Here at AWCC, we love to keep our animals’ bodies active and minds stimulated. That’s why we utilize operant conditioning and five different kinds of animal enrichment to keep them happy: Sensory, environmental, dietary, novelty, and social.

Operant conditioning is a type of learning in which an animal learns from its behaviors as it interacts with the environment. The likelihood a behavior will happen depends on the consequences that follow after that action is performed. When an animal performs a particular behavior that produces a favorable consequence, the animal is likely to repeat that behavior.

Why we use operant conditioning

At AWCC we utilize operant conditioning to train and build relationships with our wildlife. We also use this training for veterinary purposes. Vets are more easily able to visually analyze and assess an animal’s medical needs, reducing the frequency in which tranquilization is needed.

Types of enrichment

Animal enrichment provides entrainment and stimulation for our animals and allows them to demonstrate their natural behaviors. Animal enrichment also: gives them the opportunity to exercise control over their environment; provides mental and physical activity; and enhances their overall well-being. A description of each of the five enrichment types is below:

Sensory: Visual, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.

Environmental/Physical habitat: Changing the animal’s physical environment or habitat.

Dietary: A new food, or something that is not given often, or changing the way the food is delivered.

Novelty/Manipulative: Items that can be manipulated in some way via paws, mouth, legs, horns or head simply for investigation and exploratory play.

Social: Training and working closely with the animal to reinforce trust.

Enrichment is just as essential to animal welfare as proper nutrition and veterinary care. It enriches and stimulates an animal’s mind, body, and spirit in a variety of ways. Learn more about our animals here.

Discover the WILD of Alaska and come meet the locals! Walk on the Wild Side Tours are available year-round. Moose Encounters & Bear Encounters begin June 1st. Book early as tours sell-out quickly.