How to stop your dolphin from ignoring you

For a trainer there is nothing more annoying and frustrating than having a dolphin swimming away from the trainer during show or interactive program.

How can I do to correct this unwanted behaviour?

By practising the techniques and tips bellow it will be much easier to keep a high level of discipline and your animal will not even notice.

There is nothing more reinforcing to the trainer than having an animal interacting because your animal has chosen to do so.

Avoid making your animal to get bored or doing the same thing over and over!!

There are many techniques you can use to make your animal focus 100%. It’s all about not running out of Ideas, be active, be fun…unpredictable…variety is the key!

If you are specifically working on correcting this annoying behaviour here is one of the techniques you can use.

When the animal is about to go away, seconds before grab some fish on your hand, the animal will change its mind and comeback to you, paying more attention, when the animal have engaged send it to perform the behaviour. After doing this behaviour if the animal comeback offers an excellent reinforcement, give the animal a hole fish.

Make eye contact, give a lot of attention to your animal…Tell the animal, great response girl/boy…that’s how you suppose to respond to a cue, talk to your animal on a very exited way, share your positive vibes with your animal.

Another way of engaging is to move away from your usual spot, go to the place where the animal less expect you to go, carry the cooler with you…when the animal reaches to you and is  looking at you from the bottom, as soon as the animal is heading up to the surface inches close to the top,  ask for whatever the behaviour you would like to ask, make sure is an easy behaviour, so the is not excuses from the animal to perform, the most important is that the animal engage with you. then offer primary reinforcement (fish).

Conditioning the animal to your movements is very useful.

An excellent technique is to condition your animal when you are handling the animal and the animal keep going away or ignoring the trainer is to one clap holding a small fish at the sound let the fish drop from your hands; this could be done at any time. this will cause more attention from the animal, when the animal gets distracted, you can clap and the animal will make eye contact or comeback straight to you, the animal will be paying attention to your hands, if you clap and the animal responds right away by picking up the fish that has dropped, then you reinforce again with a handful, just for responding or coming close to  or paying attention to your hand. This technique is very discreet and its very convenient for when doing programs.

If you try hard enough to correct unwanted behaviour is also good to bear in mind and having in consideration that the animal might not be interested in doing the program, in this case you start your session as usual, as soon as your animal elicit the unwanted behaviour, switch for another animal or ask another trainer to take over your program and let your animal go.

Plan ahead before starting.…communication here is one your greatest asset and creating emergences signal for different situations among trainers and use them discreetly without others realising.

Ask another other trainer to take over as soon as you make eyes contact, raise your hand or make an emergency signal to the other trainer during program time.

Make sure you are discreate when correcting behaviours when during interaction programs.

 keeping the professionalism of your work, it will define you as a good quality trainer.

Published by viadolphin

Lover and enthusiast of all things nature and animal related. Professional Dolphin Trainer from the Caribbean. Adviser and mentor in the Marine Mammal field.

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