Pierre, V., Wunsch, R., Perkins, C. et al. 2013. Using positive reinforcement training (PRT) strategies to adapt adult male rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) to daily handling demands. American Journal of Primatology 75(S1), 67. (36th Meeting of the American Society of Primatologists Scientific Program, Abstract #117)

Research has shown animals are sensitive to environment changes and novel caretakers. The behavioral response to environmental change is often expressed as a decrease in willingness to comply or perform learned tasks. We assessed the acquisition of a shaping procedure using successive approximation and PRT. Subjects were 12 male, 16 year old rhesus macaques. Subjects received 3, 2 min trials per day in all study phases. All animals had been proficient at entering a transport box but regressed following change of housing and caretakers. Phase 1 included habituation to personnel, stationing to a desired position and transfer to a transport box. If animals did not transfer after 15 trials, phase 2 began by shaping the animal to enter the transfer box placed within the cage. When an animal sat and remained in the box we returned to phase 1 training. In phase 1, 2 of 12 animals learned to enter the transfer box and were removed from the cage. In phase 2 training, all animals touched the box within 6 trials. Seven of the 10 remaining animals entered the box halfway by trial 3, and all but 2 entered the box fully by trial 14. All animals have been returned to phase 1 training. The 2 non-compliant animals continue to receive phase 2 training. These data highlight the challenges using PRT strategies to shape behavior.

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