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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.

2

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!

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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.

A Little Piece of Heaven

August 14, 2012 8 comments

For several years I’ve been wanting, looking, and working on figuring out a way to get more space for my birds. Suki, the blue-fronted

Training Suki, the blue-fronted amazon to remain calm while I hold her and my greenwing, Murray at the same time.

amazon that I took in for training last winter has a great and enriching relationship with my greenwing macaw, Murray. The intention was to bring Suki in temporarily for training to work on some behavior issues and then find her a new home. It hasn’t been a smooth ride because there were a bunch of bumps along the way including her not letting me near Murray and flying after Rico, my umbrella cockatoo. Those are just a few issues and we’ve been working on all of them. Murray and Suki interact on a daily basis and have even begun calling for each other when they can’t see each other. They aren’t screaming. They just call to check to make sure the other one is still there. It is pretty cool to see and hear and I like this for Murray. Well I like it for both of them. It brings out a healthy balance of independence. With that said, my intention was to keep Suki if and only if I could get a larger house or space for the birds. My house is too small for five parrots not mentioning the crow

Training Suki and Rico to accept being perched on the same platform and being recalled individually. This has helped in reducing signs of aggression toward each other.

and the owl that I train on a daily basis also. The more time I spend training additional birds, the more space I need to adequately enrich the others. I love seeing my birds interacting and playing independent of me. I love them being on and around me also and I type this with my umbrella perched on my head.

After five years of searching, pounding the pavement, and saving…I am happy to announce that my husband and I have purchased a ten thousand square foot building for the birds to be able to fly, run, and enjoy. It allows opportunity for a lot of light and fresh air. It just happens to have a house on the property that we bought and plan on downsizing the size of our cage and moving into.

The move will happen in a few weeks so I am already preparing the birds for it. I will begin taking one or two birds over at a time with me each day while I work on the house and the building. Each night they will come back home with me and rest in their existing cages. I will continue this on a daily basis while I slowly begin introducing them to their new cages when they are delivered. As time continues I will have them stay a night or two in their new cages while we get used to the new and slowly step away from the house, aviary, and cages they once knew. A bit sad, a bit scary, and a big bit exciting.

Maggie, the education crow.

Moon, Nature’s Nursery’s education barred owl will be returned once the move takes place. Her training is in full gear right now after taking the summer off of training. She has a big event coming up in October which will be her introduction to the public. I am so excited for her after being with me for ten months. I thank Nature’s Nursery for this opportunity.

Three weeks ago I took in a new education crow of Nature’s Nursery’s for training. Her name is Maggie and in the past three weeks we have worked on her stepping onto my hand on cue, targeting to two different perches and a stick with a red ball at the end, crating, stepping onto a scale, and working on staying calm in front of large groups of people. She has been on two programs in the past two days and I am thrilled to say she is going to be a great ambassador.

This fall and winter will bring new adventures and new birds for training. I will be happy to post photos and videos as we continue on our new venture. Thank you for all of those that have helped me along this way and continue to do so.

Just some daily reflections on behavior

December 13, 2011 1 comment

So many things coming to mind that I want to sit and write about.

Re-shaping Moon to eat off the leather glove and accepting the camera in close proximity.

I’m just returning from a trip out of town that I seriously considered canceling. I considered it due to the two new birds under my immediate care, Suki the amazon and Moon the program barred owl. I considered not going because I didn’t know if it was wise to disrupt their training and pairing of life with positive reinforcement interactions at this point in training. Every day and consistently I’ve been doing my best to identify their positive reinforcers and then pulling them and using them for pairing with myself. If I were to disrupt this and other care takers feed, water, clean, etc. they could accidentally pair the opening of cage doors with aversives. Aversives are things the birds do not like and it is only the bird that decides what the aversives are. After much thought, I decided to make the trip. I needed it. We needed it. It was a pleasure trip and one taken for rest and relaxation. Ones we take less than we should.

I depended on the consistent and frequent positive reinforcement training I’ve done over the past two weeks to help in having a quick recovery when I returned. I asked the care takers to be as ‘hand’s off’ as possible for now since both bird’s training is fairly new. The caretakers were awesome and that is priceless.

