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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.

Sincerely,

Lara Joseph/Owner of The Animal Behavior Center

Preparing our animals for success with social encounters and new environments

February 5, 2015 1 comment

Quincy sitting at the checkout line of a pet store. She received both treats and attention as a reinforcer for this desired behavior.

Quincy sitting at the checkout line of a pet store. She received both treats and attention as a reinforcer for this desired behavior.

Does the undesired behavior of your animals prevent you from taking them on social outings or to new environments? This can be changed. So many times I see people restricting themselves from leaving the house or taking animals with them on outings because they don’t feel they can keep their animal under control or keep from being embarrassed about their behavior. This makes me sad for the animal and for the person both. I love seeing happy animals and I love seeing people who are proud of their animals, especially in public. Let me share with you an experience I had yesterday with my dog, Quincy.

We’ve been pretty busy here at the center through the winter with behavior consults, on-line classes, consultations, etc. Many of these consultations are for behavior concerns people want to change now so they can take their animals out for socialization, therapy, etc when the weather warms. I was talking to the other trainer here at the center yesterday and letting her know I wanted to get some of our animals out for more socialization through the winter. There are plenty of places you can take your animals for exposure to people and changing surroundings during the cold months. Yesterday I picked a pet store.

Quincy hasn’t been to a pet store in months. I was careful in picking the store, the time of day, and the weather. I wanted to set Quincy up for success for the behavior I was expecting from her, being able to reinforce the desired behavior, and not pushing her past her comfort level. This began with me getting her out of the back of the Jeep. There are a lot of scents, visual enrichment and distractions, sounds, animals, and potential for people wanting to interact with her. For a dog that hasn’t been to a pet store in months, this is a lot of information for her to take in and be comfortable with. I picked an outing at Quincy’s comfort level and I chose to go on a day that was snowing heavily, early afternoon, and during the week. I picked this day and this time in hopes that my encounters with other people and animals would be low because I need to control as much of Quincy’s environment as possible to make sure this outing is a success. It was but I also recognized behaviors that needed addressing and training.

We got out of the Jeep and immediately saw a woman with a puppy. Quincy gave a small bark. I asked her to sit as the puppy approached. That puppy’s future is just as important to me as Quincy’s. Quincy is a big dog and not all puppies are comfortable with big dogs approaching them. I don’t know how the woman is training her dog and it is not fair for me to decide if it is ok for us to approach her dog. The woman did not ask me if it was ok for an encounter so I reinforced Quincy for sitting until the puppy got in the car.

Within seconds of walking into the store, I could tell this was the jackpot of sensory information for Quincy. She kept stopping and smelling everything. I let her continue to sniff when we entered the store. She is a dog after all and this is enrichment and information to them. Keeping in mind this was her first time in a pet store in months, I relaxed the criteria of what I was asking from her. As we continued to walk through the store she began pulling on the leash. Ahhh, I can work with this. Why is she pulling on the leash? Because she wants to get to the next scent. I identified the reinforcer behind a behavior I did not want to see increase so I used it to our advantage in training. When she pulled, nothing happened on my end. When she relaxed on the leash and looked back at me, I told her “Good” and motioned for her to go and get the scent. As I continued to do this she understood that she was going to be able smell the goodies and that was contingent on a loose leash.

We saw another dog that surprised us walking around an isle. I immediately saw Quincy’s ears rise. The dog was galloping towards us. The person on the other end of the leash was looking at the toys in the isle and not at us or his dog. Since he wasn’t watching what his dog was watching, I redirected Quincy’s attention by asking her to follow me and we walked quickly toward the rabbit isle, an isle I thought the person might be less likely to walk down. I reinforced the heck out of the behavior of Quincy giving me the behavior I asked. I reinforced with an exaggerated “Good girl” and kneeling down in front of her for a neck scratch and a kiss.

