Thursday, August 29, 2013

Agility Training--with Mice?

I haven't posted on positive animal training in a while, so here's a link to a youtube video from a few years ago that stuck in my memory:It's a bit less than 3 minutes long, and "cute" is a word that inevitably will come to mind.

Most people have heard of dog agility by now; there are local and national competitions in which the dogs eagerly leap hurdles, dash through tunnels, and handle a series of other obstacles as directed by their humans, who run alongside.On the Links page of my website is a video of a lamb surmounting the same challenges.Why not?Even so, how cool that mice can do this sort of thing too--and more.On the video, the mice leap little hurdles, retrieve marbles, dunk a basketball, and even skateboard.(Hey, remember that dogs can learn to drive a car, no foolin'.)

The accomplishments of these mice show what positive reinforcement and clicker training can do.As many of my readers know, the clicker sound is immediate and obvious (you can hear it in the video), and serves as a reinforcer in itself as well as a "bridge" to a more powerful reward like the food that the mice get. Specific information about these mice and their training is available through the links at the youtube site.(For general information, see the links on my website or the references in my book.)I appreciated that the trainer recognized how social these animals are and took pains to avoid isolating them.That's why more than one mouse is frequently in view, although only one is showing off its stuff at any given time.

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