Animal Training

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Animal Training

 

methods of influencing an animal in order to teach and reinforce certain actions and habits needed by man through the formation of conditioned reflexes.

The theoretical basis of animal training, the laws of the formation of conditioned reflexes, is found in the teaching of I. P. Pavlov on higher nervous activity. In training, conditioned stimuli are generally used (sound command, gesture, display of food) in combination with unconditioned ones (for example, mechanical stimuli) that evoke the necessary response from the animals (for example, motor or sound responses).

Several methods of training are distinguished according to the type of higher nervous activity, the individual features of the animal, and the type of stimuli. The method using pain, based on painful actions that force the animal to carry out the demand of the trainer, is used in the circus for training large animals and predators. The mechanical method makes use of stimuli that do not cause pain. This method is generally used in dealing with farm animals. The imitative method consists of the imitation by a young animal of another animal, that is, the development of actions based on instincts. This is the method used, for example, in training herding and hunting dogs and flocks of sheep. The incentive method reinforces needed habits (more frequently, natural reflexes) through rewards (for example, giving food, petting, or satisfying of instincts). All methods of training are contrastive; for correctly executing actions the animal is rewarded by the cessation of mechanical or painful influences, by treats, or by petting. Animals are periodically trained to reinforce reflexes that have already been formed.

Various domestic and wild (domesticated) animals are trained. Some examples of training are accustoming cows to milkmaids and milking processes and to the time and place of milking; teaching herds of reindeer and flocks of sheep to obey the shepherd’s orders; accustoming farm animals to being herded into shelters, driven across bridges, and loaded into railroad cars; training horses to obey man and to be accustomed to bridle, tether, saddle, harness, cleaning, pulling, and movement; and the training of horses for show.

Training of dogs allows their use for economic, sporting, and military purposes. Three types of training are distinguished: hunting, work, and circus. Huskies, hounds, borzois, dachshunds, fox terriers, setters, and spaniels are trained for hunting. Shepherds and huskies (pulling and deer-herding), and, in small numbers, collies, Airedales, Doberman pinschers, and boxers are trained for work: they perform guarding, watching, herding, searching, pulling, medical, and other services. In the hunting dog industry, huskies, setters, and spaniels are taught to pursue, hounds to overtake, and borzois, dachshunds, and fox terriers, which “take” the animal in the burrow, to kill.

Training of dogs includes four stages: (1) preparation (from the moment of removal from the mother to eight or nine months of age), when the whelp is taught his name and prohibitional commands and trained to come unfailingly to his master and to walk on a leash; (2) general course (general obedience)—training the young dog to carry out commands allowing him to control animals under any conditions; (3) special course—development of natural instincts and teaching of conditioned reflexes and habits needed for work; and (4) training—strengthening and developing the needed reflexes and habits and acquiring work experience in complex conditions.

A. P. MAZOVER

Training of bees consists of teaching bees to gather nectar and pollen from flowers of a specified type of melliferous plant to improve their pollination. This training is based on creating conditioned reflexes in the bees to smell, flower, shape, and location. The method of training bees for pollination of plants was proposed in 1933 by the Soviet scientist A. F. Gubin. Bees in a hive are fed sugar syrup with the aroma of a specific melliferous plant. Afterward, the bees search out in fields flowers with the same aroma. In Soviet seed growing, the training of bees is recommended as a method of agrotechnology for raising crop yield and improving the quality of seeds not only of plants that hold little attraction for bees but even of such excellent melliferous plants as buckwheat, sunflowers, and cotton. Use of bee training for plant pollination increases honey yields as well. In foreign countries bee training is not widespread.

N. P. SMARAGDOVA

Training of pigeons consists of accustoming them to long flights for sporting purposes. Homing pigeons are suitable for training; they have a natural instinct for long flight and are able to orient themselves toward specific locations (which enables them to find their way to their loft). Training of pigeons includes three stages: (1) learning to fly (at 28–30 days of age); (2) learning the location of the loft; and (3) distance training (10, 15, 25, 35, 50, and 70 km). In order to reinforce learned reflexes, training of pigeons should be accompanied by rewards: upon returning to the loft the birds should immediately receive as much food (adding 5–10 percent of hempseed) and water as they want.

Circus training is a widespread art form. Training for spectators was well-known in ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, and elsewhere. In ancient Russia skomorokhi (wandering comedians) acted out scenes from everyday life in which trained bears participated. Trained dogs, bears, and other animals were shown in Europe during the Middle Ages. The training of horses was highly developed during the 13th and 14th centuries. Since the end of the 18th century zoos and menageries have been opened in which trained animals are exhibited (K. Hagenbeck made a significant contribution to the humane training of animals); later they began to be shown in circuses. The Russian trainers of the Durov family began to develop new methods of training; V. L. Durov used I. P. Pavlov’s teachings on conditioned reflexes by creating and widely using a painless reward method of training based on the animals’ inherent characteristics. This method allowed him to work with animals that were difficult to train, as well as with antipodal types (cats and mice). At the present time various types of animals are shown in circuses, including birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Some of the expert trainers in the Soviet circus are N. P. Gladil’shchikov, B. A. Eder, A. N. Aleksandrov, I. N. Bugrimova, A. N. Buslaev, V. G. and Iu. V. Durov, V. I. Filatov, L. A. Bezano, V. M. Zapashnyi, V. P. and V. V. Tikhonov, V. Zh. Trutstsi, E. M. Efimov, and N. A. Nikitin.

REFERENCES

Gerd, M. A. “Nauchnye osnovy metodov dressirovki zhivotnykh.” Priroda, 1955, no. 1, p. 34.
Durov, V. A. Dressirovka zhivotnykh. Moscow, 1924.
Tinbergen, N. Povedenie zhivotnykh. Moscow, 1969. (Translated from English.)
Hediger, H. Beobachtungen zur Tierpsychologie in Zoo und Zirkus. Basel, 1961.
Krylov, I. G., and S. M. Fadeev. Dressirovka storozhevykh sobak, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1933.
Kovrizhenko, I. N., and N. I. Kozlov. Vyrashchivanie I dressirovka sobak. Kiev, 1963.
Sakharov, N. A. Tekhnika dressirovki sluzhebnykh sobak, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1966.
Okhotnich’e sobakovodstvo. Compiled by A. V. Platonov. Moscow, 1966.
Opylenie sel’skokhoziaistvennykh rastenii pchelami, issue 3. Moscow, 1960.
Frisch, K. von. Iz zhizni pchel. Moscow, 1966. (Translated from German.)
Golubi. Edited by M. N. Bogdanov and V. F. Larionov. Moscow 1958.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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