Animal creativity

(31.08.2017, Laura Candelotto)

Photo: Rooobert Bayer Image 1 of 4 Open lightbox

To perform an experiment in which the wolves and dogs first need to learn how to use an apparatus, isn’t an easy task. Even more so, if one is working under time pressure. However, there will probably be nothing more amusing than observing how many different, often quite creative methods, those animals have to approach a new task.

In order to access a treat the dogs and wolves had to use a seesaw mechanism by stepping on a plate on one side of the seesaw which then led to the treat on the other side of the seesaw to roll down into range of the animals. For the Wolves Shima and Aragorn it seemed to be very obvious. There was a treat that couldn’t be reached and a wooden plate. Even in their very first session they both jumped on and off the plate without caring at all about the noise or the movement. Their pack member Kaspar was evenly quick-witted, but apparently he had several ideas to improve the appearance of my apparatus. He immediately tried to realize these ideas by using his teeth. Unfortunately his reconstructions did not match my concept of a functional apparatus, therefore (thanks to Kaspar) I had to build a total 6 new tubes. Until now…  Other wolves like for example Wamblee believe that the only existence of the apparatus is horrifying enough to completely refuse to enter the testing enclosure.

The dogs as well showed some very amazing learning types. There were for instance the sensitive ones who tend to immediately forget all the previously learned steps, if there is even a slight change of the trainings situation. Of course, we also have very brave dogs, like Zuri, who ignore the noise and movements, as long as they get their food. And then there is Asali. Asali is, let’s say, rather unhurried in his learning attitudes. As an example for a whole session he gently put his paw in various positions on the plate and then gazed at the trainer asking for a treat in the hope that this might have been the required behaviour. To push the plate only a little bit downwards didn’t seem to be reasonable enough for him. Therefore, he kept trying out every possible paw position (with much more potential positions than I could have thought of) in a highly motivated manner and he never gave up even though nothing he tried was successful. We probably had our most enjoyable sessions with him.

Every animal is unique and has its own individual character. These differences are the main reason, why living and working here is so very interesting, fascinating and always amusing, even though this might lead to a difference in the amount of training sessions from only 2 sessions while others need way more than 10 sessions.