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A New Chapter, Turning the Page for the Birds

October 31, 2012 5 comments

Dearest Blog,

Murray and Suki making the most of the height in the new facility. The facility has been designed to provide choices even for the birds that don’t fly. Suki, flighted blue -front amazon on the left. Murray, non-flighted greenwing macaw on the right.

I have not abandoned thee. I wanted to post an update. I know several people have heard me talk over the past year about wanting a larger place for my birds. Actually, I’ve wanted this for the past three or four years. When Suki, the blue-fronted amazon came to me last year for training, Murray, my greenwing began interacting with her to the point that it was obvious they were creating a new form of enrichment for each other. I liked what I saw it providing to Murray’s future and growth. I enjoyed having Suki around also so I knew if I wanted to keep yet another bird I needed a larger place. I don’t feel I can properly provide what five parrots need in my current household, even with the aviary.

For the past several years I have been searching for a larger house with land to build indoor and outdoor flight spaces and enrichment areas for the birds. We have found one. We found a 10,000 square foot building that we can dedicate strictly to the birds. Lucky for us, there was also a house on the property. We have been working on the building and the house and we are almost to completion and couldn’t be happier.

First and foremost this building is an enrichment area for the birds to run, fly, play, and scream to their heart’s content. Over the past several years I have spent much of my time traveling the United States giving presentations and workshops to the animal community. I have been saving all of my pennies to purchase this place for the birds and I thank each and every one of you for your support. I have kept my workshops in mind during the design of this new building. I plan on having several workshops at this new facility along with one-on-one or small groups of individualized training also known as A Day With The Trainer. I also have designed the building for many functions that will benefit the avian and animal community.

“Can you hear me now?” Rico, the umbrella cockatoo recalling to my hand from the rafters and over the arena, or pit.

We are designing this facility to be unlike anything we have ever seen or experienced. From the moment any

Grass being laid in the center arena. More animal enrichment being installed this winter. Yes, we will be the only ones in Ohio mowing the grass in January.

individual drives into the parking lot, their avian educational experience will begin in so many ways.

I have been introducing the birds to the facility slowly over the past month. It is a large area and I have seen it be overwhelming for the birds at times. After taking the small steps in introducing the facility to the birds they are now showing signs of being very comfortable with it. The ceilings are very tall and the center of the building has an area to walk down into a center arena or area. This height and depth has been a new concept for my birds and very interesting for me to experience with them.

I am posting updates on my FaceBook page. I have been receiving a lot of e-mails and messages asking when the facility will be open, my plans for it, and bookings for workshops and A Day With The Trainer. Feel free to send me an e-mail (aviansanta@gmail.com) with questions. We hope to be moving in a few weeks and will take the time during the holiday season to share this experience and joy with our birds. This is a huge move for all of us.

Thank you to everyone for your continued support and we hope to share this with you also. Happy Holidays. And to my birds, Merry Christmas with all of my heart.

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Live On-Line Classes and Consultations Now Available

June 24, 2012 7 comments

Live On-Line Classes & Consultations makes it easy for all bird owners and care-takers around the world to attend from their computers.

I am very excited to be introducing a new project I have been putting together for quite a while. I am now offering on-line meetings, classes, and private consultations on various aspects of behavior, behavior modification, training, and enrichment. These classes will vary in size but will be treated just as if I was standing in front of each individual giving a presentation and answering questions.

My first class that is being offered this Thursday, June 28th from 7pm-9pm EST has already filled. Not to worry, as long as there is a demand a new class will be offered. I have already scheduled a second date for this class. In this particular class I am keeping attendance at five people in order to be able to give individual attention. More classes will become available and topics will change on a consistent basis. To check class offerings, availability, and details click this link Live On-Line Classes & Consultations Schedule.

Many people have contacted me asking when I would be giving presentations in their area. Several people from over seas have contacted me saying they would love to attend one of my presentations. Many people contact me for specialized attention and advice on changing behavior issues. I’m asked for information on teaching recall or how to live with flighted birds, how to work with and change aggressive behaviors and birds that scream. With these Live On-Line Classes & Consultations, now we can sit down and work together live with each other right from the convenience of our computer. For more information or questions, please feel free to e-mail me via the e-mail address provided in this link Live On-Line Classes & Consultations.

Question on training a behavior; training a bird to trust me getting closer in proximity to him.

