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.
Starling, M.J., Branson, N., Cody, D., McGreevy, P.D., 2013. Conceptualising the impact of arousal and affective state on operant conditioning. Animals 3 (2), 300-317; doi:10.3390/ani3020300