#109: Turtles Target Too!

Skip targets his object for an audience

One of the first behaviors we train most animals is to target. Targeting is when an animal touches a body part, usually nose or muzzle to our hand or some other object. It wasn't difficult to encourage Skip, the Blandings turtle, to follow and strike at a moving object.

Skip with a nightcrawler

He would use these same behaviors to track and catch his food. By pairing this targeting behavior with one of his favorite food items--nightcrawlers (shown in his mouth above) we now have a consistent behavior. Targeting helps us lead animals where we want them to go or orients them to a specific spot.

To train the spin behavior, I used the target to lead him in a circle. After many repetitions, I substituted my finger for the target and moved it in a circular motion to encourage a spin. Here's a video showing this behavior:

After many more repetitions I was able to fade the circular motion of my finger to just one small circle. Now Skip spins on a signal!

- Cheryl


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