The trainer’s main tool, the Acme whistle

In the early years marine mammal trainers used to communicate with their animals during training sessions, using the fox whistle. Around 20 years ago we realized that such a harsh sound was not necessary, as these animals could hear to a very low frequency.

Although there are other ways of bridging/whistling to communicate with our animals, Acme whistles have been the favourite whistle for animal training, especially in our dolphinariums.

We encourage fading the use of fox whistles gradually, to the alternative Acme whistle and ultimately to using the lowest frequency whistle.

The story behind the Acme whistle

In the late 1800`s a British manufacturer based in Birmingham, invented a whistle that could be heard over many streets, to be used by policemen.

The company was family-run for over 100 years and by three generations of the Hudson family. Joseph Hudson began working at the age of 12 and in 1883 after noticing policemen struggling to communicate to each other and raising alarm, he realised his whistles could be a useful tool. He put a pea in the whistle which made a sound that could be heard over a mile away and sold the first police whistles to Scotland Yard in 1884. The Hudson whistles company became the largest manufacturer in the world and the Acme Thunderer whistle and its variations became the world’s best-selling whistle.

Why we encourage the use of the Acme whistle

When more than one trainer is using the fox whistle the sound can be quite distressing, even for us humans. Therefore fading use away from the fox to the Acme whistle is desirable because it is less harsh to the more sensitive hearing that marine mammals have. Whilst the fox whistle is still used in other animal related areas, we encourage an alternative whistle with less harsh sounds, for work with marine mammals.

The fading from use of the fox whistle to the Acme basic whistle and through to the lowest frequency Acme whistle shown above, is the best way to transition trainers and animals to use of these more suitable whistles.

Does dolphintherapy really work or is it a myth?

What experts comment about its benefits.

For those who are not familiar with the terminology, dolphin therapy is a program used on children with disabilities.

In this program there are tasks performed which will teach children to be patient and learn to listen

The attention span will increase as a result of desire to interact with dolphins

Since immersion in water moderates anxiety, re-establishes cognitive and sensory motor perceptual patterns, provides kinaesthetic feedback, and relieves pain

There have been great improvements in children with dolphin therapy specific behaviours related to speech, language, gross and fine motor movement with, development, rote or conceptual thinking.

Scientists, however, are considering the possibility that the sonar of the dolphins can actually trigger the healing process by increasing T-cells and endorphins.

In some cases, scientists have suggested that dolphins actually have the ability to target areas in the human body with their sonar and repair damaged tissue.

The protocols devised in the aforementioned investigations, formed the basis for 10,000 clinical sessions conducted between 1988 and 1996 on 700 children, with 35 diagnoses, from 22 countries and 37 states of America.

Dolphin therapy is an element to improve their life quality and well-being by providing positive experiences with the dolphin.

This will allow enhancing of emotions, such as: happiness, joy, peace and strengths like optimism, creativity, gratitude, wisdom and resilience.

Dolphin therapy

Emotional Benefits

Findings of dolphin therapy improvements with cognitive deficits affecting attention led to hypotheses that, communication reluctance, as well as poor interpersonal interactions, may benefit from DT.

Monitoring neurological and behavioural changes over a 6-month program of DT as well as differences in symptoms of aggression, concentration difficulty, nightmares, depression and anxiety at home, school and play

 Even more Benefits

Autism

General development disorder
Asperger
Attention deficit
Learning disorders
Language disorders
Neuromotor disorders
Sensory disorders
Socialization problems
Down syndrome

Naturally it is always difficult to explain how therapy actually works, but the results speak for themselves. I have used such dolphin therapy and witnessed a child speak for the very first time, after his encounter with the dolphin. This eight year old child did not speak, had a mental disability and doctors had no answer to his lack of speech. However, after his contact with the dolphin, his mother heard him speak for the very first time. Why is a mystery, but dolphin therapy simply reaches parts of a humans experience like no other.