When I returned, my first interaction with Moon I saw a set back in training but expected it. I just didn’t know how much to expect. Before I left, Moon was walking to the glove, stepping on it and allowing me to bring her down to eye level and take a step or two before her wanting to go back to the perch. The first night I had to re-shape her accepting the leather glove again. She clacked at it the first time I raised it to her so I dropped it behind my back and fed her from the blue glove. Within the first two-minute training session, she was back to eating off the leather glove. That was about as much as I was going to train with her the first day of returning. Do you know who gave me that advice? Moon did. I watched her body language. The shape of her eyes were slightly different. Her rictal bristles (hairy like feathers around the beak) weren’t moving in the way they were before I left. She wasn’t as quick to move towards the food as she did before I left. So I decided, before I pushed her too far and blew up my whole training session, I’d end it on a good note and step out quietly. I’m glad I did because the next day (yesterday), she was back on the glove and let me walk her in the enclosure the furthest she ever has. “Badda Bing, Badda Bang, there’s some great training happening right now!” I thought. It was like stepping back into my favorite pair of worn in shoes.

Then on to Suki, the blue-fronted amazon I took in three weeks ago for training. “This will be interesting” I thought. This was the first time she’s been caged here in my house overnight. I walked in and she seemed content on the highest perch in her cage. She seems to really enjoy Murray, my greenwinged macaw so I made sure their cages were in close proximity to each other. Murray seems to fancy her also. So I set their environment up to be as enjoyable to both while I was gone. I wanted my absence to be as stress free as possible. It seemed to have worked really well.

I just went in and opened Suki’s cage. With the flip of the metal latch, she seemed to have already learned that was her cue for some type of interaction with me. She started looking around for a way to move off of her perch. I thought “Is this good? Is this bad?” I didn’t know. I didn’t know what she was about to do. I wondered if she was looking for a way to get closer to me to get on my hand or a way to get closer to me to lunge or bite. I didn’t know. So I paid close attention to her body language and any verbalization she would give me. From working with her the past two weeks I’ve paired her trilling with things she desires and a growl with thing she doesn’t. I try not to push her to the growl, but I learn through my mistakes.

When I put my hand nearer to her I heard the trill so I moved it in all the way. She was climbing down the cage bars and reached her beak for my hand. She gently grabbed onto my hand until she could get both feet on. “Weeee, here comes the sleigh ride!” I thought with a huge smile on my face.  What joy it brings to me to see these birds just thriving in as much of a stress free environment as I can provide to them. So off we went to the kitchen with Suki on my hand. Three weeks ago she wasn’t even on my hand so you bet I was positively reinforcing the heck out of her staying on my hand as we walked to the kitchen. I offered her the kitchen counter top and that is where she stepped off and went running for the plate full of grapes.

"Come on and take a free ride!" Suki accepting 'public transportation' at the Joseph Village.

Several times this morning I saw she wanted to head different directions in the house so I offered my hand as a cue for a “free ride” and she took it. She flew to my hand and off I went heading the direction she pointed. As if the smile on my face could get any bigger as she guided me around the house. Sometimes I call her “the little blue pointer.”

I saw her eyeing the walnut jar on the counter top. Before she could fly to it, I walked over and grabbed one. It is a positive reinforcer I just identified. So I used walnut bits to positively reinforce behaviors from her that I wanted to see maintain or increase. I used them to reinforce her flying to my hand when I offered my hand. I used them to reinforce her staying on my hand, and stepping off of my hand. So instead of her standing in the corner chowing down on a whole walnut I offered her pieces of it for behaviors I was requesting. She got the walnut she desired and I got strong behaviors on cue that I need. A win win situation for both of us.

My Christmas arrived and it arrives every day that I see the level in their quality of life increase or seem comfortable for them. In a few weeks all of the green garland and glittery red lights will be taken down from my house and the houses in the neighborhood. But in the middle of the cold, gloomy days of January and February my house will still be filled bright green torpedos flying by and dazzling red wings flashing glimpses of turquoise and blue. The January freeze may be harsh on the skin while training an owl, but the warmth she gives me when perched calmly on my glove can warm any outdoor enclosure.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of my avian and training friends.

Training a Bird to Station & Its Importance

March 12, 2011 5 comments

A step in socializing Rico and Rocky with each other. A healthy benefit for behavior.

