Animal training refers to teaching animals specific responses to specific conditions or stimuli. Training may be for the purpose of companionship, detection, protection, entertainment or all of the above.
An animal trainer may use assorted forms of reinforcement or punishment to condition an animal's responses. Some animal trainers may have a knowledge of the principles of behavior analysis and operant conditioning, but there are many ways to train animals and as a general rule no legal requirements or certifications are required.
The certification bodies that do exist (in some, not all, countries) do not share consistent goals or requirements so it can be difficult to tell what kind of training a trainer has had to do his or her job. The United States does not require animal trainers to have any kind of certification or psychological screening.
The type of training is often determined by the trainer's motivation, background, and psychological makeup. An individual training a seeing eye dog, for example, will have a different approach and end-goal than an individual training a wild animal to do tricks in a circus.
However, any attempt at training any animal, be it wild or tame, should consider the natural behaviours of the animal and aim to increase desirable behaviour through a basic system of reward and punishment.
The most successful form of training combines positive reinforcement (follow a desired behavior with something worthwhile to the animal and the behavior will increase) with negative punishment (withdraw something the animal wants when it performs undesirable behaviors). An inverse method relies on positive punishment (follow an undesirable behavior with a punishment to reduce the rate of the behavior) and negative reinforcement (withdraw an undesirable stimulus when the animal performs the desirable behavior).
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