CZAAWE Resource Article

A method to assess relative preference for training and environmental enrichment in captive wolves (Canis lupus and Canis lupus arctos)
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Zoo Biology
It is currently debated as to whether or not positive reinforcement training is enriching to captive animals. Although both husbandry training and environmental enrichment (EE) have been found to benefit animal welfare in captivity, to date, no systematic investigation has compared an animal's preference for performing a trained behavior to engaging freely with a stimuli provided as EE. In the current paper, we used four captive wolves to (1) test the efficacy of a paired-stimulus preference assessment to determine preference for engaging in a trained behavior as a choice; and to (2) use a paired-stimulus preference assessment to determine whether or not individuals prefer to engage in a previously trained behavior versus a previously encountered EE stimuli. Of the four subjects tested, visual inspection of the graphs revealed that two of the subjects preferred trained behavior stimuli and two of the subjects preferred EE stimuli; only one of the wolves had a statically higher preference for an EE stimulus over a trained behavior. We believe that letting the animals choose between these two events is the first step in answering the question of whether or not is training enriching, however more research needs to be done and suggestions for future research is discussed. Zoo Biol. 34:513–517, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.