Implementing a successful positive reinforcement training protocol in laborator y-housed dogs
These tools proved to be easy-to-use for staff and
sensitive to changing behaviour in the dogs. Further,
the behavioural scoring proved to be useful in
identifying dogs which did not respond well to training
(7/66). The majority of dogs responded well to four
weeks of training. However those that did not failed to
respond to additional training.
It is recognised that dogs which fail to adapt to the
events associated with being on-study should not be
assigned to long-term studies or re-use colonies,
however, there has been no evidence-based method of
doing this. Anecdotally, technical staff who work with
dogs have expressed a desire to identify such dogs in
order to assign them to appropriate studies of shorter
duration, or terminal studies. The use of the
behavioural scoring tool described here should assist
staff in decision making.
The results of this study show a clear improvement in
both behaviour and training across four weeks. The
majority of dogs had reached a satisfactory level of
training by the fourth week, while the use of positive
reinforcement training also improved the welfare of the
dogs while on the table. Dogs which failed to respond
to four weeks of training also failed to respond
sufficiently to additional training, meaning that the
behavioural scoring tool can be used to identify these
dogs and assign them to appropriate studies. Staff
were able to incorporate the protocol into regular duties
and quickly became proficient in the training
techniques, which increased the success of the study.
Given the benefits of implementing positive
reinforcement training and the ease of implementation,
it is recommended that a protocol such as this is
implemented in dog units.
The authors are indebted to LB for her assistance and
enthusiasm in implementing the preceding study and
over-seeing the collection of data and to CD, KH and
EW for carrying out training.
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