August 14, 2011 6 comments

Question:

Dear Lara,

        About a month ago I adopted what I was told to be a 6-year-old blue-fronted hybrid amazon parrot. When I got him I was told he was given up because the lady that had him got him to breed him and when he didn’t she got rid of him. Since I first got him he’s never really wanted anything to do with people. He would snatch food from our hand and then throw it, and wouldn’t come out of his cage. After about 2 weeks he got up the confidence to come out on his play-top and he isn’t rough at taking food from us anymore he has even started to mimic me as long as he sees the pieces of almonds I use to reward him. However, he is still very skittish when it comes to us getting too close. he wont step up, let us touch him, or even let us get within a foot of him unless he sees a treat. He is also afraid of a hand-held perch. I’ve been told different ways to deal with this such as forcing him to step up which only resulted in him being scared and my hand bleeding, and to just go slowly and wait until he’s ready…I’m in this for the long haul and love a challenge but was wondering if there was any tricks to help it progress a little faster or to help me gain his trust a little faster. He’s not really a biter or have an aggression problem it’s only when he gets cornered which I understand, but any type of advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

        Sincerely, 

            Terri, Florida

Hi Terri.

First I want to thank you providing a home to a bird that is in need of one. I know I’ve spoke with you before and this bird is lucky to have found you. Time and patience can be exactly what this bird needs but one thing I’ve noticed in training, especially with birds who show signs of extreme fear, if we focus on minute accomplishments in the desired direction with these birds, we will see many of them. Keeping training sessions short and very frequent can produce desired results more quickly. Pending on the individual bird, when working with birds that are very hand-shy or fearful of the sight of us, I keep my training sessions anywhere around 10 seconds to about a minute and a half. I make these sessions very frequent though. If my training session lasts about 10 seconds, I may have twenty of these 10 second training sessions in the period of an hour or two. I’ll come back a few hours later and repeat the training sessions. Terri, I find this very effective and this repetition helps build the trust in expectations of us from the bird pretty quickly.

Secondly, I’d like to say, the progress you’ve said you’ve made so far with your amazon is pretty impressive. I just want to send a kudos where and when nice work has been done.

All body language is a sign of communication - an african grey raising its feathers in an approach - photo courtesy of Viki Bullock

Here is exactly where I would start in working with his confidence in proximity to you and the members of your household. Start with rewarding the proximity he will let you to him now while slowly shaping closer steps towards him. Shaping, as you may know is taking small approximations toward the desired behavior. How small of approximations? Your amazon will tell you. Look for the subtle signs he may show you that you may be getting too close. You will want to watch for all of the subtle signs he gives right before he thinks about moving away from you. Your goal is to have him not move away from you, right? Don’t forget to reinforce this. You will be reinforcing him for staying still and showing all signs of calm body language as you approach.

These subtle signs in which you will learn to read may be the raising of the feathers on the nape of the neck, the small lean away from you, or just glancing in the direction of his escape. Learn to read these and pay attention to these, as you may already be taking these steps.

In addition to the above, I would arrange the immediate environment for you to be able to reward the behavior you want to see increase. Since it is proximity in which you are wanting, it may be hard for you to reinforce because you can’t get close enough to reinforce him.

Forcing a bird to do a requested behavior can have many side effects as you have already seen one, increased aggression. Forcing a bird to do something takes his choice out of the environment and there are many side effects to this also and none of these are relationship building. One major problem with forcing a bird to do something is that it is often times associated with us. Isn’t it us in which we are trying to shape the behavior of trust with the bird? As you have seen, forcing a bird to do something often sets you way back in your training strategy.

It sounds as though you have successfully trained him to be trusting in getting close enough to him to calmly take food from your hands. For others reading this who may have a bird that they can’t get this close to yet, I would suggest setting up an attachable and mobile food cup on the outside of his cage furthest  from him. If that is still too close, pull up a rolling play stand with food dishes and place it next to the cage. Drop the treat in the dish furthest away from the cage so the bird has to climb off the top of the cage top and across the rolling play stand.

Using a highly valued reinforcer for the behavior of calm perching on my computer vs anything else. This is now a very desired spot for my bird to sit because he knows praise (a highly valued reinforcer of his) is always given to him for perching calmly here.

You may want to begin shaping the behavior of having him stay calm without seeing the treat. If he knows with each approach you are delivering a highly valued reinforcer of his, the quicker he will begin to learn you are always paired with this reinforcer. That happens through consistency and you have to make sure you are doing this every single time while shaping the behavior. Otherwise, if you are not delivering the reinforcer on a continuous schedule of reinforcement, you maybe putting his reluctance in your approach on an intermittent schedule of reinforcement. By this I mean if once in a awhile you do not deliver the treat, he may be anticipating that once in a while and this can keep his behavior reluctance in letting you close to him very strong. When shaping a behavior, the trainer wants to make sure they are always reinforcing that desired behavior….always until the behavior is consistent and understood by the animal.

