Bliss-Moreau, E., Moadab, G., Theil, J. 2013. Efficient cooperative chair training. American Journal of Primatology 75(S1), 67. (36th Meeting of the American Society of Primatologists Scientific Program, Abstract #118)
Traditional procedures for training nonhuman primates to be restrained in chairs typically involve very little use of positive reinforcement. In this talk, we detail a refined chair training procedure which uses a mix of positive and mild negative reinforcement to train animals for chairing. We were able to rapidly train 14 rhesus macaques who had essentially no prior positive reinforcement learning history. Group 1 was trained in an average of 14.14 sessions (SD=3.09) that averaged 26.54 minutes (SD=4.11). In addition to describing our method in detail, we will also demonstrate that having a positive reinforcement training (PRT) history speeds the cooperative chair training process. We were able to train a second group (Group 2) of 14 rhesus macaques with a PRT history during fewer, shorter sessions. Training for this group was completed in an average of 7.5 sessions (SD=3.28) that averaged 10.66 minutes long (SD=7.86). Group 2 was trained significantly faster than Group 1, F(1, 26)=34.487, p=.000003. Similarly, the session length for Group 2 was significantly shorter than for Group 1, F(1, 26)=42.512, p=.000001. We were able to train all animals, even those deemed "unfit" for traditional pole-and-collar training. In the context of these data, we believe that our methods represent a major refinement upon traditional techniques. Implications for animal well-being and the flexibility of the box chair will be discussed.