No punishment or coercion is used. The animals participate because their cooperation earns them tasty food rewards. A clicker (in our case, a penlight flash) marks the instant when a trainee performs a correct behavior, and reward quickly follows.
Animals trained in this way are happier, better adjusted, and ultimately smarter as a result of their training. Most animals very much enjoy learning, when "school" is a game filled with interesting tasks and yummy treats. Goldfish respond beautifully in operant conditioning projects.
Operant conditioning is a behavioral science pioneered by B.F. Skinner in the 1950s. 21st century animal trainers rely heavily on Skinner's theory and techniques. We study concepts (antecedent, behavior, consequence, stimulus, response, reinforcement schedules, behavior extinction). We record and analyze data (reps, error rate, duration, latency). We strive to improve our training skills (timing, criteria, reinforcement rate, luring, shaping). It can get pretty complicated!
Really good trainers are rigorous about adhering to the scientific precepts of positive reinforcement training. But science isn't the whole story. Sensitivity and intuition are just as important. As we work with our animals, a mutual bond of trust forms. Heck, we love our critters, and they love us! Without trust and mutual respect, animal training just couldn't happen. So training, for me, is not a sterile, emotionless endeavor. And knowing my animals as well as I do helps me make correct split-second decisions: is she ready for the next step? Are the treats I'm feeding yummy enough to motivate him? Is she just having an off day? These are matters of the heart, as well as the mind.
And in the world of animal training, heart + mind = magic!
December 17, 2009, 14:55:14 bubbleblog wrote:
Andre, it sounds like your goldfish is doing great! While some trainers say start with a larger fish, I believe that there can be advantages to training a young fish. (I needed a specific look for my show, so I chose bigger and fancy fish.) Research has shown that learning stimulates neuronal recircuiting and even neuronal growth in young animals. So training young might actually accelerate the rate at which your fish learns; and you might end up with a very smart fish!
But, just as you wouldn't expect a puppy to have the stamina and emotional maturity of a 4-year old dog, a 1.5" goldfish is a baby and needs a lot of slack. Keep your training sessions short (2-3 minutes at a time) and train at most 2-3 times daily.
The fish's staple food works great as a reinforcer, as do vegetables like cooked peas and blanched spinach. Always give tiny bites (about 1 mm x 0.5-1 mm). Be careful not to overfeed your goldfish and be careful how much protein you feed. Here are the recommended protein levels based on age:
Up to 1 year: 40-45%
1-3 years: 35-40%
over 3 years old: 25-30%
If you use a dry flake or pellet, be sure to soak it first. I prefer to use gel food. Mazuri brand ( https://www.mazuri.com/ ) makes excellent powdered food that you mix with water to make gel. In order to get the proper protein level, I mix their aquatic gel formula 5M70 with their herbivore formula 5ZJ3 in a 50:50 ratio. I cut little pieces, then freeze enough to last a month.
There are some excellent discussions of feeding and general goldfish care on http://www.kokosgoldfish.com/ and http://thegab.org/ . I assume you're using the Fish School kit. If not, check them out, for sure: http://www.fish-school.com/ .
Have a great time with your training, and let us know how it goes!
December 16, 2009, 23:41:08 Andre Yeu wrote:
I am a dog trainer enrolled in the Karen Pryor Academy and I'm working with a goldfish as part of my 2nd species training requirement. I am wondering what you use for treats/primary reinforcers? I am using goldfish flakes.
Also I have a question - the goldfish I have is tiny (1" in length, maybe 1.5" if you include the tail). Do you think this fish lacks the brain power to be trained effectively?
So far I have him following the feeding wand, and I do have him going through a hoop (approx 7 repetitions in a 5 minute span of time - kind of low frequency). But I notice your fish are much larger and fancier...
Thanks in advance for any advice you can provide.
November 17, 2009, 13:51:04 bubbleblog wrote:
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