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2019 Training News

Posted by on May 4, 2019 at 3:00 AM


3 May 2019

Exciting things happening this year with both our training programs.

The two Smooth Collies I have had here for over a year for behavioral rehabilitation are doing well. Nelson who suffers from Play Deficit Disorder is now able to interact well with some of the other dogs unsupervised and can be with all the dogs under supervision. Although he still chews on items he shouldn't, this has also gotten better. Sadie who is here for severe anxiety in urban settings and reactivity to cats and other small animals has improved. Daily training has significantly reduced her reactivity to cats and her instinct to chase them has diminished, although she is only around them during training sessions.

The Snake Training which was a side project I started to help Vedra, a highly fearful and reactive Jungle Carpet Python, and just to see if it could be done, has succeeded beyond my expectations. As it turns out snakes are excellent at associative learning, so classical conditioning works well for them and they seem to have great long-term memory regarding some things. Habituation to daily activity, target training, and station training is working well. I wrote an article about this that was published in the Spring 2019 edition of the" target="_blank">IAABC Journal under the "reptiles" heading. 

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The snake cohabitation study is going well with no issues between cohabbed snaked and lots of journal entries to pull data from. This is such a complex subject it will get its own blog entry and I am working on an article.

This summer we are starting a behavior project to capture daily behaviors of Morelia bredli to result in a time budget detailing how they spend their time in a 24-hour period, weekly, and monthly. This will be accomplished using ethograms. I have an intern from PPCC starting this fall to assist with the project but would welcome a summer intern as well if someone is interested.

Weather has not been cooperative for horse training and as we do not have an indoor arena no riding has been done in quite some time. We work with the horses daily on general handling and groundwork. June 1-2, 2019 we are hosting a Science of Motion weekend. Jean Luc Cornille will be here lecturing and working with horses, hopefully the weather is nice, or the entire weekend will be lecture only.

The newest edition to our canine family, Norwegian Elkhound Monroe, starred in a series of videos demonstrating various canine enrichment possiblities to keep your dog occupied while they are alone and also to elicit physical activity while you are interacting with them. These can be viewed on our YouTube Channel, make sure to Like and Subscribe. YOu can view one of my favorites below:

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Snake Training: Vedra 2

Posted by on September 20, 2018 at 6:30 PM

I’ve been target training Vedra and I’m so proud of her tonight. She followed the target all the way from her enclosure to her feeding tub without me putting hands on her or using any prompts at all! This is a big step in the process. It’s the first time she’s moved from one location to another following the target. Until now I’ve gotten her to follow the target with her eyes and head and perch above it in her enclosure; tonight I used it to get her to move on her own from one location to another, very exciting!

The steps I used so far:

Feed her on the target.

Place the target in front of her and place the food on it once she looks at it.

Place the target in front of her and once she looks at it, remove the target and give food. 

Move the targer around a small space, when she follows it with her head, remove the target and give food.

Scent the target with food and get her to follow the target from her enclosure to her feeding bin, once inside and stationary, remove target and give food. 

Place the unscented target in front of her, have her follow it from her enclosure to her feeding bin, once stationary, remove target and give food. 

Next  . . .

Time will tell. 

Snake Training: Vedra 1

Posted by on August 16, 2018 at 11:00 PM

Snakes CAN learn and be trained. Humans often fail to give reptiles the credit they deserve when it comes to cognition. When Vedra first arrived here she was used to living in a tub; eventual transition to a terrarium/vivarium terrified and stressed her so she went back into a tub where she felt safe and was content. Enter the compromise to facilitate training and a behavior shift: a Neodesha enclosure with only the front clear. At first Vedra stayed near the back and used her hiding spaces a lot. Allowing her time to habituate at her own pace resulted in her spending more and more time near the front. That’s when I started using a training technique commonly used with equines known as “approach and retreat”. Within about 2 months Vedra had habituated to me, to random activity outside her window, and to having the door open at times. One day I put a whole bookshelf together as she watched with her head just slightly outside the threshold of the open door. She now remains near the clear front more than she hides and is curious when the door is open, sticking her head forward and demonstrating tongue flicking behavior to investigate activity outside. Sometimes she will choose to come out of the enclosure on her own. Vedra has also learned and accepted a handling and feeding routine but that’s a story for a future post!

Vedra is a Jungle Carpet Python (Morelia spilota cheyni) hatched in April 2017 at Ultra Violet Reptiles. She is very intelligent, observant, and expressive. She communicates well through her behavior and is a joy to work with.


Posted by on June 10, 2018 at 4:15 PM

Welcome to our website and blog.

Our desire is to provide quality education to humans that will enhance their safety and enrich their lives. Knowing what to expect from animals and from other humans will make your interaction with them safer and ideally more enjoyable.

Trust a horse to be a horse and you are then able to base your own behavior towards them in a way likely to produce the safest and least conflicted outcome. So it goes with any animal including other people. It sounds easy but if you don't know how horses view the world and what their natural reactions are to stimuli then it would be difficult for you to know how to behave around them. This is the premise for all the trainings we do and the reason we do behavioral studies.

Pause, think before you act, ask yourself "how does this person or animal view the world? What is their umwelt? How are they likely to react to me if I do _________________? Trust a dog to be a dog and a snake to be a snake; know what that means and your interactons with them will have a better chance of being smooth and without incident.