reinforcement in training doesn’t always succeed with all dogs? What do we do with those that are highly aggressive or fearful when they don’t fit within your program? Put them down? Hmm? We certainly can’t just turn them back into nature, like you can with a wild sea animal. We can’t just drop those dogs off in some forest or parking lot and figure it will all work out.

Any dog training fool can take a highly trainable, non-aggressive, food motivated, stable dog and get great training results. But, not all dogs fit that description.

Time to get your heads out of the clouds and start reading the scientific literature critically.

1 comment:

Sam Basso said...

Well, someone decided to link this article to their web page, so I deleted the comment. It would be greatly appreciated if you'd ask me before you posted advertisements on my blog. Since I wasn't contacted, I'm advising my readers to NOT click on such links to promote unknown freeloaders. I don't endorse these kinds of unverified links, I don't know who the writer is, and I don't know if the training mentioned is good or harmful.