Many different topics come to mind when I think of something I could write here on my blog. I always wait and post something for when I’m really engaged in the situation. I was just talking about a certain training topic the other day and it was suggested many times that I write a post about it. That topic is stationing; training an animal, in this case a bird, to go to a designated area and stay there until cued otherwise. There are so many reasons this can come in handy.

All of my birds at home station and for different reasons. It may be as a cue to come out of the cage, preventing a bird scrambling up the side of the cage, or allowing me to open the cage door and change an object or clean. I taught one of mine to station while I’m out of the room because I was starting to have a problem with him dive bombing the cats as they tried to pass through the kitchen on their way to the litter boxes in the basement. I saw this behavior having the potential to turn into a serious problem in numerous ways.

I hate to admit it but I saw the almighty Rico, my Umbrella starting to become the bully of the house….dive bombing the cats and I saw him start to do the same with Rocky, my Moluccan. Having him do this behavior with my Moluccan had major potential for damage and not for Rocky, but for Rico. In thinking back about this behavior, it didn’t just start this winter. I have proof that it started or even existed last summer. Now it is to the point where it is dangerous for one possibly both birds. Below you’ll see my proof that this behavior existed last summer. What is reinforcing this behavior in this video?……me, and to be more exact, it is my encouraging tone of voice!

This behavior from the aviary has now shifted and perfected itself inside the house. First I identified what was reinforcing Rico’s dive bombing Rocky now that this was inside the house. Rocky is a runner, not a flyer. Rocky loves running through the house. The more Rocky runs freely, he squeaks a loud squeak that draws Rico’s attention. When Rico would see Rocky running through the house with his crest up and excited, this seemed to reinforce Rico’s behavior of flying near Rocky. It soon developed into flying and swooping closer to Rocky. Then eventually Rico would fly close enough I really started worrying about Rocky reaching up and snagging him out of the air, which is pretty likely if Rico got close enough.

I saw this starting to happen  and Rico was starting to get really good at it. I immediately came up with a behavior change plan through positive reinforcement training consisting of a few things at the same time. Before I move on, I saw the behavior of Rocky running in open spaces being punished, and to be exact it was being positively punished. By punished I’m referring to his behavior of running in open spaces decreased, hence the punishment. It was positively punished because the addition (+) of Rico flying in his environment caused the behavior of him running freely to decrease. Sorry, I’m not trying to get too involved, but for those following positive reinforcement, I just wanted to state what was being punished and how. The addition of Rico to Rocky’s environment was definitely becoming an aversive. I needed to nip this in the bud asap because my goal is to get Rico and Rocky interacting more without physical interaction so they both are socialized with other birds to help with any behavior issues.

Anyway, this behavior has since stopped. Rocky is now running through the house again with crest up and squeaking his very high-pitched squeak while Rico interacts with him vocally without dive bombing him. It is a pretty awesome sight to see.

I would positively reinforce (adding something to the environment that increases the rate of a particular behavior) Rico for other acceptable or desired behaviors like hopping across the kitchen table while Rocky would run through other parts of the house. He wasn’t standing still on the table but he was staying on the table. I positively reinforced him for staying on the table while Rocky ran. I stayed next to the table while first training this. I would reward him with “Good Boy Rico” every few seconds. Then I spaced it out to every 10 seconds. Then I would go over and give Rocky attention in hopes to increase his security in running through the kitchen again. I would keep my attention-giving to Rocky very short while looking over my shoulder to keep an eye on Rico making sure he wasn’t coming in for a dive bomb to Rocky again due to my loss of attention to him on the table. Initially I made sure I kept my interactions with Rocky short in order to be able to catch Rico watching and staying on the table. I would stand up and say “Good Job Rico” and give him praise and an added positive reinforcer for a job well done. I gave him a pine nut in addition. I was training Rico to station on the area of the table. I had to make sure I delivered positive reinforcers to Rico for this behavior, otherwise him staying on the table would soon prove to be of no value to him.

Reassuring Rocky.

