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Stress Reduction through Training

Training animals to accept or even voluntary participate in experiment related interventions has a great potential to reduce anxiety and stress in laboratory animals. Interventions may be moving the animals, measuring their body mass or taking blood samples. There is some knowledge and experience that animals can successfully be trained to cooperate in medical procedures. But there is a lack of information how effective this husbandry training can be and what the conditions for effective training are.

With training based on scientific learning theory with primary reinforcers (food rewards) and secondary reinforcers (e.g., clickers), animals can learn to perform even complex behaviors voluntarily. The objectives of this project are to find out about the prerequisites and evidence of the positive effect of training in experimental animals.

"Goat click": Does the qualification of animal trainers make a difference to the success of "husbandry training"?

We set out to answer this question with 30 human volunteers and 30 young goats. Half of the participants received intensive education in animal training, and the other half received self-study materials. Over a period of 14 days, all participants trained with "their" goat to jump on a pedestal, put their head into the palm of the handler, and stand motionless for accepting a potential blood sample to be taken.

Our hypothesis is that animal training is a skill that needs proper education and has a critical impact on the success of "husbandry training."

Belastungsreduzierung durch Versuchstiertraining  
   

Refinement for blood donor sheep with "husbandry training”

How obvious is the effect of "husbandry training" with sheep? A subgroup of blood donor sheep is trained for voluntary accepting drawing blood samples from the jugular vein. Then we analyze the behavior during and after blood collection of trained and untrained sheep. We want to identify behavioral differences that indicate a reduction of stress through training.

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