Meeting demand for animal training
Stephanie Rogers - March 4, 2013
A well-trained animal is a happy animal. And happy animals make for positive, safe homes and, where appropriate, workplaces.
Operant Conditioning Behaviour Analysis, or “OCBA,” is becoming the standard of care and training in all facets of animal training and husbandry, which is why the Faculty of Agriculture has announced a one-of-a-kind online, interactive course: OCBA: Level 1.
“We realized that the market for this specialized training would be international in scope,” explains Sarah Macdonald, manager of continuing education at the Faculty of Agriculture. “So being able to offer this course using distance technologies such as video and online discussion forums, was an opportunity for growth and to share our expertise with the world.”
The non-credit course provides one-on-one training as students are introduced to the theory and skills of positive reinforcement training. The principles and techniques learned in the course can be applied to working with animals used for companionship, service, recreation, agriculture or research. OCBA training enriches the animals’ environment and their interactions with handlers, is a cost effective way to provide a positive environment for animals and staff and is a valuable skills set that can be used to train any species.
“This program is an exciting opportunity to deliver technical training in a purely online format and we have had interest from across Canada,” adds Macdonald. “There are many international opportunities, and an untapped market for these skills also lies in the research laboratory. Our co-instructors previously developed a workplace training module at a research laboratory and the feedback has been very positive.”
The demand for trainers and handlers with OCBA knowledge and experience is growing. Many zoos, training facilities and rescue organizations recognize and require their staff to use such techniques.
Heather A. Logan, along with her daughter Melissa Cox, is a co-instructor for the course. Logan is a renowned expert in OCBA who has achieved Level Three certification. She has run a successful breeding and training facility since 1972 and is a sessional lecturer at the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus.
Cox has worked with animals from an early age and specializes in using OCBA to handle research animals. She earned her PhD in Genetics from Texas A&M University (TAMU) and has completed post-doctoral fellowships at Pfizer Global R&D and The Jackson Laboratory. She currently lives in southern Germany and works as a geneticist at the University of Tübingen.
You can learn more about the course at its website.