After about five minutes we headed to the checkout counter. This outing was successful so far so I wanted to keep it short. There was no one in front of us which was what I was hoping for by picking a day where I thought people were less likely to visit a store. Within a minute someone walked up behind us. She asked if she could pet Quincy and I kindly told her, “Please don’t” and then explained to her my intention. I told her Quincy hadn’t been in a pet store in a while and this was a training exercise for her. I told the woman that I didn’t want Quincy to learn that every time she sees a person that she can run up to them expecting to be petted. The woman clearly understood. As Quincy sat next to me during checkout, I put her goodies in a bag and turned to the woman and asked if she was ok petting Quincy after I told Quincy to go greet her. The woman was obviously happy to do so. Before I told Quincy to go greet the woman, I told her “Good” gave her a treat and asked her if she wanted to go greet the woman. This was something I could tell Quincy clearly wanted to do, so I used it as a reinforcer for her behavior of sitting next to me until I was finished at the check-out line. I was very proud of Quincy. I saw some things we needed to work on so I knew we could work on these behaviors after we returned to the center.

On the way out the door I saw the display isle. I knew Quincy would want to sniff it so I let her sniff the base of it as a reinforcer for walking next to me on a loose leash until we got there. I told her to “Go ahead” as I motioned to the isle.

Dogs have such a great sense of smell. To be in a pet store and not be able to gather information from those smells would be cruel for me to ask. Quincy and I make a team. I enjoy spending time with her and I want her to enjoy her outings with me. Our training makes it beneficial to both of us. If you want to learn more about working with behavior concerns or training desired behaviors you and your animal will look forward to, take a look at our Webinars and our On-Line Consultations.

Here is a video I think might be helpful to people wanting to better understand what your dog gathers through its nose and how it impacts behavior and information gathering. Enjoy and as always, contact us if you have questions.

How do dogs “see” with their noses? by Alexandra Horowitz: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7fXa2Occ_U&feature=youtu.be

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 TheAnimalBehaviorCenter.com.

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.

When Does Training Cease?

March 29, 2014 Leave a comment

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?”

My blog entries can now be found on my website at: TheAnimalBehaviorCenter.Com.

If the animal is observing its environment, it is learning from its environment

Behavior Serves A Purpose…

July 24, 2013 3 comments

Rocky's reaction to a change in the environment

Rocky’s reaction to a change in the environment

Behavior serves a purpose for the individual doing the behaving. If the behavior proves of no value for the individual, the animal or human will have no reason to perform or exhibit this behavior again. If behavior, whether desired or undesired by us exists, it is because this behavior serves a purpose for us or for the animal. If that behavior happens once, the animal learns from that behavior by the consequence giving that behavior serves for the animal. If that behavior happens twice or three times, that behavior is being reinforced. There is something that causes that behavior to maintain or increase and that ‘something’ is the reinforcer for this behavior.

Often times I hear “The behavior happens for no reason.” The behavior does happen for a reason or this behavior would not continue to exist for this animal. Once we can find why the behavior happens, then we can work with that consequence or reinforcer and begin working on changing that behavior. Why is the bird screaming? Why is the dog charging the door? Why is the owl flying off of the glove? When we can answer these questions, that is when we can accurately begin working on changing the behavior of the bird screaming, the dog charging the door, and the owl flying off the glove.

If the bird is screaming for attention, give it the attention when it does something that is more desirable. I do this with all screaming parrots. Screaming is a tough behavior to live with. If the dog is charging the door, find a reinforcer that is of higher value to deliver when it is staying calmly in a desired area when requested. If the owl is flying off the glove, figure out what purpose that serves for the owl and then arrange the environment so that purpose does not need to happen for the owl. Obviously there are several steps and different approaches that can be used in the above examples but for the purpose of this post, all behavior serves a purpose for the animal. If that behavior happens more than once, that behavior is being reinforced and exists because the consequence is of value for the animal. These behaviors can be changed or redirected.

I also commonly hear “I was hoping the animal would grow out of the undesired behavior.” Each time that undesired behavior happens, the more well-practiced it is and the stronger it is likely becoming. By no means does this mean that well-practiced behaviors cannot be changed, because they can. What it does mean is that the longer the behavior is practiced or reinforced, the longer it can take for us to change it. The longer a behavior happens or is being reinforced is called a history of reinforcement.

Rocky, my 13-year-old Moluccan Cockatoo has a long history of reinforcement of his screaming and his abnormal

Training Falka to not charge or bark at unknown objects or things at the door.

