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Author Topic: Training your pet  (Read 656 times)

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Boegie

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Training your pet
« on: May 25, 2016, 10:33:39 AM »
I came across this fantastic blog and thought it would be a great idea to create a new section for your pet bird. Caitlin was so kind to give me permission to share some of her information on our forum. Thank you Caitlin - very much appreciated and bird lovers all over the world can only benefit and learn from your methods to teach their own pet birds.

http://www.caitlinbird.com/

Caitlin is the Behavior Educator for Florida Parrot Rescue donating her time to teach foster volunteers the ethics and methods of Applied Behavior Analysis over Skype, email, and in person.

Caitlin help spread love and kindness through the science of Applied Behavior Analysis. With it she help pet owners openly communicate with their animals without using fear, force, or coercion. She volunteer her talents to Florida Parrot Rescue to transform previously unhandleable parrots into gentle, trusting pets. As a zookeeper she teach behavior science to her fellow co-workers giving them the skills to train the exotic animals in their care without fear, force, or coercion. Her long term goals include paying off her college loans and curating a zoo, curating Loro Parque would be her dream job.

Boegie

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Re: Training your pet
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2016, 10:34:27 AM »
Biting is Not An Option! - by Caitlin

Biting it mostly a communication problem, 99.98% of the time. In general birds will always communicate body language to you before it bites your sorry little hand. And when you do see the "language" they use it's a good warning to back off (tail flairing, eye pinning, pacing etc.).

 When I was first fostering Achilles I first had to teach her to step up without falling, then as time progressed I noticed she had 'moods' of when she wanted to step up. If she did not want to step up she would quickly lunge at my finger in protest -because she is legally blind she can't see when something is coming, so I assume that is why she did not choose to run away-. I got a little clever and taught her to train me! I use a "pre-cue", if you will, to see if she wants to step up -I use the word "Ready?"-. If she does not wish to stepup she says "no" by lunging out at thin air, instead of my finger. But if she wants to she lifts up her foot to come with me. Over time she has learned that she doesn't even need to lunge to say no, she just sits on her perch in quiet protest.

For more on this article, please visit http://www.caitlinbird.com/2009/11/biting-is-not-option.html

Boegie

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Re: Training your pet
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2016, 10:35:30 AM »
The Clicker Cure? - by Caitlin

Achilles has been being a bit of a grouch this week. About five months ago I stopped +R training sessions with her, I am not sure why but I suppose it was because I got busy and I saw no real reason to continue. That was a big mistake on my part.

Some of the "symptoms" Achilles had been expressing:

•quickly lunging out and "hissing" increased

•antisocial; did not want to step up or be with other people

•falling from the hand more often

 When I mention that she "falls" I mean that she wildly flaps her wings -sometimes wing flapping does not happen- and does a backwards somersault off the perch and onto the ground. I do not fully understand why she does this, since day 1 of fostering she has done this. But my hypothesis is that it might have something to do with being hard-of-sight. I read somewhere that blind pigeons fly backwards, and it is true that the only way I have seen Achilles fly is backwards. So flipping -or falling- backwards off a perch may be linked to this odd behavior.

 Back to the point of a 'grumpy bird'; I decided to start up training sessions again. As soon as she knew I had millet she was offering behaviors like a pro! We then started something semi-new and mildly unliked; some sort of a red shoelace thingy. -I introduced this object before by petting her with both my fingers and the rope thingy. At some points in the indroduction she got 'mad' at the rope and I had to back off. But mostly (and by the end of petting) she accepted the new stringy object.- So we did some reps with the shoelace and she never had a problem with it. Of course she was working for millet, not head rubs but maybe she just accepts the string now. I will have to try again and see what the deal is with the stringy-rope-shoelace thing. With just several repetitions she was willingly laying her neck around the loop! That's a good start if I'm going to train her to wear a harness.

 After the training session was over there appeared to be a marked difference in her behavior; her lunging diminished, and she was willing to interact. I did another session with her today and her falling has greatly diminished. Why?

 Has anyone else heard of these great side-effects of training animals? I've heard of all the bad side effects of using punishment and -R, but what about the side effect of overall well being when using +R? This is new to me. Anyone have any papers or articles they want to lead me to about this phenomena?

http://www.caitlinbird.com/2009/11/clicker-cure.html

Boegie

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Re: Training your pet
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2016, 10:40:03 AM »
Harness Training Update: - by Caitlin

Boegie

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Re: Training your pet
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2016, 10:40:57 AM »
Poicephalus - by Caitlin

It's not often that you see a great little Poicephalus in the news. I've only seen meyers and a female red bellied as pets. Some people say that red bellies are more interactive and less jittery than the meyers, yet other people claim the exact opposite. Who to believe? In my experience all three of the meyers I've met have been jittery around new people, they tend to be comfortable most around "their" people. And some of these birds have gotten outright nasty with me if I asked for a step-up! But the most recent meyers I know is a sweetheart with everyone. When you take the dear bird out of his cage his feathers automatically slick down and he is on the alert, and this would support the hypothesis that meyers are jittery birds. But I think there might be a little more to the story, the owner of the meyers has a lot of dogs, and a pair of cats always following us ,and the bird around. This could be causing the bird anxiety and be perpetuating a myth that meyers are a jittery parrot.

