Combined set of per-group wikis

Start page

Latest edits: Wednesday, 20 March 2013, 03:35 PM (Steve Draper); Wednesday, 20 March 2013, 03:33 PM (Steve Draper); Wednesday, 20 March 2013, 03:29 PM (Steve Draper); full history

Applying Positive Psychology to Animal Well Being.

Ghandi once said...

"The greatness of a nation and its' moral progress can be judged by the way its' animals are treated."

This is a commonly held belief in society today. Worldwide there are over 17,000 animal welfare groups campaigning daily (World Animal Directory) and in 2011, 43% of UK households were said to house at least one pet (National Pet Month, UK). With all of this in mind, one begins to question how much more we can do to improve the well being of the animals we care so much about. Recent scientific research suggests a big way to improve the welfare of our domesticated animals is to train them in a positive way, thus the field of Positive Psychology has branched out from it's solely human applications.

The main application so far has been in the promotion of Positive Reinforcement as a method of domestic animal training as well as animals in ZOO or farm animals. Positive reinforcement methods have been applied to almost any type of animal and its well-being.

Using positive reinforcement to train animals is a fairly recent method with punishment being the main method before. Positive reinforcement was first mentioned by Skinner in the 1930s and is now a common method of animal training. Numerous animal trainers, for example Victoria Stilwell, Debbie Berriman or Patricia McConnell, have adopted this technique and train canines all over the world.

A main issue in the area of applying positive psychology to animals is the question of whether animals are able to experience emotion. Research suggests this is the case and should be considered in regards to the treatment of animals.

Positive reinforcement works on the basis of reward, whenever the animal does as the trainer desires and has shown to enhance well-being.

Applied research in the area has found that with dogs, using positive reinforcement results in less problem behaviours and better behaviour. This can also be said for other animals although they can be more difficult to train. It has also been extended to environmental enrichment.

Carrying out positive reinforcement on animals can be done in the home with pets and is a straightforward task.

Within this area an important question should be asked: have positive psychologists gone too far by saying that an animal's mental health is as important as their physical health? It is difficult to assess an animals mental health and there are instances where wild animals have been domesticated through positive reinforcement.

There are criticisms within this area, that assessing animal welfare is never carried out properly and that it is ethically wrong to do so.

Some key references which we have found particularly useful are noted below;

Boissy, A., Manteuffel, G., Jensen, M. B., Moe, R. O., Spruijt, B., Keeling, L. J., Winckler, C., Forkman , B., Dimitrov , I., Langbein, J., Bakken, M., Veissier, I., & Aubert, A. (2007). Assessment of positive emotions in animals to improve their welfare. Physiology & Behavior, 92(3), 375-397.

- This is a good overview of research looking at emotions in animals.

Hiby, E.F., Rooney, N.J., & Bradshaw, J.W.S., (2004). Dog Training Methods: their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare. Animal Welfare, 13. 63-69.

- This is a good review of the research looking at behaviours in relation to different training methods in dogs.

1. History

It has been a long time since Skinner and his box. But how did animal training start out?

2. Animals and Emotion

Are animals able to experience emotion?

3. Positive Reinforcement

How does positive reinforcement work?

4. Applied Research

There is a body of empirical evidence suggesting that Positive Reinforcement works as a training technique, and it is more beneficial to an animals' well being than other techniques.

5. Try it at home

Here are some examples of how positive training works in practice.

6. Unusual Claims

As with any field of psychology, not all claims have turned out to be empirically valid, although some can surprise us.

7. Criticisms

What do the scientists have to say about all of this?

8. References

  • Add new section to this page
  • Create new page
This wiki is currently locked and can no longer be edited.