#69: My First Behavior


As a new trainer, it is a big deal when you finally get to teach an animal something new. I am teaching my first behavior to Smoke, our oldest harbor seal. Smoke can often be found in a resting position called bottling in which she floats with her head above the water (much like a bottle would float). My challenge has been to teach her to go upside-down and stick her hind flippers out of the water, which we call... are you ready? An inverted bottle.

When training a new behavior there are a number of steps you take to reach the finished product. We call these steps approximations. Training a new behavior is like climbing a ladder. You have to climb one rung at a time to reach your goal. Each rung is like an approximation. In this video you can see some of the approximations that I've taken.

At first I got Smoke to follow a target, in this case a white bead on the end of a pole, until she was upside-down. After removing the target from the scenario I worked on getting her to maintain a vertical body position with her flippers sticking out of the water. She was still relying on me to guide her and help her balance. Now with a soft tap on her chin she goes down on her own and balances in the position. Watch this video to see some of the steps I took in training my first behavior!


1 comment:

  1. Wooohoooo, Smoke! Well done, girl!!

    Oh, and you too, Justin! :o)


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