LaFollette, M. R., Cloutier, S., Brady, C. M. et al. 2020. Changing human behavior to improve animal welfare: A longitudinal investigation of training laboratory animal personnel about heterospecific play or “rat tickling”. Animals 10(8), 1435.

Despite evidence for rat tickling’s animal welfare benefits, the technique is rarely implemented in part because of a lack of training. This study’s purpose was to determine the efficacy of online-only or online + hands-on training programs on key outcomes for rat tickling in comparison to a waitlist control condition. After completing a baseline survey, laboratory animal personnel currently working with rats in the United States were semi-randomized to receive online-only training (n = 30), online + hands-on training (n = 34), or waitlist control (n = 32). Participants received further surveys directly after training and 2 months later. Data were analyzed using general linear mixed models. At the 2-month follow-up compared to baseline, both training groups reported increased implementation, self-efficacy, knowledge, and familiarity of rat tickling while only the online + hands-on training participants reported increased control beliefs (while the waitlist group stayed the same). At the 2-month follow-up compared to the waitlist, hands-on training participants reported increased self-efficacy and familiarity with rat tickling. Overall, findings show that both online-only and online + hands-on training can improve key outcomes for rat tickling. Although online + hands-on training is slightly more effective, the interactive online-only training has the potential to improve widescale implementation of a welfare-enhancing technique.

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