Although training is typically done for health reasons, it is also a form of enrichment. Training sessions break up the day to day routine and allow Beliza to use problem solving skills to figure out what she is being asked to do. Much like how she would apply the same problem solving skills were she in the wild.
Training Beliza to allow vet staff to perform medical procedures has always been a priority. Through our years working with her she has allowed us to do some amazing things such as administering vaccinations and sedatives for procedures while lying in the squeeze cage (Pictured Below). In 2019 she allowed us to perform an ultrasound while standing in the squeeze cage, being rewarded with food. I always joke and say “Beliza does not work for free”.
Being able to do these tasks without added stress of more invasive techniques has been very rewarding for both us and Beliza! Depending on the focus of the session, she may be rewarded with part of her diet, or a novel food item. Challenging behaviors may require a favored food, like chicken. However, there are days when even chicken isn’t enough of a reward to entice her to train. If Beliza is not hungry, or does not see a reward, she will simply not cooperate. It’s important to note we do not force Beliza to participate in any training, so if she would rather lay in the sun for the afternoon, that is what she gets to do. Beliza is very good at communicating her thoughts about each training session.
What would cause a jaguar to not want food as a reward? Being overweight is one reason. When Beliza is overweight she is still happy to eat, but does not always think she should have to work for her food. This is when we use novel foods to encourage her to participate in training. Training can be challenging when she is too hungry also. When she is hungry she loses focus on the behaviors and just tries to get the food. These are the reasons why we get monthly weights. Monitoring Beliza’s weight lets us know if we need to change her diet so she can gain/lose the appropriate weight to be healthy.
Some behaviors can be trained by one person (i.e Target), while others require more than one person (i.e injection). Behaviors like injection, ultrasound and getting a weight not only require a second person, but also use the squeeze cage. This is similar to a crate but has doors on both ends and a panel on the side that moves to make the crate smaller or larger. With Beliza, we leave one end open so she can enter and exit at-will during the session. The squeeze cage also has a scale attached to the bottom, making getting weights simple.
As one of Beliza’s Keepers, I find training her to be extremely rewarding. Her attitude makes me laugh. Watching her facial expressions when I reward her too slowly, or ask her for a behavior she is still learning is simply the best. She is full of spunk, sass, and personality.
Knowing that training not only enriches her life, and my day, but also makes giving her medical care easier is the greatest feeling.
– Keeper Jackie
- Get weighed
- Allow someone to give her an injection in her hip (vaccines/medications)
- Ultrasound; this is helpful when she was put with the male for breeding to determine if she was pregnant.
- Touch, also known as target; this moves her around to check her body condition and movement.
- Sit; this allows for a different view of her body and to ask for other behaviors.
- Down; this allows for another body view and movement.
- Up; this allows for an under body view, movement and to check her paws.
- Paw; this allows us to look at her paw pads.
- Open mouth; this allows us to view her teeth and gums.
Beliza being amazingly well behaved IN ACTION!