What about the meyers and Poicephalus you've met? What kind of characteristics have you noticed about them?

http://www.caitlinbird.com/2010/02/poicephalus.html

Boegie

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Re: Training your pet
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2016, 10:41:40 AM »
Biting Behaviors: Predicting, Preventing and Replacing - by Caitlin

"I have an almost four months old quaker parrot. He's very friendly and is not afraid of people. He gladly steps up to come out of the cage. He'll go up to you but when he's on your shoulder or hand he'll nip you HARD. I can't say he's being aggressive. He doesn't seem angry or stressed, he just pinch your skin so hard, its almost impossible to let him stay on you. He's fully flighted and he will follow me everywhere I go. What should I do to make him stop the nipping." - user Struckbygold


Hello! (I will refer to you as Adrian) it sounds like you have quite the mischievous Quaker! From the impression you gave me it sounds like one of his main reinforcers is human interaction. And this is true for many parrots, when a bird gets to play with a human that pets him, feeds him, and generally has a grand old time, what social species would not enjoy it? This is a major reinforcer for the bird. Keep in mind that every behavior that an animal keeps is due to a corresponding reinforcer.

Reinforcers come in two flavors, positive and negative. Let's slow down and define both of what "positive" and "negative" mean in the sense of behavior modification. I must emphasize that positive does not mean "good", this is the same for the word negative and does not mean "bad".  Instead think of the rules of addition and subtraction. Positive means "to add" negative means "to remove from".

Now that we have defined these two words lets remind ourselves that reinforcent means to increase a behavior, and you can do that by bringing something into the situation or by taking something away. To simplify we call this Positive Reinforcement or Negative Reinforcement, respectively.

So what is the reason your bird is biting? I cannot tell exactly why because I am not there observing the behavior, but I can take a good guess. We have already identified a positive reinforcer that your bird works for, and that is human interaction. Let's set up an example of how this behavior could be increasing due to the use of Positive Reinforcement. Here we will be using an ABC setup for Jane and her bird.

It's morning and one of the first things that Jane does is to let the bird out of his cage to give kisses. She knows the bird is awake because he squawks. So she gets out of bed to make his food and opens his cage door to pick him up after he has had his fill, but forgot to kiss him.

A: Absence of beak kisses.

B: Bird bites finger.

C: Jane grabs bird's beak, shakes it, and tells the bird "no".

Predicted Future Behavior: The bird will continue to bite Jane if not kissed.
Can you see the Positive Reinforcement? Grabbing the beak, shaking it, and talking to the bird are ALL added to the behavior, thus "positive". And because we predict the behavior will not change but will continue to happen, we know that a reinforcement is in play.

Now let's look at what a Negative Reinforcement ABC setup looks like.

A: Absence of morning beak kisses.

B: Bird bites finger.

C: Jane drops bird to the floor.

PFB: Bird will bite the hand more often. And may avoid stepping up on the hand all together.
As you can imagine being dropped to the floor is very painful and dangerous for an unflighted bird and keel bruising and splitting are likely to result. Not only is it physically abusive but the behavioral side effects (such as fear) of using such ideas are not good for you or the bird. Hence we may see the 
"may avoid stepping on the hand" in our PFB.

But your bird is flighted! So even if you removed your hand from the situation the end result may be positive, especially if he enjoys flying. Because of this I'm going to say the likely reinforcer for your bird is a positive, not negative one, as you did not mention any behaviors that might indicate fear.

When addressing any behavior problem the first thing behaviorists look at is the environment and how it directly affects the behavior. In other words, what happens before the behavior so that it may be prevented? In our example biting could have been avoided if we gave the bird a kiss. In other situations biting can also be avoided by reading body language. If we know what a bird is trying to say we can prevent biting situations from occurring.

Can you tell when your bird is about to bite? Does he communicate with his feathers, beak, eyes or body posture? Does it happen during a certain time of day even? Find this out so you can prevent the behavior from occurring.

Now lets say you could not prevent the behavior and you see him getting ready to bite. What do you do to avoid the bite while keeping his trust? It's a rather clever concept. You should cue him for a behavior that makes it impossible for him to bite you. Behaviorists call this Differential Reinforcement of an Incompatible behavior (DRI).