As I was saying, you might want to start shaping your proximity without showing the treat. Showing a treat to encourage a desired behavior is called luring and I will lure when trying to shape a behavior. The problem with luring is exactly the problem you are seeing. The bird will not give you the desired behavior unless he sees what is in it for him.

With fading out the lure, we need to re-think our strategy and approach and maybe take a few steps back and re-work in getting that desired behavior back without luring. Fading out the lure is shaping a new behavior, Terri. Based on what you’ve described in the behavior you have already trained, I have no doubt you can do this and if you love a challenge, I guarantee you that you’ll love this one. It is very rewarding when birds start giving us behaviors when requested without knowing what the reinforcer is or when it will be delivered.

I’ve recently trained a bird with luring him to go into his cage by showing him a handful of pine nuts. I have recently started fading out

Luring in shaping the behavior of recall to an african grey. - photo courtesy of Viki Bullock

the lure by showing him my closed fist while requesting him to step onto his perch. When he steps onto and only when he has both feet firmly placed on his perch do I open my hand to show the contents. I just have to make sure the contents are of value to him and the bird is the one that always decides. My next steps are to slowly fade out my closed hand having to be in such close proximity to the perch to attain the behavior of him stepping onto it. With time, patience, consistency, and fluency we will quickly see progress. The signs of progress can be very minute signs in body language and comfort. (3 videos of fading out a lure below)

Terri, I was going to suggest target training for your amazon in this reply but have decided to make that a separate entry because fading out the lure would be my next suggestion in your training plan. I’ll work on target training being one of my next entries because I think it would also be of high value in progress in your training strategy.

I hope this has helped. It was a pleasure responding to your questions.

Sincerely,

Lara Joseph

luring a screech owl to step onto the glove (1 of 3 of a series of videos on luring and fading out the lure)

gradually fading out luring a screech-owl to the glove. In this video you will see me cue him and he doesn’t respond so I quickly show the lure but the lure wasn’t present in the beginning.

This is a video showing me calling the screech-owl to the glove while totally fading out the lure. The lure no longer exists. You may have noticed in this video and the last, I was also teaching the owl to a designated perch on cue after calling it to the glove. These are very casual videos of training but training strong behaviors.

An Upcoming Behavior Workshop

June 12, 2011 1 comment

Upcoming Behavior Workshop

Next weekend I will be giving another Behavior Workshop. It will be hosted by the Central Ohio Friends of A Feather. This one will be in-depth and one of a series of three workshops offered in Columbus, Ohio. This workshop will be seven hours in length and class size will be limited to be able to address each individual, behavior issues, and leave plenty of time for lecture and examples in working with behavior issues with birds on site.

The tactics used in modifying behavior issues can be used on any animal, including human. I was just having a conversation yesterday with my step-sister in telling her how the same tactics can be used on a dog and other people. She found it interesting and said she would be signing up for my blog to read further information on how to incorporate these methods with her dog. In the next workshop offered in Columbus, a bird of prey trainer will be attending.

I use these same tactics in working with birds of prey and I will continue to use these methods because it seems to be a preferred form of enrichment for them. The birds of prey seem to now look forward to our training times when they once used to fly into walls to escape an oncoming care taker. They now fly to the front of their enclosures in anticipation of the interaction. So do my parrots and the blue jay and pigeon in which I work.

I look forward to giving these workshops and one of my most valued positive reinforcers is the continued e-mails I get after a workshop is completed, on how well the tactics learned are continuing to build relationships between the attendees and the birds in which they live or interact.

For more information about this particular workshop, upcoming workshops, or a workshop in your area, please feel free to e-mail me at: aviansanta@gmail.com.

My website is finally up!

January 16, 2011 5 comments

 

Not finished, but my website is finally up and running. I’ve put a lot of time and heart and soul into this and there is so much more yet that I am working on behind the scenes.

 

2011 is already planned for me and another year which I am very excited to pursue. Each year my life with birds and other animals just compounds the year before. Each year brings so much learning and experience. I am beginning to see how vast the world is and how fast time really goes by. When things start moving really fast for me and projects get larger, I always sit back and think, “Am I enjoying life?” “Is this benefitting toward the cause which has me doing this in the first place?” and almost always I answer yes and continue.

There is so much I want to share and continue sharing. With every experience, I love sharing that experience with people who want to come along for the ride. I will continue to do this through my website and my blog.

My website is also video content heavy, link heavy, and photo heavy. I am very visual when it comes to learning so it is also how I share what I have to say and how I see it. I love sharing links to products and organizations that I hold in high regard and/or how they show the love in the passion for what they do. I hope you enjoy: My website address is http://www.larajoseph.com

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