Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

We’ve Moved Our Blog

March 10, 2016 1 comment

blog.pngHello Everyone!!!

I wanted to share the new location of all of our new blog content. Click here to be directed to the new blog or sign up for our e-mail newsletter list to make sure you never miss an entry.

If you have a topic you would like to have addressed, let us know. We’d love to hear from you.


Lara Joseph, Staff & Critters

Categories: Uncategorized

An Everyday Training Example Here at The Animal Behavior Center

June 14, 2015 4 comments

I took this video the other day while at the Center. This is everyday behavior, function,

Keeping my hand stable and comfortable for Rocky as I bring him down to my level.

Keeping my hand stable and comfortable for Rocky as I bring him down to my level.

and training. This is a loaded video and by that I mean, there is so much going on as far as training. I could easily use force but don’t want nor need to. I’m reinforcing behaviors I want to see increase and I wanted to write this blog post to point out all that is going on that could easily be overlooked. It’s the details which makes this whole video look so simple and smooth.

Here’s the link to the YouTube upload. For whatever reason, WordPress would not accept this video format. So, read the following and at the same time play the video and pause it as I walk you through it. Rewind and play again. 

Rocky, the Moluccan cockatoo is on a playstation that hangs from the ceiling in the animal room. The playstation towers above our heads so we can easily walk underneath it and not have to walk into it. I ask Rocky to step onto my hand from way above my head. My cue is showing him my hand. I also ask him if he is ready, but I’m not sure he knows what this means. He steps onto my hand and you can hear me holding my breath as I am pulling him out and then down from the playstation. I’m holding my breath because I’m focusing on making sure his tail doesn’t bump the playstation. This is extremely important for me to pay attention to because most birds do not like their tail bumped while stepping off of perches. A tail bump could knock them forward and knock them off balance. I should have used a step ladder to get him down to make it all easier and less room for error. Since this video, I have started using the ladder.

The next step, I am struggling to make sure he does not lose his balance while I lower him to my level. I do not want to pair any part of him being off balance with stepping onto my hand, stepping off of this playstation, or being on me. If I begin pairing the above, I could easily and would likely punish the future behavior of him stepping onto me off of this playstation or any perch.

As I am walking him back to his cage, I am trying to identify a reinforcer. A reinforcer for what? For a few things. Based on his body language (fluffy beak, relaxed eyes, loose feather placement) I am guessing that attention might be a reinforcer. I am looking for a reinforcer to make sure I withhold while on my arm because I’m getting ready to ask him to step up into his cage and off of me. I don’t want to deliver a valuable reinforcer at this point while he is on my arm because I need to deliver it when he gives me the behavior of stepping off of my arm.


Bridging Milo for stationing on or near his X while I walk into Rocky’s cage.

After I walk into Rocky’s cage, I turn to look where Milo the pig is standing. He’s standing on his X. The X is for him to stand on or near while cage doors are open. The importance of this segment is the bridge. A bridge is a sound or signal that tells the animal that particular behavior is what is earning you your reinforcer. Bridging is so extremely important and you can see its use here. I turn and look at him and deliver the bridge, which is the word ‘good’. I deliver the bridge and walk away because I need to get Rocky to step off of my hand before I can deliver a reinforcer for Milo, because I don’t have an extra hand to deliver it. I have a bird on one arm and a camera in the other. The importance of the bridge, once the animal understands it, is that Milo knows the reinforcer is coming.

I walk Rocky back to his perch and cue him to step off of me. He doesn’t so I

Showing Rocky the reinforcer (petting had signal) for stepping on the perch.

Showing Rocky the reinforcer (petting had signal) for stepping on the perch.

show him the cue for petting with the finger movement from the fingers on the arm he is standing on. I am luring him. The lure is my finger movement. I’m showing him what he will get if he steps off of me. I then give a small whistle that I usually make when I’m petting him.

I turn and look to see where the mammals are. They are right where I want them to be so I bridge again to help keep them there. I then turn again and put the camera in front of the perch where I want Rocky to step up. I give him a small pet on the head as an additional lure and he steps off of me immediately. I move in and deliver the reinforcer which is the head scratch. I deliver in a large enough amount to keep him there while I turn and bridge and reinforce awesome behaviors happening behind me with the mammals.

Mammals stationing outside of the cage vs walking into the cage.

Mammals stationing outside of the cage vs walking into the cage.

The door to the cage is wide open and yet I have two well trained animals not entering and staying near the target, which is the X on the floor. I grab some of Rocky’s food from his dish and reinforce the mammals. This is where it gets tricky and I bet most people may not have caught this. I am dropping the food into Quincy, the Rottweiler’s mouth. I drop because I don’t want mammal saliva on my hands which could cross contaminate from mammal to bird. Quincy’s food drops to the floor next to the pig. The pig is trained to not rush for food when dropped on the floor because if he does there could be a Rottweiler and a pig charging after the same piece of food. Quincy and Levi (deaf bulldog) are also trained to not reach for food that wasn’t dropped for them. Milo clearly looks at the food and remains in position. There were several previous training sessions to train this and for this particular purpose.

