How to deal with unwanted behaviours or generally difficult situations

For a trainer, whether in a show or an interaction program, the key to success is planning. Whilst interacting with their animal, being relaxed and confident, will create the right environment and that confidence will be felt by their animal and the customers. Proper planning, knowing step by step what the trainer wants to do and what is required of their animal, is paramount. Executing what was planned, as closely to that planning as possible, will give the opportunity for calmness and confidence.

However, whilst training behaviours, as a trainer plans a routine or program sequence, there will often be times when unwanted behaviours occur. There are emergency techniques to immediately take control of the situation and restore calm. These actions also greatly support the safety of interactive programs, by a trainer having techniques ready to use as soon as they are required.

Having these emergency techniques to rely upon in difficult times is not only extremely useful but it also ensures difficult situations are dealt with safely.

The technical terms included in these techniques are the behaviours known as Recall, Stationing and Gating.

  • Always correct difficult behaviour during interactive programs as soon as it happens, without having to involve customers or any other persons in the water.
  • Remove the animal from the program, restart session, review troubleshooting behaviour in the holding with a group of staff to give the animal a chance to get it right and remember to end with a happy session.
  • Have available space to move the animal into, whilst correcting the unwanted behaviour.
  • Try to have a spare animal, so you can replace an animal in a program, if you need to remove one.
  • Once the animal understands where/what was the wrong, have Individual enrichment or play time in the holding whilst other programs or training sessions are taking place.
  • Finally correcting a behaviour should be in a holding pen, away from any other animals and programs that are taking place.

A great tip to start your day!

A healthy animal is a happy animal and at the start of our day, our priority is to check that our animals are healthy and happy. As a trainer, you must have already been taught that training Husbandry behaviours is the best way to ensure your animal’s health and wellbeing.

Gastro/hydration behaviour is part of Husbandry

This should be one of the principal behaviours in our daily routine. One of the most practical, easiest and reliable ways of training or performing this behaviour is shown below.

Sitting on a platform, place your feet gently below the pectoral fins allows the animal to comfortably stay in the position longer, without drifting away or sinking and it relaxes you both. You can now perform the Husbandry in a much easier way.

More husbandry behaviours, more useful tips and full step by step guides to training and behaviours, can be found in my Behaviour Training Tutorial Handbook available to buy on Amazon or through direct email viadolphin@viadolphin




Creds to fiture image sorce: ggle

Understanding even dolphins have a dark side

Dolphins are one of the most loved marine animals in our seas, they are playful, friendly and inquisitive when interacting with humans. Dolphins helping people stranded at sea are often positive media stories and everyone it seems, appreciates the intelligence and playful nature of dolphins.

However, many people believe that they can just jump in the sea or swim with any dolphin they see. The dolphins you see in an aquarium or dolphinarium respond to a connection and the trust with the people they work with, even working with different trainers can cause the animal to respond differently. An animal with a good relationship with the trainer would do anything the trainer asks them to do, but this is due to the trust and the bond they have with each other. These animals are also regularly interacting with humans on a daily basis, but sometimes they are not in the mood and we trainers know that and respect it.

It is not recommended that a person just jumps into the sea and attempts to swim with the first dolphin that they see. We, as humans, tend to overlay our human characteristics and emotions on other animals and judge them by what we consider acceptable human behaviour. Do not forget they are wild animals.

Many people have interacted with a dolphin and when they did not receive the playful and welcoming reaction that they had expected, they described the dolphins as being aggressive. However, animals are entitled to react whichever way they desire, they are a living organism and as such we should expect unpredictability. We have no human right to expect behaviour based upon our beliefs, indeed what we perceive as friendly an animal may perceive as aggressive or just unwanted in their current environment.

Just like humans, dolphins can display unwanted behaviour, be in a bad mood, feel like being left alone or just playfully aggressive. Dolphins can have different personality traits and groupings (good & bad) that we must be aware of when dealing with any intelligent animal.

Dolphins are amazing animals and like all other animals, including us humans, they can have their dark side or undesirable behaviour, so understanding they are entitled as we humans are to both sides of a character, good and bad will help us all get along.

