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Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a working animal hospital where the animal training staff dedicates their time to the mammals by ensuring their health and safety under our care. To do this, we spend countless hours with our dolphins and otters asking for a variety of behaviors which allow the trainers and the animals to work together to be able to medically assess them in a non stressful manner.

Throughout the course of our day with our dolphins and otters you may see the following behaviors, which are completely normal:

  • Dolphins sliding up on the deck and "posing" for a weight or visual body assessment
  • Trainers using a long tube that is inserted into the dolphin's mouth for water or food "fish milkshake"
  • Trainers asking the dolphins to lay comfortably on their back (belly side up) while we hold onto their tails for blood collection
  • Trainers asking our otters to lay on their backs while we touch all over their body, we also practice comfort while inside of crates and kennels
  • All of these behaviors and more are done on a consistent basis to allow the animals to understand that when we take samples from them, there is not a need to view this as a negative experience. This is similar to bringing your pet to the vet office for an unscheduled visit JUST to get a treat! Imagine if you did this every day, how easy and less stressful on your pet it would be when you took your pet to the vet for their annual physical or if the need may arise for an actual medical visit. Our philosophy is to create a bank of positive consequences with these medical behaviors, called husbandry behaviors, so in the event it became necessary for assessment purposes, our animals already trust that we will not be harming them during the collection processes. If you get the chance to visit our aquarium you will see the training in practice and can get close enough to watch not only the process, but ask questions about what you see! It's all part of being a working animal hospital!

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