How to manage animal/guest behaviour during interaction

On a recent chat with a trainer, she was expressing her concern and difficulties when dealing with guest interacting with our animals. This is very common in our profession, just need to be patient and find the best way of dealing with it and making sure everyone is happy during this activity.

It is lovely to see when trainer have a genuine concern and really care for their animal!

Trainers main concern:

People touching the animal blowhole and eyes on animal guests-animal interactions.

Many times, this scenario can turn into an awkward situation, but never forget you are the one in control of your session or program…if you are having difficulties with the way the guests are petting your animal, even after you have given your instructions and you see it done incorrectly by touching the animal’s eyes and blowhole, you must call your animal to your platform. Explain again to the guests the correct way of doing it…then you send your animal one more time… mostly people listen and respond positive at this stage…if the guest continue petting in an incorrect way…you call your animal again…then you need to take measurement to protect your animal…be patient, do not take it personal, sometimes people are very excited, this is a big event for them, some people have waited their whole life for this kind of activity and they just can’t control themselves…remember how you felt the first time you touched a dolphin!

How to handle this situation

Some trainers would get distressed and worry and they tend to make the petting time shorter and as a result the guest end up missing out on the magic of this lovely experience…what I would do is in this case, if I have an assistant in the water I ask for help. If not, in a very friendly manner with the guest I would help them by bringing the animal and the guest closer to my platform, where I can closely observe and direct that particular petting session…making sure the animal’s blow hole is away from the guest’s reach. This way the animal is comfortable, the guest is relaxed and petting the animal and everyone is a winner!

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

A Once-Captive Dolphin Has Introduced Her Friends to a Silly Trend

“What we had here was an example of dolphin culture being established.”

In 1995, a bottlenose dolphin named Billie leaped from the water of Port River, Australia, and began “tail-walking” in circles around Mike Bossley’s boat. Her tail was pumping vigorously, her snout was pointed to the sky, and her body was in the air and moving backward. “It was spectacular,” recalls Bossley, a naturalist and conservationist. “But I didn’t appreciate the significance of it until she started doing it again and again.”


mlssa.org.au

Up until that point, a wild bottlenose dolphin had never been seen tail-walking, and for good reason: It’s a trick that’s taught to dolphins in captivity. Bossley soon realized that Billie had not only learned the trick during a brief stint in dolphin rehab, but that she had then passed it on to her wild peers. “What we had here was an example of dolphin culture being established,” he says. “I got very excited and focused on documenting it.”

Billie had first come to national attention years earlier. In 1987, a racehorse trainer regularly took his horses for a swim in Port River, towing them behind his small boat. The trainer noticed that every morning, a young dolphin would swim alongside them. He named the dolphin Billy—a spelling that would later need to be tweaked when Bossley realized that she was actually female.

That December, Billie followed a regatta of sailing ships out of Port River and ended up trapped in a particularly polluted harbor. A nearby dolphinarium called Marineland rescued her and kept her at its facility for three weeks. There, she lived alongside five captive dolphins that had been trained to tail-walk in public shows. Billie never received any training, but she didn’t need it. She learned to tail-walk just by watching them.

That became clear after she was released back to Port River. She tail-walked around Bossley’s boat. She tail-walked in the bow of ships—the only dolphin ever known to do so. Then, in 2007, Bossley and his team of volunteer observers saw another female, called Wave, perform the trick. Her proficiency grew as Billie’s health started to falter. And after Billie died of kidney failure in 2009, “Wave’s tail-walking exploded, and she started doing it all the time,” says Luke Rendell from the University of St. Andrews. “The sheer number of times she did it was probably the influence that got other dolphins to do it, too.”

Indeed, Wave’s daughter Ripple also picked it up, as did four other adult females in the group, and four other juveniles. Some still do it, but the fad is fading; it peaked in 2011, and has declined since then.