To prevent biting teach him a cued behavior that involves keeping his beak away from your ready-to-be-bit hand. Have him tuck his beak behind his wing, shake his head "no", or stand up tall. He cannot bite you while he's shaking his head! And then make sure to give him his kisses, this way it lets him know that everyone needs a second chance.

Good luck in your endeavors Adrian.

http://www.caitlinbird.com/2011/10/predicting-preventing-and-replacing.html#more

Boegie

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Re: Training your pet
« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2016, 10:42:29 AM »
Top 10 Ways to Build Relationships with Parrots - by Caitlin

Have a Feisty Freida on your hands? Or a Bossy Bubba? Put yourself close to their hearts by taking these ten steps to a successful relationship with your parrot.

1. Don't ask for too much

I remember the day when I discovered harnesses for birds, how exciting! Now I could take my Budgie and Alexandrine Parakeet out with me wherever I went without having to fear flyoffs or crashes to the ground. I could walk my bird down the street every day just like a dog, wow! The day I purchased the harness for my budgie I followed the instructions -to just introduce the harness- but only for the first two days. I was impatient...

This however was not good enough to have my bouncing blue budgerigar willingly hop into her harness to go out for a brisk walk in the neighborhood. I was so excited to put the harness on her that I didn't check to see what she had to say about wearing the harness and as a result she learned to run away from it. She stayed to have the scary, monstrosity of a leash fixed to her only if I coerced her with my hands to stay where I wanted. Once it was on did she relax? No, she fought that harness with everything she had in her, and millet rarely distracted her from trying to rip it off her body.

In the case of my bouncy blue bird, I asked her to accept too much too soon. How was I suppose to know she would throw a hissy-fit from putting on a harness or not? The only way to tell, I would later find out, was to understand how to use her body language to my advantage. This idea is what I am now using to train my cockatiel how to wear her harness, and the results could not be more dramatic! She LOVES her harness, and you can watch a series of videos on her progress too!

2. Read and Follow Body Language

What does this bird's body language mean to you? I see many hints given from this bird's forehead, crest, cheek, and body feathers, and also his beak, eye, wing and posture. This is a bird that is comfortable enough to take a nap, and this is the level of comfort that I need to see when training my Cockatiel how to wear a harness. She doesn't need to be falling asleep when we are training, but she does need to be comfortable.

Case in point: She can be perfectly, blissfully perched on my shoulder -looking just like this bird- when I ask if I can put her harness around her while I give her scritches. If Achilles even slightly starts to show signs of discomfort while harness training then it means that I have pushed her beyond her comfort zone and that I now need to quickly make up for it by lowering my criteria. I start off one step back in my training goal and practice that step for a while to help build up that behavior, and then I try the harder step once more. Reading and following body language ties nicely together with not asking your parrot for too much. If the bird shows signs of discomfort, you have asked for too much.

3. Expect nothing

If animal caretakers expect their birds to happily jump right into a new harness, or to instantly love everyone or even to just come out of the cage when asked to, you could be setting the bird up for failure. Just because "he's done it a million times" doesn't mean he'll do it now. If you really expect that he'll do whatever it is that we want, you'll be let down and might try to force him to do what you want instead. You'll put the harness on anyway even if it means getting bit, or you'll tell someone to pick the bird up even if he doesn't want to, or you'll just chase the bird around the cage until you grab his foot and yank him out. This is what happens when expectations fail; people play dirty. If a bird does not do something willingly then he's not trained to like it but is instead coerced into it. Now we have crossed the line from a relationship into a dictatorship and this is not our goal.

4. Relationships are about trust

Being a trustworthy person involves being clear, honest and precise. No teasing, no double standards and absolutely no lies.

Trying to have a bird come close to you, and bribing with an almond? Don't move your hand farther away when he walks towards your hand just to get him closer, that's dishonest! (unless he knows he is supposed to follow a target, that's another lesson.) Instead, give the almond to him, but next time it might help to break that almond into very small pieces and offer one piece at a time. This way it will not take two minutes for him to eat his reward, but two seconds. This way you can have him move closer to you without having to resort to dishonesty.

5. Trust must be built

Meet Oakly, a fairly young hybrid macaw who doesn't want to step up and certainly does not want your hand in the cage to feed him. This was the bird that I chose during a workshop to train new behaviors to. Not knowing the complete history of my new training partner there was the unsettling possibility that I would get bit while attempting to train him.

