Addressing Undesired Behavior

By Barbara Heidenreich

Every behavior problem does require you evaluate the details to develop the appropriate strategy for a solution. But I do often find myself repeating one particular strategy when the triggers for undesired behavior can’t be removed or avoided. Here it is….Train the animal what to do under conditions in which it can be successful to build up reinforcement history for the correct behavior. Then gradually increase criteria (difficulty). While raising criteria, be careful to avoid pushing to the point you create the undesired behavior (i.e. pushing over threshold.) With this approach, the animal can learn to present desired behavior under conditions that in the past would have triggered undesired behavior.  Think about things like teaching dogs to sit when strangers come to the door, addressing aggressive responses when trying to change a parrots food and water bowls, or in this case teaching a bear to sit calmly on a station when people are present. His previous responses included head bobbing, racing along the fence and jumping when keepers were present or passed by. We like this behavior better.


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