No one really knows why Billie learned to tail-walk from the captive dolphins, or why her wild peers learned it from her. Many animals have been seen imitating one another’s actions, but most of these examples of wild culture involve techniques for getting food or attracting mates. Tail-walking seems to carry no benefit. There are only a few examples of such apparently arbitrary traditions, including orcas that started carrying dead salmon for a few weeks, macaque monkeys that began playing with stones, and capuchin monkeys that poke one another in the eye as a greeting.

Bossley says that tail-walking is unlikely to be a straightforwardly playful behavior: When one of her calves died, Wave could be seen tail-walking beside its body. It’s probably not just a call for attention either, since the dolphins do it when alone.

“We know that dolphins are social learners,” says Diana Reiss, a dolphin expert at Hunter College. “There have been past reports of captive cetaceans imitating the behavior and vocalizations of other dolphins, and even other species, with which they are housed. In doing so, perhaps they’re trying to fit in or bond with the others.”

Rendell agrees with that idea, and notes that humans do something similar. “Human children copy irrelevant actions as part of belonging,” he says. “It’s the Salesman 101 technique: Just copy the person you want to sell to and they feel warmed toward you.”

But why is it that only adult females learned to tail-walk, and adult males never did? “I have absolutely no idea,” Rendell says. “The only males seen to do it were calves swimming with their mothers. I can only speculate that copying someone is such a strong social signal for a male bottlenose to give that they’ll only do it in very strong circumstances.”

How to keep your animal engaged during training sessions



Stage 2 IMAGE – Step by step behaviour training-SOMERSAULT

Focus on your training session

Environments affect behaviour, predict your animal’s behaviour, keep your eyes scanning around while working with you and be aware that another animals’ behaviour affects your animal behaviour. If there is anybody or an even an object around, that your animal is not comfortable with, try to take them to another area or environment where they are more relaxed. As with children, once your animal has realized that you are always protecting them, then they will trust you.

Communication skills are paramount; during your sessions, your animal’s behaviour depends on the quality of the communication you have with your animal and with other trainers and how aware you are of your surroundings. Anticipation and planning ahead is very important when handling your animal. Dolphins love doing different things, they are very cheeky, they also get bored quickly with the same thing over and over, but when they are learning something new, they are usually concentrated, curious and excited for what may come next. Some behaviours take time and concentration. Take as an example, husbandry behaviours (medical behaviours) these are examples where a high level of concentration from your animal will be required and they also need to be very relaxed.

Before you start training any behaviour, you must communicate with other trainers and let them know how long you are going to take and where the training is going to take place. State the starting time and ending time, before you end, you need to make eye contact with other trainers and let the animals go at the same time, so your animal does not go and interrupt any other trainer’s session. This is the best way of getting the best discipline, instilling good habits in your animals that results in a good quality training session and a positive outcome for all.


Enjoy your quality time with your animal!!

Discover why the “theory” and not “hands-on” training is the first step to becoming a successful dolphin trainer


Jermaine Harris
Experienced Trainer

In most Dolphinariums, when you first start working, you do not handle an animal until you have acquired certain training techniques in theory. To touch an animal, before you have acquired this knowledge, could be counter-productive to your development as a trainer. When stating a job as a trainer, companies should give you the time, to catch up with theoretical knowledge, which is 70% of marine mammal training.

For many years I have being training dolphin trainers, in fact I trained my first student in year 1993. In 2001 I was in Dolphinarium management and one of my responsibilities was to create an educational department. I hired assistant trainers, assessed a swimming test and created material to help beginners become trainers. One of the most important tasks is to constantly improve the trainer’s knowledge.

I thought that it would be a great idea to create a system for beginners and staff new to training, which would be more effective and efficient. As I explained before, animals should not be involved at this first stage and my system helps prepare staff physically, mentally and theoretically before they get to handle the animals. It is important to take this opportunity, without the animal present, so the trainee can firstly learn plenty of technical work that is not so easy to learn, whilst having the animal in front of them. Often in Dolphinariums many trainers never learn the most important technicalities or do not get full training at all, because they are not given this opportunity at the start and other factors such as the insecurity of their teachers.

