Thursday, October 15, 2015

Wolves on Treadmills

For some reason that I cannot quite fathom, the folks at the Wolf Science Center in Ernstbrunn, Austria (a country with no wild wolves) decided that to "explore questions of cooperation and coordination between dogs and humans as well as the differences in dog and wolf trainability" they needed to put everyone on a treadmill.

And not just any treadmill; the world's largest one, measuring 7 feet wide by 30 feet long.

So how do you train a wolf to run on a treadmill?

"After a few rounds of discussion with our animal trainers, I started to train all wolves and dogs to touch a target (big round disk) with their nose, but in their home enclosure. The idea was that once the animals knew the target, we could hang it over the treadmill and it would act as a guide for them to step on the treadmill. And this worked really well. So, both wolves and dogs started with “target training” with the treadmill off and when they were self-secure enough with stepping on the treadmill, we switched the treadmill on (slowest speed). Subsequently, we were able to increase the speed bit by bit. Then, after a couple months of training, the animals did not need the target anymore and we had them reliably jumping on and of a moving treadmill. Consequently, by increasing the time (step by step) that the wolf/dog has to stay on the treadmill, you get a running animal!”

So what is all this about?
Who knows. It seems the "Wolf Science Center" is more of a tourist attraction attached to a castle than it is a science center, and the whole things is actually a relatively small walled and fenced off pen area with a viewing platform.

 No doubt the treadmill has been built to give the wolves, which are in too small a space, an opportunity for exercise.  The "science" part of this seems to be little more than gloss and nonsense.


jeffrey thurston said...

No more glossy or nonsensical than many of the "studies" done by grifter "scientists" like psychologists or economists and way cooler. The wolf is beautiful.

Ruadh495 said...

Gait analysis? I'd have thought there was enough video to study the natural gaits of wolves, but a set up like this would give exact speeds. Or maybe developing wire frames for CGI wolves in a movie?