All puppies like to play and wrestle and nip each other. When they come to live with people, they want to play in the same way. They don't know that our skin is far more tender than their littermate's fur—so sometimes those nips can hurt!
Are fish trainable? And if they are, why bother?
Here's something people often don't get, and not just in agility training: cues—the signals you give your dog to tell it what to do—can be clicks. If your cue tells the dog to do something it understands, and something with a guaranteed positive outcome or reinforcer as a result, it becomes a potential reinforcer in itself. And you can use it to shape behavior.
We don't often worry about the mental state of a fish, but fishes enjoy stimulation and something to do, just as much as land animals. Aquarists know that the environment is important for keeping fish in good health or bringing them into breeding condition. That doesn't just mean places to hide and clean water to swim in; it can also mean a variety of foods including live food to chase, the right tank mates, the right plants, and, yes, an opportunity to learn.
The article below is excerpt from On Behavior entitled "Pony's Choice." This selection comes from a speech, The President's Invited Scholar's Address, which I gave to the Association for Behavior Analysis (ABA) in 1992. I chose it as an example of how one could use operant conditioning techniques to develop abstract thinking—the weighing of alternatives—even in an animal not generally considered intelligent.