Learning to distinguish what is relevant when observing an animal’s behaviour and its environment, is paramount and this needs to be learnt before touching a dolphin. Giving an animal to a student, in most cases, confuses the animal in many ways.  This can also deteriorate behaviours and in time, these can become difficult to correct and may require the behaviour to be taken back at criteria again. Whilst training a trainer, you will repeat your explanation of a technique over and over, until the assistant understands the right technique to use. This then confuses the dolphin. After an animal has been used for trainee training purposes, an experienced trainer must then work with that animal to make sure they are not confused.  Thanks to the experience, patience, love and care of professional behaviourists, every behaviour can go back to normal, but it does take time and a great amount of effort and required knowledge.

Usually when a new assistant is learning to work with an animal, they cannot get to see the chosen behaviour they are working on, because the animal does it too fast or because of the position of the behaviour. Most often though, it is because of a lack of attention to detail from the new trainee and who does not understand what the expected criteria or goal is.

In a hands-on training session, whilst I was teaching an assistant, I realised the need for a more accurate system when teaching assistants. I saw the need for a system where the trainee has an idea of what is expected before touching the animal. With this new system, we protect the animal by not using them repeatedly or confusing them. By the time we reach hands on sessions, the student can observe what went wrong and see the animals unwanted behaviour, without running out of time. Trainers will then have a reaction time, anticipating the behaviour that they would not have time do spot if they did not learn about it in theory before getting to the hands-on training.

For all the benefits I have explained above, I have created my “Step by step Behaviour Training Program”

After studying this new program, students will be fully prepared and aware of their role before the hands-on training begins.  They will be ahead of the game and in an advantaged position. The benefit for the trainer is clear, but don’t forget the benefit to the Dolphinarium also, in not having to spend time correcting behaviours of dolphins used repeatedly in training scenarios. A dolphin that is not confused is a happy dolphin and happy dolphins are less stressed and healthy, reducing vets bills and increasing productivity. Lastly and most importantly, the system assists in the well being generally of the dolphins which must be everyone’s primary goal.

I can also explain easier the confusing Operant Conditioning techniques with examples videos.

I believe in offering the best quality training material and provide the best opportunity for my students become successful trainers.

Here are just a few of my former students who are now enjoying a successful training career around the world.

I am immensely proud of all my former students!


Javier Labrada
Head Trainer


Karlinton Williams
Supervisor Trainer


Akim Smith
Experience Trainer

How to teach your dolphin to jump to the ball!!


Behavior Successive Approximation

Description: Teaching the dolphin how to touch the ball high in the air.

On the video you can learn and enjoy the successive approximation of this behavior.

Behaviour Stage: Level Two

Using our Step by Step Behaviour Training through positive reinforcement techniques.

If you have any question or any doubt about this behaviour training, please message us!!

Find out if you have what it takes to be a dolphin trainer

If you think you have it, then there are some things you should know.

Many of you have the passion, but you have been told, that you need to have a degree or any number of courses to become a dolphin trainer. If anybody told you that, don`t let it stop you!

In my opinion many persons even with degrees, who try very hard, are not successful. Sometimes the job is too hard, because they cannot deal with the high level of customer service skill that is required. They may not have the stamina or the charisma, which is so important for the job and worse of all, they cannot make a connection with the animals! Don’t get disheartened and do not give up so easily. I know it`s very hard to find all these characteristics in one person, but believe me, there are many people out there who come pretty close and don`t forget, if you are open minded, then you are trainable…ha-ha.

I will acknowledge a degree is commendable, we all know the importance of having a good educational background, but consider the following; what if you study for three or four years, only find out after you have invested so much effort, that this is not the job for you? Better to try out the type of career, with hands on experience.

