A target is a tool — a flexible pole with a spongy end — used to shape behaviors. Its purpose is to create a focal point, a benign object for the elephant to focus on.
To start, we touch Chang Yim’s head gently and say “target.” When he makes contact, we blow a whistle and give him a treat. Chang Yim quickly connects the whistle with the touch and, of course, the treat with the whistle. Throughout the training we touch the target to different parts of Chang Yim’s body — his foot, ear, leg and side — following the same process, giving each body part a name.
When Chang Yim understands what we want, he responds by touching the appropriate body part to the target. The whistle sounds and he receives a reward, a treat. In moments, Yim makes the connection. He is quickly learning his ear, head, side, feet and back.
The purpose of this training is to gain Chang Yim’s cooperation for medical procedures and foot care. He is never told no and can never fail, which helps boost his self-confidence and willingness to engage in the game. Done properly, the training becomes a much-anticipated activity that Chang Yim freely participates in.
Learn the basics of target training.