Within my career I’ve developed a different way looking at behaviors animals have. Some behaviors desirable some behaviors undesirable. Regardless of what behaviour it is and in what box we should put it I started to see how these behaviors could be solved or how they could be build up by building blocks or successive approximations. How I got there was just making training plans for every single behavior I was going to train. This allowed me to look different to the behaviors animals perform. Breaking behaviour down into blocks allows you to have a more problem solving view towards behaviours or even a better understanding of what animals are able to do.

It’s a great tool to have and even better, you will be very pro active. Here are some reasons why you should do it to!

1. You are very Pro Active!

The great part of making such a plan is that you have thought about many scenarios that could potentially occur training a behavior. You thought about the animals, the position, the keepers and the reinforcement this allowed you to have a more succesfull plan for the animal you are about to train. You thought about the environment and the scenario you want to be in so as what technique you want to use such as, Capturing the behaviour? Shaping the behaviour with a target? Using mimicry? or model the behaviour by hand? Lots of different ways you can train a behaviour as you see but one will fit better with this group of animals or this particular individual. With a plan you thought about this previously.

2. Your success rate with the animal goes up

If you get the trick of making small successful steps the reflection of the animal is the engagement it want to have to participate. The success rate you develop reflect straight back to a stronger relationship. I mean who doesn’t want to be successful 9 out of 10 times? The great part is that when you make small steps its easy for the animal to progress but also its easier for you to take a step back if necessary. Success is the key. I’ve seen animals become more confident having small successful steps. Through such success the animal will look forward to your next training session. Can you imagine what happens if you apply a reinforcement schedule on top of that!

Ready for success @ Loro Parque

3. When S#”&T hits the Van you have a Plan!

I was in plenty of situations where when you train the animals for a particular behavior all of a sudden something happens where we have to push for the goal we have negate of positive. Recently this happened as well at the zoo I work at. We are working with those approximation plans to get the animals closer to us because they are very new in their environment and with us. Finally we had some great control but at that point we had to get them in for a medical procedure. The days after we had to back up in our plans to become successful again but a week later we were back where we were before the procedure. A week was very quick for the animals to get back on track. Just because they understood what we wanted due to the approximation plan. Steps back are easier to take and animals remember!

4. Relationships are getting stronger

Because you thought about what you are going to train and you mapped it out completely , there is a pretty high chance the animal succeeds. Small steps to the goal you want to reach is important for you and the animal. Every interaction we have with our animals adds up on our relationships. If the training session is well planned out and the trainer is confident with training the animal and its goal, the relationship will go up. Clarity is important and if we can give this to the animal by making a training plan why wouldn’t we?

5. Your training skill grows drastically

A training plan is not just for the animal. The growth of yourself as a trainer goes up as well. Through those plans you start to look different to the animal, to his learning curve and to the animal’s character. You start to understand behavior a lot better just by observing how your plan is working out and how the animal deals with it. You start to think about which techniques to use what helps you think about options that fits the animal and this guys means adding experience to your CV.

As you see there are many pro’s to making a training plan. If there are any questions how to do this or if you need help making a training plan with a behavior you struggle with email us!



Peter is a passionate Animal Consultant that beside teaching you about Operant Conditioning makes sure you will go home motivated and inspired. Make sure you read his Bio!


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