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Animals 2013, 3(2), 300-317; doi:10.3390/ani3020300

Conceptualising the Impact of Arousal and Affective State on Training Outcomes of Operant Conditioning

1,* , 2
1 Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, Sydney NSW 2006, Australia 2 Deakin Research, Deakin University, Geelong VIC 3217, Australia 3 Indice Ecotech Pty Ltd., East Richmond VIC 3121, Australia
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 31 January 2013 / Revised: 25 March 2013 / Accepted: 28 March 2013 / Published: 11 April 2013
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Simple Summary: This article discusses the impacts of arousal and emotional state on training animals using methods based on reward and punishment. Three-dimensional graphs are provided to offer a visual means to illustrate how arousal and emotional state may influence the effectiveness of reward and punishment depending on the behaviour being trained. Dogs and horses are used to illustrate this with reference to commonly trained behaviours in a predatory and a prey animal.


Animal training relies heavily on an understanding of species-specific behaviour as it integrates with operant conditioning principles. Following on from recent studies showing that affective states and arousal levels may correlate with behavioural outcomes, we explore the contribution of both affective state and arousal in behavioural responses to operant conditioning. This paper provides a framework for assessing how affective state and arousal may influence the efficacy of operant training methods. It provides a series of three-dimensional conceptual graphs as exemplars to describing putative influences of both affective state and arousal on the likelihood of dogs and horses performing commonly desired behaviours. These graphs are referred to as response landscapes, and they highlight the flexibility available for improving training efficacy and the likely need for different approaches to suit animals in different affective states and at various levels of arousal. Knowledge gaps are discussed and suggestions made for bridging them.
Keywords: arousal; affective state; operant conditioning; animal training; dogs; horses arousal; affective state; operant conditioning; animal training; dogs; horses
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Starling, M.J.; Branson, N.; Cody, D.; McGreevy, P.D. Conceptualising the Impact of Arousal and Affective State on Training Outcomes of Operant Conditioning. Animals 2013, 3, 300-317.

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