I continued this process while paying close attention to the body language of both. If I saw the slightest change in body language of Rico while he was standing on the table I made sure to shorten my session with Rocky the next time to be able to catch the behavior I wanted to see in Rico and reinforce it. Because I caught all of this behavior pretty quick in the beginning before the undesired behavior got too out of hand, I was able to nip it all in the bud pretty quick. The concern is, Rico already knows and has seen consequences of him dive bombing Rocky. I state this because it could happen again. The more I pay attention to all of the precursors, the more successful I’ll be in changing the environment and training before it has the opportunity to happen again. I taught Rico to station on the table for a period of time in order to reinforce a desired behavior, Rico’s calmness, while extinguishing an undesired behavior, Rico’s dive bombing Rocky. This type of stationing was a temporary tactic used in a behavior modification plan.

With each time I interacted with Rocky, those times away from Rico became longer and longer. Soon Rico started doing other things like flying on top of the cupboards. When he did this, he would get other reactions from me, which resulted in him leaving Rocky alone. I gave this particular example to show how and why stationing could come in handy in working with two birds in an open space, such as the home. This particular behavior issue had every opportunity for the potential of aggression between two birds beginning to happen, and more importantly, with a dangerous consequence.

I still like Rico and Rocky to interact vocally with each other while paying close attention to body language. If I see the slightest change that may make me nervous, I try to identify the reinforcer and then make sure that reinforcer is no longer delivered, a procedure called extinction.

So back to stationing. I have 3 different scenarios of training a bird to station based on what behavior I was looking to increase. First, there is a video of Rico, my Umbrella Cockatoo being taught to station on a boing hanging next to the kitchen while I’m walking out of the room and out of sight putting food in cages. I have a several videos showing how I shaped, or initially trained  the  pigeon to station on a particular perch in her cage on cue. (you can easily see how this could be trained with our companion parrots in the house). Last, I have a video of me training two Red-Tailed Hawks on the same perch. I want the one to station and stay perched while I call the one beside her to my glove, return her, and reward for stationing. This one also you can see how you could train the same behavior to two parrots, even two dogs. These same steps could be used to train a dog, a pet rat, a horse, and yes even the domestic house cat.

Let me begin with Rico, my Umbrella Cockatoo. This is a video I shot last summer when I decided to train Rico to station on a boing hanging near the kitchen. Several things are going on in this video and there are a few reasons why I chose to train this behavior in this particular location. Rico is fully flighted and flies well. He is also quick to learn from his environment so it doesn’t take him long to figure out how to get into something I don’t necessarily want him to get into. Also, as Rico is getting older (almost 7) he is showing signs of nesting behaviors. I know these are natural behaviors but they are none I want to encourage as I see them causing frustration. Third, you will see the boing is hanging next to the cupboards that are full of bird food, treats, and toys. Rico loves to get into this cupboard and foraging through and eat all the treats. You will even see at one point where Rico moves toward the cupboard showing signs of thinking about going in, and changes his mind because he knows if he stays, the reward will be greater. So the training begins.

I edited this video to save time but to show the how I began training this behavior, showing real-time, and showing how I am bridging or marking the desired behavior from another room while I’m out of sight. Bridging or marking is the same as using the clicker in clicker training. My bridge is saying “Good” or “Good Boy Rico”. This marks the exact behavior I am looking for and lets Rico know that it is that particular behavior that is earning him his reward.

You see me rewarding him while I’m standing right there. He continues to stand there because he’s realizing if he stands there the treats are delivered. Another highly valued reinforcer for him is to hear me tell him he’s such a good boy. This has obvious effect, otherwise he would just walk down the boing and get the treats himself as he clearly sees they are within reach. If he were to fly off the boing or move on the boing, the bell that hangs at the bottom would let me know this from the other room.

Training him to station in this spot also comes in handy when I’m preparing dinner and opening cupboards. With each open cupboard comes the opportunity to fly into another lovely nest box. When I’m preparing dinner, I train and reward Rico for stationing on this same boing as I open and close cupboards reaching for spices. Yes, it comes in pretty handy and no need to use force or tell him “No!”. I can reward the behaviors I want to see and Rico looks pretty content sitting on the boing waiting for the goodies.

