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The Wait & Go Training Game

Dolphin Quest Oahu (DQO) presented a new training concept, Wait & Go, at the prestigious International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association conference in 2013.

The Wait & Go game involves a series of three hand signals. The first signal cues the start of the game and asks the dolphin to wait for additional information. The trainer then gives a second hand signal for a previously trained behavior, such as a pectoral flipper wave. The dolphin doesn’t move, and continues to wait until he sees the third signal, which means go and perform the behavior.

While learning the “rules” of the game, the wait proved more challenging for the dolphins. They know more than 100 hand signals and for years have performed a behavior immediately after seeing its signal. Trainers made sure to reward the dolphins for waiting as well as going, which helped the animals understand this game.

Now DQO is advancing to the next level. The animals are learning to think in “sentences” and complete a series of behaviors while playing Wait & Go. For example, rather than a single flipper wave, the dolphin will wave his flipper, do a hula dance and then splash. Trainers mix up the behaviors and their order to prevent the dolphins from memorizing any pattern.

Wait & Go has evolved into a fun, novel game for trainers, dolphins and guests to enjoy during encounter programs. The possibilities are endless.