I believe the best way to find out is, take a part time job, work experience, perhaps take a gap year before you start your studies and give it a try.  You will soon find out if it is for you or not. If this is really your passion, if you really want to be a dolphin trainer, you should be sure before you commit to it. Remember striving for what you enjoy and really want, usually results in achieving it faster.

If you are still in doubt or are not sure about what to do, just write to me and I can help advise you with tips or experience that can help guide you.

How to Become a Great Dolphin Trainer

Let’s say you have done your research and you have reached your conclusion… that you want to be a dolphin trainer!

This would be my first piece of advice to you.

Observe your animal, bear in mind that all of them have different characters.

Observe the animal you are being assigned very closely, it is important that you observe all of them and the way each one behaves, but in particular, the one you are going to work with. Every time you have any spare time, sit down close to the animal and observe all their behaviours, their body language and interaction with other animals.

Environments affect behaviour, predict your animal’s behaviour, keep your eyes scanning around while working with yours and be aware that another animals’ behaviour affects your animal behaviour. If there is anybody or an even an object around, that your animal is not comfortable with, try to take them to another area or environment where they are more relaxed. As with children, once your animal has realized that you are always protecting them, then they will trust you.

Communication skills are paramount; during your sessions, your animal’s behaviour depends on the quality of the communication you have with other trainers and how aware you are of your surroundings. Anticipation and planning ahead is very important when handling your animal. Dolphins love doing different things, they are very cheeky, they also get bored quickly with the same thing over and over, but when they are learning something new, they are usually concentrated, curious and excited for what may come next. Some behaviours take time and concentration. Take as an example, husbandry behaviours (medical behaviours) these are examples where a high level of concentration from your animal will be required and they also need to be very relaxed.

Before you start training any behaviour, you must communicate with other trainers and let them know how long you are going to take and where the training is going to take place. State the starting time and ending time, before you end, you need to make eye contact with other trainers and let the animals go at the same time, so your animal does not go and interrupt any other trainer’s session. This is the best way of getting the best discipline, instilling good habits in your animals that results in a good quality training session and a positive outcome for all.

Do not copy other trainers, do not assume because the animal you are working with would let another trainer to put their hand in their mouth you can do the same. Different animals have different relationships with other trainers, you must gain and build your animals trust and this will depend on the way that you treat them, just like any other human or animal interaction. Observe the best trainers work, but do not confuse the best one with the one in charge. Observe closely and choose what would you do different, take a notepad with you and write it down, one day you will need it.

Many trainers underestimate and misunderstand the importance of Operant Condition (Positive Reinforcement), when to use it and how to use it. Some trainers just read through it to “tick that box,” but there is a big different between reading it to pass a test, perhaps making your supervisor happy or to take him/her off your back and really using it properly. Supervisors and other trainers, should be watching each other and making sure that everything is right and that your work is acceptable. To assist you, they should always make sure, that the other trainers handle their animals fairly and in the best way possible, especially if you are a new assistant. Trainers must learn the techniques of positive reinforcement to apply it successfully, for the benefit of the animals and you.

What to do in a competitive environment such as a dolphin training job?

Responsibilities: this is what is going to set you apart from the crowd and so you are not classified as just being one of the usual group of trainers.

Be independent: consistent, practice good discipline, but also be very patient with your animal and others.

Be confident: trust yourself, do what your gut tells you, usually when you have researched well and apply good principles, it is the right thing to do.

Ask: if you have doubts; ask, there is not such a thing as silly questions.

Improve:  progress is what makes people happy, make sure you are going forward and improving your skills.

Study: make sure you find time to study, allocate the best time for you to improve your knowledge. The world is constantly evolving, updating information with new research, so you need to keep your knowledge fresh.

Want it: make sure whatever you do is the best for you and then do it to the best of your abilities. Whatever the circumstances, never think you are not capable of doing whatever you desire. You just have to want it!