But not to fear, small approximations are here! My go-to plan was to build up a very strong history of trust with this bird through rewarding small units of behavior (approximations). I started out by introducing myself with itty bitty bits of nuts and pairing those with a bridging stimulus. When Oakly started expecting treats when I said "good!" we were ready to move on. I trained him to follow my hand as a target, then we started  training to station on a perch (he liked to hang on the cage bars instead of perching) using small approximations:


"Hey Oakly, can you follow my hand?" was my first request. "Good!" I said when his attention focused on me. "Hey Oakly, can you follow my hand to the perch?" I asked politely. "Good!" And when he crawled one birdie foot closer "Hey Oakly, how much closer can you get?" and on this went until he put one foot and then later, two onto the perch. Then I asked to see how long he could stay, can you stay longer? Longer? What happens if I walk away? "Good bird!"


When building up trust in an animal small approximations certainly help. But they become useless if the bird shows behavior of becoming too stressed, it is important to not move ahead to the next training step if this happens. Which certainly happened with Oakly and I, but that's okay because all we did was to practice the easy step multiple times before we tried that hard step again. And without a doubt Oakly did great!


6. Never take big leaps. The best big leaps happen on their own.

Take a lesson from my training with Oakly, I never expected for him to come out of his cage and start interacting with people. After a couple of training sessions I had trouble gaining his attention with food rewards, instead he was too focused on seeing what a group of workshop participants were chattering about on the other side of the room. Once the chatting cooled down we started back up with food reinforcements. I daringly opened the cage (I knew nothing of his behavior history, so it is important to be careful) and rewarded him for letting my hand approach his feet in small approximations. It didn't take long to have him coming out of his cage, but I had to be careful. I made sure he could easily step on and off my hand with ease before I even attempted to let Oakly out of the cage. Here are our results.

7. Avoid conflicts

I know a bird that hates towels. He runs when you pick a towel up and bites when you wrap him in it, so I avoid wrapping him in a towel. Now wait, isn't that counter-productive? Whether or not he likes the towel should I not wrap him in it anyway so that he "gets used to it"?  He'll learn to like it anyway won't he? Psychologists say "Not quite".

Forcing a bird, or a person for that matter, into a high-stress situation (liken the bird's biting to a man punching people out of fear) and simply waiting for them to "get over it" induces a state known as Learned Helplessness which you may learn more about here. Essentially what you are getting across is "You can do nothing to change the situation, so why try?". If I forced the bird to stay in the towel he will stop biting it eventually. He does this out of the lack of a choice, if he had a choice he would run away. "Liking" the towel requires something different.


Instead lets do exactly what Oakly and I did, use approximations! Let's use itty bitty comfortable approximations until the bird chooses to walk into the towel. Not a bad idea!


8. Never say no

Doesn't "No." have a bad feel to it? It sets limits, builds boundaries and even crushes dreams. But even so behind every "no" is a hard to see "Yes!". Our goal as good caretakers is to find all the yeses in every situation. Saying "Yes you can have a cookie" gives focus on having the cookie, this is true visa versa "No, you may not have a cookie" still gives focus on the cookie. But if a cookie is the one thing in the world that you may not have it is better to focus on something other than the cookie. The word "No." causes a sort of hidden oxymoron: "Focus on not focusing on the cookie" how silly!
Re-direct the attention by saying "Yes" to anything but the cookie. That's what good trainers do.

9. Say hello to a world of yes!

Number four pretty much sums this up. Yes means: "Focus on this!", it is fun and uncomplicated to follow.

10. Be consistent

Have training lessons regularly, you can skip a week, or in my case when school comes along I can skip a couple of months. When you make a habit of saying "Yes!" with Positive Reinforcement it's easy to pick right back up from where you left off. But overall try to have regular teaching opportunities, whether or not it is a structured training session.

http://www.caitlinbird.com/2011/06/top-10-ways-to-build-relationships-with.html

Boegie

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Re: Training your pet
« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2016, 10:43:10 AM »
Reinforcement and Punishment: The bare basics - by Caitlin

Achilles likes white proso millet. She will do anything for it, or do at least anything a blind bird can do. It is my main training reinforcement I give her and she couldn't be happier.

Now are you going to train your bird with some white proso millet so that they will train well for you?

I hope not...

 Mary in the office has an obsession for M&M cookies, Joe in operations prefers a jolly rancher. Just like every person has their tastes so does every individual bird. Your Amazon may not like white proso millet but may really like peanuts. Really easy right?

But a simple concept like this can be made confusing by self-proclaimed "parrot trainers". Some people will want to confuse you  about what is or is not reinforcing.


"Improperly executed punishment can end up strengthening the unwanted behavior and only making it worse."

 Well if the behavior became stronger then it is not punishment then is it? It is actually properly exicuted reinforcement! Wow! What a concept! Don't let charlatains try to fool you by how they label words. Always seek out some good textbooks and educated professors so you don't end up as confused babbling tizzy. You are in control of what you learn from whom, so take charge are read a good book! (Chance, 1979)

http://www.caitlinbird.com/2012/07/reinforcement-and-punishment-bare-basics.html