Training Falka to not charge or bark at unknown objects or things at the door.

repetitive behavior of doing a back-flip in his cage. Both behaviors of screaming and flipping used to happen consecutively every 3-5 seconds for at least two hours at a time. These two behaviors are well-practiced by Rocky and from my best observation over time, have had a long history of reinforcement. I say this because these two behaviors still exist today and Rocky has been with me and under my care for over five years. Before you get discouraged, please keep reading because rarely do these two behaviors exist together currently. Also based on how often the screaming used to happen, I can now happily say rarely does his behavior of screaming exist anymore. If I do hear him scream, it is because it is serving a purpose for him. When I hear it, I pay close attention to his environment, observe potential reinforcers for this behavior, and immediately take control of his environment to change the delivery of the reinforcer. I do all of the above so I can change the behavior and reinforcer for that behavior. When I can do this, I can change the behavior. Now if either of these behaviors happen, which is few and far between, they are indicators to me that this behavior is likely to begin to rear its head again at some time in the future if intervention does not happen. The longer the history of reinforcement is for a behavior, the more that behavior may happen in the future if key cues or indicators are ignored. The cues or indicators of Rocky screaming or doing back-flips in his cage are very obvious to me because I’ve paid so close attention to changing them. I now know what environments or environmental events will likely bring out either of these behaviors with Rocky. This gives me the opportunity to rearrange the environment for the undesired behaviors to not happen by giving a particular toy or object he prefers or incorporate positive reinforcers for alternate behaviors when the undesired is likely to happen. This is training. This is communication happening.

Target training Kwynn, the micro-mini pig at a consultation at The Animal Behavior Center.

Target training Kwynn, the micro-mini pig at a consultation at The Animal Behavior Center.

Whenever I see an undesired behavior happen or beginning to be practiced, the least I do is take note that it did happen. This is when I note to myself that this behavior could be a concern and lead to more intense behaviors. If I see this behavior happen again, I’ve probably already begun to think of how I can change it. I do not want to see undesired behaviors happen twice or a third time because I know each time it happens, the more well-practiced and purpose it has for the animal. For example, I recently had Kwynn, the micro-mini pig with me for training for a weekend about a month ago. I went to get her ready for bed for the evening. I set up her crate and when I turned for her she took off running and squealing. An eyebrow went up and I began laughing. The crate and time of night was an obvious cue for her that it was time to go to bed. I could have chased her around the room and by her behavior of running and squealing, I predicted the more I chased, the faster she would run and louder she would squeal. I didn’t feel like running nor did I want to associate her being with me and putting her to bed was a time to not look forward to. I knew Kwynn was already trained to touch her snout to a target stick. So when she ran and squealed, I turned for the target stick. The presence of the target stick has a long and strong history of reinforcement for Kwynn. When she saw it, she knew the opportunity for goodies to be delivered was high. She quickly came running to me instead of away from me. A few repetitions of her touching her snout to the target stick and she was easily guided inside her crate. Then I stood and reinforced periods of time of her sitting calmly inside her crate while I slowly turned down the light. She was quick to catch on and the following night she saw the opportunity for going to bed as a highly desired one.

I often tell people “When working with an undesired behavior that has a long history of reinforcement, you can pretty much bet it took a lot longer to train that undesired behavior than it will for us to change it.” That has been my experience in changing behaviors with animals. Often times undesired behaviors have been unknowingly trained for a long time. If the steps needed to take to change the behavior are broken down into small approximations, one will see the behavior changing fairly quickly. Unfortunately, many times by the time a person seeks professional advice to change behavior, if the behavior change doesn’t happen quickly, the animal is likely to lose its home, even though the undesired behavior probably took months or even years to get to this intensity. The importance in seeking professional behavior and training help is the key in helping keep animals in their homes and out of shelters.

We are always learning. Animals are always learning. Training is communication and we are always training. The key question is “What are we training?”

Lara Joseph is the owner of The Animal Behavior Center in Sylvania, Ohio. See her website at theanimalbehaviorcenter.com.