So, where to start? Ah, I have video of that too. These series of videos are taken by me with my cell phone while I’m training, so I apologize in advance for all the shaky video. In these videos I am training a pigeon to station. I make it extremely easy for her to give me the behavior I am looking for, which is why I start with a perch on the floor of her cage. Once she understands the cue, I begin changing the area of the perch. In the end, I placed the perch at the back of the cage. I did this because I heard a few people complain that Francis, the pigeon, was pecking people’s hands while they were trying to clean her cage. Time to put the ‘station’ cue to work. My intent was to get Francis to ‘station’ on the back perch, high above where people clean her cage grates and change her dishes. This way the undesired behavior of her chasing and pecking hands is not being reinforced if she’s stationing on her back perch. The key is to remember to reward her for stationing on her back perch. Otherwise chasing the hands becomes more rewarding.

Step 1: In this video you will see how I’m luring Francis to the perch. Here reward is a beak rub. I’ve placed the perch in an area easy for Francis to give me the behavior I’m requesting. This makes it easy for me to deliver her reinforcer. Francis will soon start doing whatever she thinks will earn her the reinforcer. In this video you’ll see she has no clue what I’m asking as she practically stumbles over the perch. I’m dangling my finger just above the perch, just above her head. She needs to step onto the perch to reach my finger.

Step 2: In this video, I am still saying the word “perch” ( which can be ‘station’, whatever word you choose) and you will see Francis doesn’t quite understand what it is that I’m requesting that will earn her the beak rub. What you do see in this video is her fluidly step up onto the perch. The reinforcer is quickly delivered to communicate to her that is the exact behavior that will earn her the reward.

Step 3: Wow! She’s getting it! Each of these videos were captured back to back and in one training session. Here you see she understands what it is I am asking that will earn her the reward. In this video you will also see where and how I have my hand in the cage to be able to quickly deliver the reinforcer when she gives the behavior. Immediacy in delivering the reinforcer is one of the four stages in reinforcer effectiveness.

Step 4: Just fine tuning the behavior. My goal is to ask her to perch and have her do it quickly, accurately, and consistently.

Step 5: By George, she’s got it!

Step 6: Here is where I took it further to put the behavior to work for the benefit of the cage cleaner’s hands. You will see that she now has a new perch and a new cue. I have now changed the cue to “station”. I could have and did shape the behavior of her staying put on that perch for long periods of time. In order to make sure I knew she understood clearly, I wanted to cue her off of it and say “station” again to make sure she would go back to it. She sure did! Here you will also see me target training her. Target training is training an animal to touch a particular object with a particular body part. I am training her to target to a plastic measuring spoon with her beak. This perch is directly above where I originally trained the behavior. You will even see that I leave her cage door open and she is choosing to stay in and continue training.

This is when I fell in love with Francis and our training continued well beyond that. Next was recall training and staying on my arm until cued off which we

Me training Francis the pigeon and Pete the blue jay at 2010's Meet The Flockers annual fundraiser for Nature's Nursery.

put to use in giving live flight demonstrations at a fundraiser with her and Pete, the blue jay.

In wrapping up this post, I’d like to finish with the video of how this training is also incorporated in training two Red-Tailed Hawks. You can easily see here also how this can be incorporated in how we would use this to train two parrots at home. We often call both of the Red Tails to the front perch in the enclosure to begin training. I am still working on getting the one used to a new trainer. In order to do this, the one Red Tail seems to give more behaviors if the other Red Tail is on the front perch with her. The problem we were running into was that the other Red Tail seemed to hog all the food. Another hurdle in the journey, but not one that can’t be figure out. So now we cue them both up to the front, ask the food hog to station, reward, and then train the other. This video was taken almost two years ago to the day. Kamikaze is the food hog on the left and Kamali is the one on the right. This video was taken back when I was the only one training. This was Kamili’s first time ever flying voluntarily to a glove. I was so excited but could now scream and jump for joy like I wanted to.

In this video you will see me reward Kamikaze for doing exactly what I want her to…..staying right there. I then turn to Kamali and call her to my glove. When she goes back, I turn to grab more food to once again reward Kamikaze for staying put while I trained the other.

Once I train an animal using positive reinforcement training, a piece of my heart goes to that animal. Positive reinforcement training paves a new pathway of communication between you and the animal, one the animal grows to respect and often times shows behaviors of wanting more. This is why I continue to train as many birds a week as I do. It makes a huge difference in their lives and when many of their choices lie in my hands, I choose to continue to offer this form of enrichment to them. I like to pay it back to them for allowing me to learn from them. They are nothing short of fascinating and I respect every ounce of that.


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