Home > Training, Uncategorized > Taking the ‘Command’ out of the Positive Reinforcement Vocabulary

Taking the ‘Command’ out of the Positive Reinforcement Vocabulary

To the best of my ability I try to implement positive reinforcement techniques, approaches, and training to my every day interactions with the birds in which I interact. If I unknowingly use an aversive (only determined by the bird) when interacting with the bird, I identify it or try to identify it and make sure I pay close attention to either not using it again, or shape it not being an aversive if possible. An aversive is something the animal does not like.

If I am using positive reinforcement interactions with my birds, one word that is not in my vocabulary is the word ‘command’. If I command the bird to do something, does this not follow with the implication of taking the choice out of the bird’s decision? Doesn’t a command implicate repercussion if the command is not followed through by the bird? Doesn’t command implicate coercion? If the bird doesn’t do ( A ), then ( B ) will follow, and the ( B ) would mean the choice is taken away?

This is why a reader of my articles and posts will find me using the word ‘request’. I request behaviors. If I do not get the behavior I am requesting, the bird’s choice is still in the equation. If the bird does not give me the requested behavior, then I have not correctly identified an item or event of fair trade to the bird for the behavior requested or the bird does not understand what I am asking. There are ways to arrange the environment to put higher values on the bird’s positive reinforcers. Arranging the use and timing of these identified positive reinforcers or rewards, can then make it worth the bird’s effort for giving me the behavior in which I am requesting. Breaking the requests into smaller approximations or steps, can make the line of communication clear and understandable by the bird. Positively reinforce or reward those small requests. This is when a trainer will begin to see the bird understand and quickly responding to our requests. Happy Training!

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  1. December 16, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    This blog post resonates with me as I also do not “command” my birds or expect them to obey me. Many look at a bird, prejudiced by their ignorance of it, and are convinced that because it is not like us, it is our inferior. I do not view them in this light. In time I have increasingly come to recognize a parrot’s capacity for trust and affection, and no longer view them as merely a pet. I have come to see that each is an individual being and if treated with love and respect, is capable of a far wider range and depth of behavior than previously thought. I no longer view any of my birds as pets but more akin to a partner, and solicit behaviors from them in a respectful way rather than command them. I know for myself that this shift in point of view has profoundly impacted how I interact with them. As a consequence, I have found that they are capable of continuing trust, affection and lasting friendship with me. They have feelings and are individuals.

  1. December 27, 2011 at 10:43 pm

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