Understanding behaviour is having the knowledge to accept good and bad without prejudice, so we can learn from each other and live respectfully and more in harmony.



creds ggl image

How to make better use of your time whilst training

Every trainer loves to spend time with their animal but having quality time to train a new behaviour or to be creative is not always possible, so creating the time or taking the opportunity is important. Making better use of the time they do have with their animal, will create these opportunities for quality time.

Having constant daily interaction programs or performing husbandry behaviours, often place limits on the time with the animal. However, you can try to incorporate some things that take only small amounts of time, but result in building up more fun, variety and quality time for the trainer and their animal.

Divide behaviours into sections

Being creative and using any small windows of opportunity to create variety, train sections of a behaviour or to bond with the animal will be highly effective and rewarding.

By using small amounts of time wisely, especially when it is difficult to find longer periods, a behaviour can be trained and learnt in stages and then each learnt part can be put together on the final day, as a new behaviour.

My approach is to take the first minute I have free and train the first stage, the most important part of the new behaviour. I make sure the animal totally learns the first stage of this behaviour and responds to my que with fluency and at criteria. Every time I ask the animal to perform it, the response is at criteria, then I review this behaviour until this stage is totally finished and accurate.

Once the first stage has been learnt, approach each subsequent stage the same way, one at a time until each part is learnt and performed at criteria. It is very important that the trainer maintains a patient attitude, and does not rush the animal, no matter how short the time available is.

When you have trained all stages, then you put all the sections together. The animal should perform all the sections one after the other and then learn the behaviour in full. Because each stage is pre learnt, putting all the stages together will take a fraction of the time, compared with training the whole behaviour all at once.  

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3

The images above are just three of the stages in the American Football Behaviour, which can be taught separately using the approach I have described. The full details and all the stages of this approach can be seen in my Behaviour Training Tutorial Handbook, which explains this approach step by step together with many more training techniques, Operant Conditioning and countless helpful tips, to teach and improve behaviour training.

My book can be purchased through Amazon using the following link

Link: https://cutt.ly/zb0zH2n

If anyone is interested in purchasing my book but cannot access it through Amazon, then please email me on  viadolphin@hotmail.co.uk and I will arrange delivery with you directly.

How animal trainers become better carers

Understanding the animal you work with, is pivotal for your development as an animal trainer.

The best way to become a great trainer is upgrading your training knowledge by learning and researching information about the animals you work with and by continuously learning new techniques. Learn about you animals physical and biological characteristics.

As a female animal trainer, I was flabbergasted when I learnt one particular aspect affecting adult female whales, showing they are not too different to us. It is amazing to realise that adult marine mammals go through hormonal changes in later life, just like us females. Knowing this, gives a trainer the opportunity to know and understand the reason why some behaviours or manoeuvres of older female mammals, may be affected at certain times, without any obvious reason.

Besides humans, only four other mammals are known to experience menopause and they are all whales, they are;

Beluga Whale


Narwhals Whale


Killer Whales


Short-Finned Pilot Whales



Although most humans with ovaries go through menopause, marking the end of the child-bearing years, most animals do not. Almost all animals continue reproducing throughout their lives. Now a new study has found two whale species Beluga and Narwhal that do go through menopause, bringing the total number of known menopausal species to five. Scientists have long been puzzled, about why these few species have evolved in such a way, stopping reproduction, partway through life.

The more you know about your animal, the better results you can achieve during training sessions and if your animal realizes you understand them, the more trust you can gain.




creds to inet images

Best practice for Dolphins diet in Dolphinariums

How to provide the best quality diet in your Dolphinarium.

A trainers’ daily priority and first task…nutrition.

In most facilities when staring a working day, a trainers first task is to prepare their animal’s diet.

Making sure their food is defrosted and ready to eat is their first step, which is not too different to us humans, when we select frozen food to eat from the freezer. 

When preparing the diet, every morning a specialist continuously monitors the animal diet to make sure it complies with the animals requisite nutrition before it reaches the animal, which offers the best care to the animal. The nutrition area is sanitised before and after use and is scrutinised by specialist personnel. The animals diet consists of a variety of fish and various crustaceans. Within dolphinariums, the animal’s food is selected according to an animals weight, behaviour and environment within which they live. Although their regular diet is rich in nutrients, a selection of a variety of fish is chosen depending on an animal’s needs. For example, during a very hot summer when the water is warmer, the animals temperature is warmer, so fat intake is closely monitored, because the

animal needs less fat to keep it warm and too much fat during this time can cause the animal to get sluggish.

