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What is it? Why do it? How to test?
Over the years there have been a number of papers that have investigated whether animals have motivations and preferences, whether they make conscious choices, and if given various foods to choose among, do animals make adaptive choices that are good for them?
Why are such questions important when we come to train our animals?
Before animals make choices they go through a decision-making process guided by their motivations and preferences. In order to maximise the likelihood of our pet performing the behaviour we’re after, we need to create motivation first.
For example, I recently went to see a client who said their dog loved roast pork and had some cut up, ready for the session. However when given a choice, the dog repeatedly chose his dried kibble over the pork, then in the second test he repeatedly choose venison over the kibble – none of the pork was eaten!