By Lara Joseph
In order to change a behavior, we must replace it with another behavior… In my role as an exotic animal trainer, several of the undesirable behaviors I encounter are lunging, screaming, kicking, grabbing, rushing enclosure doors as keepers try to enter, defensive posturing, abnormal repetitive behaviors, and self-mutilation, amongst many others. What, then, is our approach? Often, when approaching a behavior issue, I observe how an animal interacts with her environment when there are no humans in close proximity. I do this so I can begin identifying what items or events attract her attention and what purpose those behaviors serve…Within an animal’s enclosure, then, I will identify the behaviors she will do or is already doing. This is usually the beginning of my shaping plan, along with identifying all observable positive reinforcers. I need to begin with the behaviors the animal knows how to do if I plan on shaping them into alternative behaviors that can bring her the same comfort or, preferably, more. Read more.