Much like humans, many actions or response an animal makes is based off the behavior of the animal. Actions such as eating, drinking, blinking, and vocalizing are all innate behaviors of a specific animal. One must understand the basic behavior of each animal in order to be able to train them to do a certain task. Animals can only be trained to do what they are actually physically capable of doing. There are two ways which animals are able to elicit certain behaviors from their trained is from observational learning and learned behavior. Many animals such as whales and dolphins can learn a behavior just simply by watching or mimicking other animals or a trainer. This specific type of learning can be taught without any outside reinforcement. The second way an animal learns is based off of learned behavior which is exhibited from a certain experience. This is mostly done through the process of repetition and reinforcement.
When training an animal one must remember that it is impossible to teach all tasks at one, animals learn specific behavior by a step by step process called shaping. Each step in the learning process of shaping is called an approximation. Throughout this process the animal is reinforced throughout each step in order to reach the desired behavior from an animal. The best way to reinforce a behavior in animals is through positive reinforcement. When an animal performs a specific behavior they are more likely to repeat that behavior when presented with positive reinforcement. If a behavior is not reinforced or responded to positively it is likely that the behavior will decrease or eventually extinguish all together. This is also known as operant conditioning. This process is a behavior the requires both thought and action from the animal. The response is also followed immediately by a consequence or reinforcers, in cases of animal training that is the positive reinforcement. Being that animals respond and adapt to changes in their environment it is also important for a trainer to manipulate the environment in order for the animal to reach the desired goal. Certain changes in the environment can lead the animal to adapt and no longer achieve certain goals. This is also known as classical conditioning. trainers use the stimulus of the animals environment in order to receive a certain response. By pairing a new stimulus with an already known stimulus the trainer is able to condition the animal to respond in the desired way.
SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment. (2023). Animal Behavior & Learning. SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. https://seaworld.org/animals/all-about/training/animal-behavior-and-learning/