Positive Reinforcement Training FAIL

By Lynn –

Let’s ignore for a moment the whole thing about killer whales, being a Not Domestic animal that usually travel about a hundred or so miles per day in a highly social (and large!) family group and is a very sound-oriented animal, being kept in a pool with only a few other members of it’s species where their echolocation bounces around like lasers at a Rush concert and they are regularly forced to learn and perform repetitive parlor tricks if they want to eat.

The point I want to drive home here is that anyone who claims to train with purely positive reinforcement will one day end up with a scenario very similar to this one (that is, if it’s not already a regular occurrence!). The video embedding is disabled, so you might have to do Ye Olde Copye and Paste on the linky.


Again, this is the one time I’ll ignore for a fact that a dog is not a whale is not a pigeon is not an elephant is not a chicken.

Any animal that is trained in a manner such as this will eventually find something more exciting than it’s usual fare. Doesn’t matter how much “trust” or “magic” or how strong the “bond” is, when something more stimulating or novel comes along, it’s “Hey, the heck with this noise, check this out!” Whether it’s something like this, or a dog who happens to find the local wildlife much more intriguing than any “gentle” redirection or “high-value” treat.

And then, if the animal in question happens to be a dog, the end situation is actually quite similar: the dog is quickly confined, whether on a leash or in a kennel, and removed from the situation. I’d call it a wasted learning opportunity, but no one asked me, and more than likely I am not the one signing the papers for that dog anyway.

Whales are not dogs. But in this case (aside from the bloodshed and death of a hapless bird who landed in the wrong place at the wrong time), they may as well be.