Length of time delivering a reinforcer may have an impact on the reinforcement. I asked Rocky to step off of me and I petted for a few seconds and walked away. I guarantee you that if I asked him to step off again for a small period of time in preening his feathers, he wouldn’t step off of me again. It isn’t worth it to him. This is why I turn and walk back into the cage, ask him if I can pet giving him the choice and empowering him, and then he moves in to accept more reinforcement.

Using attention and length of attention as a reinforcer for stepping onto his perch when requested.

Using attention and length of attention as a reinforcer for stepping onto his perch when requested.

There was no need to force any animal to do anything. I didn’t have to stick a leg out to keep the dog or the pig out of the cage. All behavior was willing given to me because I have a history of delivering the animal’s reinforcers when they give me a behavior I request. Not a command….a request. A pleasant way for all to live and reasons for everyone to want to continue giving desirable and requested behaviors. 😉 Happy Living! Happy Training!

Adding Another Animal Behavior & Training Workshop to July of 2015

Training a deaf dog to touch a matching object.

Training a deaf dog to touch a matching object.

Our June 2015 Workshop sold out in January before we even had time to advertise it. A waiting list already started forming for

June 2016. Due to this demand and current projects underway here at The Animal Behavior Center, we are contemplating adding another workshop this year for the weekend of July 11th, 12th, & 13th, 2015. The format will be the same described on our website with the third day as optional. We are starting a waiting list of people who may be interested if we offer this workshop in July of this year. Take a look at our June 2015 Workshop for details of what the workshop contains. If we get enough interest, we will schedule the workshop and begin taking registrations.

Syringe training a hyacinth macaw.

Syringe training a hyacinth macaw.

We sent out an e-mail notification to our e-mail newsletter list last night and have received a waiting list currently developing. If all people attend that have signed up to be notified, first come first serve, this workshop will only have a few seats left before being sold out.

If you are interested in being put on the waiting list for the July 2015 Workshop, please e-mail us at the address at the bottom of the home page on our website with notification that you are interested. If we receive enough interest, we will notify all on the notification list in the order they e-mailed us with first option to reserve your seat before we notify the public, if seats are still available.

Once again, and as always, we here at The Animal Behavior Center are very appreciative of your overwhelming and on-going support. Please do not hesitate in letting us know if you have any questions.


Lara Joseph/Owner of The Animal Behavior Center

Attention As A Reinforcer

March 11, 2015 Leave a comment

Milo, raising on his hind legs for attention.

Milo, raising on his hind legs for attention.

One of the strongest and most common reinforcers is attention, yet it is the one reinforcer I see used the least or misused the most. If that statement has you thinking, it should because it’s a powerful one. I will make several upcoming posts here on reinforcers. For now, following is a clip of me using an obvious reinforcer… attention, properly identifying it, and increasing its intensity once I know it is a valued reinforcer. I know it is a valued reinforcer because I am watching my dog’s reaction to it. Another important point, it is always the animal that decides the reinforcer. It is up to us to deliver effectively for desired behaviors.

In the following video, I am waiting for Quincy, our Rottweiler to be doing any other behavior besides focusing on me. I decide to call her to me while she is comfortably lying down. Because she responded to me so quickly, I need to make sure I deliver a strong reinforcer if I want this behavior to maintain or increase in the future. I deliver my attention as a consequence (intended reinforcer) and then I increase that reinforcer by kissing her, and by continuing to deliver the attention. This is an obvious and highly valued reinforcer of hers.

Effective use of reinforcers relies heavily upon being able to properly identify them. What is your animal looking at? What is it playing with? What is it eating? What prompts it to stand up and walk or fly across the room? When you can answer these questions, you have properly identified potential future reinforcers.

Watch our Facebook page, The Animal Behavior Center, for frequent behavior and training videos and clips. All of our webinars are in the process of being recorded. We have one specifically on Reinforcers, Reinforcement, & Their Use. Even more exciting, we have some very exciting news you can be a part of. Stay tuned. It is my pleasure to be able to share all of what is becoming of The Animal Behavior Center, with you. ~Lara Joseph

Categories: Uncategorized

When Does Training Cease?

January 30, 2015 1 comment

Training is the best form of communication we have with our animals. If an animal is still observing or hearing elements in its environment, training is still happening. Do you understand what you are training?

Training is the best form of communication we have with our animals. If an animal is still observing or hearing elements in its environment, training is still happening. Do you understand what you are training?

What is training anyway? Training is our primary form of communication with the animal(s) in our care. We are always training, the questions is….What are we training? If our animals can see or hear us, training is happening.

