What cooperative hunting with Harris’s Hawks can reveal about principles of social interaction, patterns of coordination, and group behavior training

Al Kordowski and Dr. April Becker
Presentation given at the 2020 Conference

Trainers and animals often exchange well-learned signals that help to build new behaviors. Usually, these signals involve other animals only when relevant to the target behavior. On the other hand, trainers sometimes work with multiple animals at the same time, which can involve the exchange of signals in many more directions. Often not formally considered training at all, these scenarios can teach animals how to respond to one another’s signals in a constructive and healthy way. Such skills may even open doors beyond husbandry and management: social animals can work together to solve problems, and teaching them to do so can be enriching for both human and animal. We will discuss the principles of social training using the exemplar of multi-species group hunting. We will discuss behaviors and their contexts that are useful in these scenarios, the social signaling embedded in the concept of “relationship,” how the changes in these signals and their associated contingencies can have ripple effects, and the generality of these principles to other settings, species, and behavioral goals. We hope that the listener will be able to use what we have learned in a wide variety of contexts in order to improve their animals’ training, enrichment, welfare, and quality of life.

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