Clicker training is the method of teaching an animal to associate the clicker sound with a treat. Using positive reinforcement is it possible to teach the animals to display a certain behaviour on request.
To teach an animal you first start with Capturing, catching the animal doing something that is desired. For example sitting or laying down. Next you start to shape the behaviour, gradually building the behaviour up to be more desirable step by step. Over time the animal will display certain behaviours on request.
When we train the animals at Cheetah Experience we are simply looking for behaviours that will benefit the animals general health checks in the long run. We have no intension of teaching the animals tricks, or anything that does not have a long term health benefit, for example:
Showing each paw individually – this allows us to check the underside of the paw pads, nails and check for ingrown nails.
Stand up – We can check the animals tummy and underside, their nipples, and any wounds that may be otherwise inaccessible.
Lay down – Eventually we want to start to get the animals used to a pole syringe so that inoculations and injections can be done without subjecting the animals to anaesthetic. This is a longer process that starts off with the animal understanding the lay command, then you start with a stick and gently press against their flank. Later you add something pointy to get the animals used to the pressure, then finally you can use a pole syringe.
Steady – When we want the animal to remain in position for a longer time, you ask steady, and repeatedly click to show the animal that they are continuing to behave as you ask. This will give us a longer amount of time in which to assess general health or treat a wound.
Open – Quite often we do not know what is going on inside an animals mouth unless there is a really serious problem. If the animals can open their mouths on request it allows us to fully inspect their teeth and tongue.
Please be reminded that we do not want to teach the animals tricks in any way, shape or form. Every behaviour that they are learning to do is a natural behaviour, that will allow us to better care for our animals.
Anaesthetising an animal is never without risk, by clicker training we can alleviate the need to sedate an animal for an necessary examination if we are able to treat the animal using the behaviour reinforcing techniques explained previously.