The Proof Is In The Pudding

September 10, 2011 2 comments

The proof is in the pudding…about positive reinforcement training, that is. Sometimes I don’t even like to use the word ‘training’ when I’m talking about the way I interact with birds because some people tend to think ‘training’ means to teach them tricks or ‘training’ means teaching a bird to fly to you when requested. Yes, both of these examples are training but training happens each time anyone of us interacts with our bird, our dog, or our horse. We are all trainers and the importance lies in exactly what we are training the animal to do. We unknowingly train our birds to bite harder and scream louder while un-training the desirable behaviors like perching quietly and playing independently. There is always a place to begin turning these behaviors around because I know you can always teach an old dog new tricks. I know it.

A lot of times when I talk about training I will use the terms ‘positive reinforcement interactions’ because it takes the weight off the person doing the listening. By this I mean they don’t have to look at the word ‘training’ in the sense it is often perceived as I mentioned above. Positive reinforcement interactions or training is not a fad…it is a way of living and the best advice I can give anyone are a few. It takes practice and not necessarily much to see the strong results. Learn from your mistakes, is another piece of advice I give. I make mistakes every day. I’ll see a bird reacting in a way I did not see coming or find myself thinking “I pushed the bird too far’. So learn from it. Take a step back and think “What brought that on? How can I approach this differently next time?” This is also why I stay as far away from generalizing species of birds as I possibly can. By this I mean generalizing in a sense of saying “Start with a small bird or Greys are phobic.” I’ve seen dynamite come in small packages and I’ve seen the biggest of birds be the biggest chickens. See, I just generalized the chicken. 😉

Each bird is its own individual and instead of looking at “What kind of bird is it?” I say “What behavior is it that I want to work with or that I’m dealing with?” It doesn’t matter the species of bird, actually it doesn’t even matter the animal. I don’t want a parrot lunging at me any more than I want to hear an owl clack its beak at the sight of me. If I see or hear either of these happening, I always respect what the bird is saying. That lunge and that clack is a form of communication for that bird and if I ignore it, I’m interacting or training that bird to learn that it either needs to move to the next stronger line of communication like flying away from me to biting, or I’m interacting with it or training it to learn that no matter what it tries to tell me, I’m not going to listen. This approach is not going to do me any favors in trying to develop a relationship or line of trust with the bird.

I train the birds at Nature’s Nursery, a wildlife rehabilitation center near me. One day I walked in and their program pigeon and blue jay flew to me. Francis the pigeon landed on my hand and Pete the blue jay landed on my shoulder. I didn’t call them and I didn’t knowingly cue them. All I did was walk in. Someone turned and looked at me and said “Look at you. You’re just like Snow White. All the birds just come to you.” Do you know how many times I’ve thought about this statement? What that statement told me was that particular person hasn’t yet experienced the true strength in positive reinforcement interaction or training yet. I looked at her as I raised an eyebrow and thought “Hmm, should she be my next training subject?”

The reason this has gone through my mind so many times over the past year is because it lets me know how many people out there truly don’t know of the strength in this type of interaction with animals or people. (*see note at end of paragraph) These two birds didn’t just fly to me because I have this magical aura and a long blue dress and a crown. They flew to me because I’m the deliverer of positive reinforcers. I’m the communicator that respects their body language and has learned to read them and backs off when the bird tells me to back off. I try my hardest to never push a bird to the point where it has to tell me to back off with its body language. If I do, I call that a mistake and I learn from it. *To read an additional blog post I wrote in working with reinforcers with animals and with people click this link: Unknowingly Punishing Desired Behavior 

Those birds flew to me because I reward desired behaviors. I quickly identify reinforcers and then reserve them for times in which I need or want to deliver for a behavior I want to see maintain or increase. I’ve been accused of bribing birds. Hmm, when this was directed my way I thought “What did I not explain or communicate clearly to this person?” It was an opportunity I took from which to learn. We all move towards things we want or desire and away from things we don’t want or outcomes we don’t desire. The things we move towards we do so because we are reinforced for doing so. Sometimes we even move towards things we don’t like because the reinforcer outweighs the negative feelings we are given when we move towards them. For example… work. Someone who hates their job continues to go because there is a reinforcer….the paycheck. See where I’m going? Try to think of any behavior you exhibit and have their not be a reinforcer for doing it. We give behaviors because there is some type of outcome we want. That is why I always positively reinforce the behaviors of birds, other animals, and people that I want to see maintain or increase. When one of my birds or a bird in which I’m interacting with exhibits a behavior I want to see maintain or increase, you bet your bippy I’m going to reinforce that one. If it earned them a positive reinforcer (reward) this time, chances are they will see if it works again. It is my job as this type of trainer to identify the reinforcer and then use it or them sparingly to keep that behavior strong. Francis the pigeon flew to my hand so I rubbed her beak. That is one of her reinforcers. Pete flew to my shoulder so I turned my head and talked to him in a way I always talk to him. Attention from me is a reinforcer for Pete. Also, the bird is always the one that decides the reinforcer. Never us. Stick that one in your thinking cap for tonight when you are trying to sleep. 😉

