It’s like a dog that became a lion.
Then its lips started to grow.
And it got really wrinkled.
Remember that oft-repeated story about the Soviet silver fox experiment?
Every time I mention it, I get a query about where you can get one.
When I first started writing about them, I found that they weren’t exporting them to the United States. They were offered for sale as pets, but there were fears that they would become a mass-produced fad pet– like African hybrid hedgehogs and pot bellied pigs.
Well, now there is a company that is offering them for sale in this country.
I won’t be getting one for two simple reasons.
1. They are a bit costly: $5,950.
2. I live in a state that refuses to offer any permits for pet red foxes. We have had a rabies outbreak in the southeastern part of the state, so the DNR no longer offers permits for pet red or gray foxes, raccoons, or skunks.
So if you want a pet fox in West Virginia, you better get a Pomeranian.
Just not the Pomeranian that this Chinese man purchased.
These look like fur-farmed foxes.
The ones that are spotted are definitely fur-farmed.
This is a demonstration of a “conditioned retrieve,” which is also popularly known as force-breaking or force-fetching. I now prefer the term “conditioned retrieve.”
Just about everything Robert Milner is doing here is negative reinforcement.
What is negative reinforcement?
It is NOT punishment.
Punishment is anything we do to a dog that will cause a behavior to stop.
Reinforcement is anything we do to a dog that will encourage a behavior.
Punishment and reinforcement have positive and negative versions.
Positive reinforcement and positive punishment are when the trainer adds something. Positive reinforcement is giving a dog attention or food for doing a behavior. Positive punishment would be a leash pop or a nick from an e-collar when a dog does something we don’t like.
Now that makes sense.
Negative punishment is when we take something away. Let’s say we have a dog that likes a certain toy, but every time she has this toy, she decides to pluck try to tear it up. We can punish this behavior by taking away the toy every time she starts trying to tear it up.
Negative reinforcement is exactly what you’re seeing in these videos. To enforce the sit command, Milner holds the dog’s collar. This causes the dog discomfort. When the dog sits, the pressure on the collar is released. We’re taking something away to encourage the dog to do something. Negative means taking something away. Reinforcement means something that encourages a behavior.
The toe and ear pinches are also examples of negative reinforcement. The dog really isn’t being hurt here, but it is causing some discomfort. To get rid of the discomfort, the dog has to take something its mouth or release it to get rid of the discomfort.
Yes, I know it says “Oryx” in the title of the video.
Gemsbok are species of oryx. There are four species in the genus Oryx, and the Gemsbok is Oryx gazella.
Now, what are they doing in New Mexico?
Well, just like feral horses, feral burros and ring-necked pheasants, these were introduced.
In 1969, the New Mexico Department of Fish and Game introduced them to the White Sands Missile Range.
There are now about 3,000 of them in the Tularosa Basin.
They have very few predators. Cougars don’t seem to be very effective gemsbok predators, and coyotes take only the very young.
They are hunted to control their numbers, but it’s likely that they are here to stay.
And this is in North America, a place with no native antelope or gazelles.
In the East, we’ve spent a very long time making everything look like Europe. In the West, are we trying to make everything look like Africa or Central Asia?
I’d much rather have a lot of pronghorn on that range than gemsbok.
Gemsbok means chamois in Dutch. In Afrikaans, it refers to this species of oryx.
Lots of African antelope are named in this fashion. The eland is named for the Dutch word the elk or moose (Alces, not Cervus). The steenbok is named for the Alpine ibex and the Spanish ibex. The term “bok” (cognate with the English word “buck”) usually refers to a goat, but the term has been expanded to include antelope.