We are constantly working on old and new behaviors (aka tricks) with the animals residents. Most are husbandry related, like the rabbit and Patagonian cavy using a litter box to help with sanitation or being comfortable in a crate. Some are more hands-on like Zoe, the Red-Lored Amazon Parrot, allowing a tactile wing extension for feathers trims and physical examinations or desensitizing the hedgehogs to being handled. And some are geared toward mental stimulation and playful interaction. Some examples of this are: waving, sitting, "yes" and "no", vocalizations, going to a mark, targeting to a hand.
We feel that training is an essential part in caring for animals, especially exotics. we use positive reinforcement methods and it all feels like an educational game of communication. Both parties end on a high positive note and can't wait to play and learn again. When we train we like to use the word "teach" instead of train since teaching is exactly what we do. It isn't a one-way street either; the teacher learns as much from their student as the student learns from the teacher. Every animal is different so there is no set way to handle each situation. Basic training theory is necessary to understand the process and experience is necessary to pick up the subtle details involved in communicating with an animal. I personally find training to be an extraordinarily rewarding experience each time.
As I said before, we continually reinforce already learned behaviors to maintain them at their highest efficiency. We also implement new behaviors as they are called for. We are currently working on several new behaviors with Zoe, (Red-Lored Amazon), Quigley (Brush-tailed Bettong), and Tango (Patagonian Cavy). Tango is learning how to push through a plastic "doggy" door so he can let himself in and out of his dirt enclosure whenever he wants. Quigley is starting to wean himself from his milk and is becoming more and more independent. Therefore, he is learning how to walk on a harness, target, and go to a mark so when he goes to presentations he will be comfortable and the audience will be able to see his unique proportions and natural movement. Zoe is learning how to demonstrate her loud scream to show the audience how noisy parrots can be. This helps them understand how they communicate in the wild and how they don't make good pets for most people. She is also learning to demonstrate how everyone can help be environmentally conscience by picking up litter and recycling. Zoe will pick up a piece of litter and put it in the trash can.
We hope the behaviors we teach the animals will help improve their quality of life and enhance the education in the presentations.