The fish is sorted and selected one by one. By the time the food reaches our animals, trainers must make sure that the fish is defrosted, covered with ice in warm environments and as fresh as possible. The animals food is provided by professional suppliers with extended years of experience. As soon as the fish is caught it must be frozen right away this ensures the food selected maintains the best quality for our animals. The food is matched specifically to the kind of animal, to ensure good quality, it must only be frozen once. The food we provide for our animals has often better quality than food made available for humans. Fish supplied for your animal must not show any signs of discoloration, tears, being broken or have blood marks, because all these sings may indicate that the fish was already frozen and defrosted. Fish supplied for your animals must only be defrosted once, by the trainer when required for their animal’s feed. It is always better to throw away any fish that we feel is not up to standard, rather than compromise the animals diet and ultimately their health.

Dolphins fresh-water intake is paramount, they get their water from the fish which is naturally high in water. Finally, as we do with human diets, we add vitamins to the animals diet, to ensure they have the best and most complete nutritional benefit possible.





Female trainers

Employment law and attitudes to women generally have improved throughout the world, however some prejudices remain and hiring female trainers, can be an area where such prejudice still occur.

Some animal care companies are actually reluctant to hire female trainers, believing them to be less reliable or less likely to stay, if they become pregnant. Perhaps they also consider the effect of relationships, within the training team. All of these reasons are not acceptable, neither is the thought that females could be better than male trainers. All of the reasons listed count as being forms of prejudice and should not be allowed to exist within any workplace.

Some jobs can however favour what are considered to be natural male attributes and females also, have many commonly found attributes which seem to come naturally to them. It is perhaps no coincidence that many jobs that provide care, such as nurses, nurseries, and elderly home care jobs, have a majority of female staff. Females can be seen as natural care givers, again not to prejudice against men, but it could be accepted that by nature many women understand caregiving. If we also accept that training an animal requires exceptional care, could it not be argued then that many females could perhaps start with an advantage.

I have experienced facilities that did not wish to hire females and in one case, actually fired a female trainer once she informed them she was pregnant; she was even told not to bother complaining because no-one would listen. Obviously, these attitudes are unacceptable, which rightly should be addressed through employment right law, however we all know that taking action against an employer, is costly and can damage your future employment prospects.

My advice is to be aware and prepare, when seeking a job, you could ask how many female trainers they employ, or their policy regarding maternity leave. Remember also, if a facility cares little for their employees, how should you expect they care for their animals. Do not get disheartened, rather use your natural ability and promote your caregiving tendencies to show an employer the benefits of hiring you. Animals that are cared for correctly stay healthier, live longer and are able to perform better.

Do not underestimate the power of promoting the choice of choosing a female trainer.

SOS Seals – Human Rescue

For years humans have trained animals for many reasons, entertainment, research, education, sport you name it. For centuries people and animals have shared a deep bond, such connections have created moving stories that very often come to light.

The fact that dog is man’s best friend is undeniable, when you consider the many incredible stories of dogs saving people’s lives. There are some heart-warming tales of dogs rescuing humans and other acts of canine bravery. Some of those incredible stories are,a dog saves boy from cougar, dog rescues infant from house fire, dog saves woman from choking, dog rescues family from carbon monoxide poisoning, dog conditioned to call 911 for collapsed owner, dog saves baby from rattlesnake, blind dog rescues drowning girl, all these stories show a deep bond between dogs and people.

Another big example of where training and this bond is being utilised is sniffer dogs, keeping us in dangerous or law breaking situations. These dogs also are used for saving human life in disasters, such as earthquakes and floods, as well as other specialist work with paramedics and police investigations, where saving time is paramount.

As with dogs, there are different stories of many other animals saving human life, including marine mammals, especially dolphins with their high level of intelligence. Having a natural friendly nature and instinct, humans have trained marine mammals to the highest level, by creating a ground-breaking program with a sophisticated and exciting project to rescue human life. Faster and more accurate than any other rescue team, marine mammals are reaching places and depths that we humans cannot reach.  One example of the incredible work is the amazing work that has been developed with seals in military missions.

