Shaping The Down With Emus Using Natural Bathing Behaviours

We want to teach the emus to lay down on cue. With dogs we usually lure them down to the ground with food. But it’s a lot trickier to get the emus into position this way.

Being in a vulnerable position, the emus would jump up and move away if people approached them while laying down. Through their increased handling through training they have been improving with their confidence and have been better with this, but we would love to get the down position on cue.

We tried luring and a little physical guidance and we would also capture it when they did it naturally but this was slow going. Then I was told that they love to have a bath and get on the ground. So that was our best shot to get them laying down near us voluntarily.

Trainers have also used this tactic to get horses to lie down and capture it with a reward as well.

It’s a great example of using creativity and natural behaviours during training.

You can see in these clips that I’m trying a variety of techniques such as some luring, but mainly capturing the behaviour by marking it when it occurs, and creating the behaviour by hosing them, knowing that they naturally love to lay down in the puddles.

Emus do this to cool down and their legs regulate their temperature so they like to lay in the cool water as well as enjoy the mist from the hose.

The main challenge we now face is to try and separate them for training so that we can communicate more clearly to each individual, as Apple needs more training but Jimmy hogs the rewards if he is nearby. Training multiples of any species can present this challenge so training individually to start is preferred.

This was the first time we have done this with Jimmy and Apple, and we are happy with this start because the fact that they lay down and allow us near and take rewards is a great improvement.

Plus some of their antics were quite comical. Enjoy the video below.