Training + enrichment = excellent care
With a simple hand cue from a trainer, a 1,600-pound beluga whale positions herself for a mouth exam. A sea turtle climbs onto a scale to be weighed. A shark touches its nose to a target, which it then follows across the habitat. All of these scenes — and more — happen at Shedd every week, part of our extensive animal training and enrichment programs.
At Shedd, training and enrichment are a crucial aspect of animal care. Training provides the animals with mental stimulation, it gives them physical exercise and, perhaps most important, it teaches them to cooperate in their own health care. Shedd’s animal-training program has won awards from the International Marine Animal Trainers Association (IMATA).
Positive reinforcement and play
Teaching the animals to participate in their own healthcare makes the regular medical exams easy for staff members. And it’s great for the animals, too, because all training is conducted like a play session, with food, toys, or verbal praise as frequent rewards. All training at Shedd is through positive reinforcement. When the animal responds to the trainer’s cue, a reward comes quickly. Over time, the animals learn how to respond to each cue for the reward. It’s all part of building a relationship with each animal.
Beyond marine mammals
At Shedd, many animals participate in training and enrichment, not just our marine mammals. Shedd staff members train our sharks, turtles, monkeys, birds, octopus and more! You can see training in action in our aquatic presentation and learn more about how you can train your pets at home.