When our training plans take an unexpected turn and the consequences are not what we intended, this doesn’t mean the training of the animal has ceased. Quite the contrary. If our animals are reacting or learning from our mistakes, they are learning from our lack of preparation. Once an animal learns a behavior, desired or undesired, it has experienced it. It cannot ‘un-experience’ the consequence of this interaction. The training has not stopped. The training is continuing, it is just not the training or communication we want. This is when undesired behaviors are being trained or communicated.

When force is used to try to control behavior, what message are we communicating to the animal in which we are trying to build a relationship? If force is being used to communicate a message to the animal, coercion is being used. Coercion may work but not without its side effects. Coercion is “Do it or else!” Coercion has many side effects and reinforcing increased aggression from the animal is a powerful one and so is learned self helplessness. Is increase aggression what you want from your animal? Is a cowering animal what you want portrayed as your relationship with the animal in your care?

When our training plans don’t have the outcomes we want, this doesn’t mean the learning from the animal has ceased. That animal is learning how to respond in future situations. As mentioned before, “What are we training?”

For more information visit

Reinforcing Behavior With Attention & Petting

November 13, 2014 1 comment

Rocky's calm body language showing me it is ok to move in for a head scratch

Rocky’s calm body language showing me it is ok to move in for a head scratch

One of the hardest things I hear and observe animals owners and caretakers struggling with is identifying and using reinforcers. Reinforcers are all around us all day. It is the individual that decides their reinforcer. A reinforcer is something delivered after a behavior that causes the future rate of that behavior to maintain or increase. Reinforcers can change in a matter of seconds and believe it or not, so many reinforcers are not food or treats.

Identifying reinforcers or building a list of reinforcers can be more challenging with shelter animals or animals that have lost or continue to lose their homes. Here at The Animal Behavior Center, you cannot rely on food reinforcers alone, they run out or satiate too quickly and the environment changes rapidly around here with the different animals, people, and behavior histories.
Following is a video I took this afternoon using the opportunity for me to pet with Rocky, the moluccan cockatoo as a reinforcer. Rocky was a shelter animal and came to me with a small list of reinforcers for me to work with. I had to build that list of reinforcers. The behavior I want to see maintain or increase in this video is for Rocky to remain on the perch while I rearrange perches and toy placement in the cage. Another important note is that Rocky is in Rico’s (another bird that resides here) cage in this video as a way to change environments and increase enrichment and learning opportunity. Rocky has a very strong history of showing aggressive behaviors such as lunging, chasing, hissing, charging the cage bars, biting, and biting very hard and doing some serious damage to the one he bites. Because he is in a different environment (Rico’s cage) in this video I cannot assume he will show predictable behaviors as he does in his cage. This is why you see me petting the top of his head and keeping my fingers away from his beak. I don’t want to accidentally reinforce a bite. I move my hands toward a toy to rearrange and then reinforce him by petting him when he remains on the perch. You will then see me get down off of the ladder and move to another area of the cage to move a toy. You will hear me bridge or mark the desired behavior with the word ‘Good’ letting Rocky know ‘that’ particular behavior is the one that is earning him the reinforcer soon to be delivered, which is me petting him.
You will also see that I have ‘can I pet?’ on cue. I don’t just move in to pet him, I want to give him clear indication of what I am asking. When Rocky wants someone to pet him he puts his foot up to the underside of his beak and begins petting himself.
We’ve come so far with so many behavior issues with Rocky from the aggressive behaviors I listed above, him learning to land so we could increase his flying time, his learning to forage, severely decreasing his screaming and abnormal repetitive behaviors, his separation anxiety, and most of all we are now on his second year of him letting people other than me pick him up and interact with him. He now lets anyone pick him up and is eager to do so.
If you want to learn more about identifying reinforcers, using reinforcement, and using reinforcers to change behavior, take a look at our webinar schedule.

Teach Your Bird to Forage

October 8, 2014 Leave a comment

Let me help show you a great way to keep your birds occupied while you are at work all day or away for long periods if time. Foraging is the behavior of looking for and attaining food or treats.

Foraging is a learned behavior of all birds who live in the wild and it occupies a major portion of their day. Let me show you how to replicate this behavior in your birds’ cages and environments. The birds in my care look forward to being returned to their cages for the opportunity to forage.

Join me, Lara Joseph, owner of The Animal Behavior Center tomorrow at 7:30pm EST for a live webinar that I will be hosting to an audience of limited seating. I will show you step-by-step instructions through video, live demonstrations, and photos I have taken with the foraging toys I have designed to teach my own birds how to forage.

This webinar will be an hour and a half in length. For $30 you can reserve your seat by clicking on the following link. Once I receive your payment, I will e-mail you a link to download and join me on your computer.

Click here to reserve your seat. I look forward to talking with you tomorrow in this webinar.

Categories: Uncategorized
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