González-Pech, P. G., Marín-Tun, C. G., Valladares-González, D.A. et al. 2018. A protocol of human animal interaction to habituate young sheep and goats for behavioural studies. Behavioural Processes 157, 632-637.
Animal habituation is key to obtain reliable data on behavioural studies but detailed procedures to achieve it are scarce. This study designed a set of actions to habituate sheep and goats to human observers. Pelibuey sheep (n = 15) and Criollo goats (n = 10) were classified as (a) avoider, flight from human interaction, or (b) follower, seek human interaction. Habituation was measured by the reduction of flight distance by avoiders, or number of followers in the presence of observers. The habituation protocol consisted of a gradually increased series of five manoeuvres, either challenge (for avoiders) or evasion (for seekers), performed first inside a pen and subsequently in a grass paddock. Habituation was considered successful when animals could be observed from a 1-m distance without flight or following the observer. In the pen, habituation took 12 and 13 days for sheep and goats, respectively. Meanwhile, in the grass paddock habituation took 10 days, for both species. The number of challenge and evasion series was negatively correlated with the flight distance in sheep and with the number of followers in goats. This protocol is simple and practical to implement and enables animal habituation for behavioural studies.