I am working with a bird now that I have no clue of its history. Not a clue. I do know that the first time I raised my hand to it to step up it growled at the proximity and probably pace at which I raised my hand. Mistake…I learned from it. I should have known better than to approach an animal in the pace I did and if someone was watching me, they probably would not have thought I moved fast at all. When this bird growled at me, that could be a sign that the history and pairing of a human hand to this bird has not always been a good one. Not anymore and not in my presence. When I began working with this bird the only obvious reinforcer I could identify was food. So, in the beginning I continually paired food with the proximity of my hand. Yes, I hand delivered most of its food the first day or two. Whatever food I left behind for the bird was nutritious, but not necessarily all of the bird’s favored pieces. Those pieces remained in my hand.

I fed the bird small morsels from between my finger tips. Pairing or Conditioning….I was pairing my hand and my proximity with this bird’s obvious and highly valued reinforcers. For the first day, my only physical interaction with the bird was walking up to it and handing it a morsel of food from between my fingers. Yep, that’s a lot of getting up and feeding. The bird’s reaction to seeing me getting up became a cue that its favored food was coming. This was an enormous reinforcer for me. “It’s working and quickly!” I thought. The next day I was delivering food in an open flat hand. It saw more of my hand and continual pairing of pairing me with what the bird desires. I’m just the deliverer of the desired at this point. Soon me, and any interaction with me, I hope will be a reinforcer for this bird. That’s how it works out the majority of the time anyway.

My goal was to be able to walk up and offer my flat hand, open facing down, asking the bird to step, and have the bird step onto my hand. Through consistent pairing of rewarding behaviors I wanted to see increase, this goal was accomplished the next day. Note, that each bird is its own individual and this may take shorter or longer, pending on the bird. A few days later I felt confident in being able well read the body language of the bird when it was getting ready to fly somewhere so I started offering my hand as a form of transportation for the bird. By observing the bird for a few days, I could tell the things it liked to fly to so when I took it to where I thought it wanted to go, that line of communication and understanding became a reinforcer for the bird to continue stepping on my hand. Guess what? No food involved here! Delivering the bird to its desired destination was the reinforcer and it is strong because I consistently paired myself with it. I can now walk by this bird in close proximity at a normal pace without hearing a growl. The bird is now scale trained, flies to areas on cue, steps on my hand 98% of the time when asked (I made a mistake the other day or it would be 100%, I learned from it), and is being recall trained with great success.

In closing, I want to relate quickly to how positive reinforcement interaction or training works on all or most living things. I have yet to meet a bird that did or does something for no reason. Over the past few days my neighbor has hired a man to work on the outside of her house and her lawn. She just left an hour ago. She told him she was leaving and he said he would stay until five and he would see her tomorrow. The progress in these last two hours of the day may very well be her reinforcer for continuing to hire him to come back. The reason I say “may” is because tomorrow isn’t here yet. I’m assuming he will continue to earn her trust in him by showing that work is being done while she is not home. His reinforcer for coming back tomorrow will be his paycheck.

The worker enjoys watching me train birds in my back yard everyday and he often makes one comment a day on my interaction with the birds. Today he told me “It’s really neat to see how you interact with the birds and how they are always eager to do what you ask.” “Yea?” I said as I put my hands on my hips while turning and observing these lovely creatures all perched around the aviary. “It’s not magic.” I said as I turned back to him and smiled. No need for a crown and blue dress in this show.

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