Training the bears
The bears in Scandinavian Wildlife Park are trained to do a few simple things, that makes working with them a lot easier. The bears will do almost anything for a delicious treat.
The reason we train the bears
It is very important that the bears have a good relationship with the keepers who work with them on a daily basis. The keepers must be able to get close to the bears to keep an eye on their well-being. But you don’t just go in the enclosure with a bear, so all the work is done through the bars. That’s why we teach them to come inside, stand on the scales, walk between the boxes and several other things. Then we can reward them through the bars and easily keep track of their health and well-being.
All training with the bears is done with positive reinforcement. This means simply rewarding the behavior you want them to perform again.
We use the principles of clicker training when training with the bears. Simply put, you teach the bear that a click is always followed by a treat. That way, the bear will already start looking forward to the treat, the second it hears the click. That means the click begins to mean; “yes, what you just did triggers a treat. Good job!”.
That way we can click the moment the bear does what we want it to – such as standing on their hind legs – and we can therefore reward very accurately.
It’s natural to learn
It is quite natural behavior for the bear to learn which behavior is most rewarding. This is how they survive in the wild, learning to find food and survive. When we train with the bears, the only difference is that it’s us who control what behavior is rewarded. So when our bears learn to stand on their hind legs for a little delicious piece of apple here with us, it is no different than the wild bear learning to stand on their hind legs to reach the apples up in the apple tree.