This project was initially created in a working environment to retrieve items or tools lost out of human reach in the sea, but now is being upgraded to rescue human life.

A training program with Sea Lions rescuing humans in dangerous situations in deep or dark waters has been developed. There appears no faster or better way to rescue human life, in these certain situations.

Open Water Human Rescue Program

SOS SEALS-HUMAN RESCUE

The first instinct of any trainer should be to protect and care for their animal



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We all know the world is not perfect and trainers do not ultimately determine the fate of their animal, however they should strive to protect and care, making their animals life easier, both physically and mentally.

In a recent forum, trainers were discussing moves to remove the use of toys, such as rings and balls. What may not be realised is that these toys play an important role in secondary reinforcement, their removal will be detrimental to an animals wellbeing.

The benefit of using these toys is enrichment.

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Enrichment:

We marine mammal trainers would like to know that our animals have a stimulating life, with opportunities to engage in natural behaviours. Encouraging natural behaviours, increases activity and allows animals some control over their environment. Enrichment helps satisfy both the physical and psychological needs of animals and allows them to make choices. Thus, animal enrichment creates a win-win-win situation for both animals and trainers.

We trainers provide for an animals needs, so we must assist and encourage the use of toys for instance, as methods to aid physical and mental stimulation, which in turn encourage natural behaviours. Chasing after a toy, or jumping over a tube, or challenging each other to do so, all involve natural instincts and behaviours.

Enriching an animal’s environment comes in many forms, including altering the physical environment, modifying animal care and creating stimulation. You will see play with plastic tubes and play with a ball used in most animal facilities, not just with marine mammals. These are examples of adding “furniture” for an animal to play with that enriches their environment. 

I have read criticism of videos showing dolphins playing with a ball, from people who have not idea about these animals and they make a big issue about it, without any knowledge whatsoever to support their comment. We trainers know that living with the animals every day gives us knowledge and experience, to see the real benefit of utilising such toys.

We have rescued animals near to dying and during their recuperation a toy is part of the process,  providing big improvements in their health and well-being. I have heard comments such as, how can a ball be more benefit for these animals than playing with other animals in the wild? Well, these animals include ones saved from the wild, is it better to save them with a ball or let them die? If an animal can play all day with a ball and not get tired, how much pleasure, stimulation and enrichment is then being achieved for that animal?

HOW TO LOOK YOUR BEST IN FRONT OF YOUR AUDIENCE

What is your first goal for the new year?

Well, it would be great to shed some pounds from 2020 lockdowns and Christmas, I said to myself.

What is your goal?

If your goal is the same as mine, I invite you to join me!

We animal presenters are excellent when dealing with people, we also are very keen and aware of how to look smart healthy and sharp, but if we are not happy on the inside, it’s very difficult to make our smile fully shine.

2020 has been the year of survival, human evolution and adaptability. With all the struggles we have had, I also realised the importance of having a good balance of life in all aspects.

However, for reasons that we already know, most of us are not able to do many of our tasks and plans. I have made up my mind already and decided to start with things I can do something about, things that are in our hands, things I have control over, so I can have a fresh start this new year.

I started my new year goal on November the 1st, to get in shape and loose excess pounds! I knew it would be very hard on Christmas Day and Boxing day, but I gave myself those days off and went straight back on my diet and exercise on the 27th December.

With my wellness plan, I have lost 10 pounds in 3 weeks!!

Do not get me wrong, I have not been eating food I do not like; I have done it eating my favourite food. The secret is when to eat and how much.

This is just an example of the food I have being having, of course I combine different ingredients, depending on what I feel like eating.

Example of my diet:

Mid Day: Beans, Chicken, Olives, Avocado and Mix Salad
Evenings: Chocolate Oats and Mix Fruits

This is not an easy thing to do if you do not have fitness or nutrition knowledge.

For last two years my daughter has followed my plan, with a successful outcome also. if you want to know how to follow my plan, I can pass the secret onto you.

Please just let me know if you are interested to know more by just leaving your likes on the subject or send me a message.

Happy New Year!





Creds: Banana dolphin-Google