Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Honest Body Language

They don't call 'em the Smokey Mountains for nothing! Stunning, yes?! (Click the photo to expand to full view, and breathe in that mountain air!)

As introduced in my post on reinforcers, a bird learns to associate the sound of a click with the presentation of a treat. Similarly, the dog learns to associate the jingling of the leash with going for a walk.

Through the use of associations, I can facilitate greater communication with my birds. I strive to accomplish this by consistent patterns of behavior (body language) in myself.

Consistent, honest body language from me to them is of utmost importance.

If I were to jingle the leash for my amusement in watching the dog come running, but not take him for a walk, it would not only degrade the strength of the 'jingle', but it would be dishonest communication.

I assess my behaviors and body language with the following in mind:

1. Honesty
2. Consistency
3. I am always being watched
4. My birds are always learning something from me

In specifically addressing the 4th item above, I will recount something I recently read:

"My bird will only step up onto my right hand. I offer my left hand, but he just won't step up! Why?"

*Why*?? The answer is clear - because the bird learned to step up onto the right hand! If I do 10,000 step ups with my right hand, I should not respond in shock and confusion when I offer my left and the bird looks at me like I am an alien! Silly me!

The awareness that our birds are always learning from us - will always accrue to our benefit.

Coco has learned to associate my picking up the water dishes with an opportunity to go to the kitchen with me. If she would like to ride along, she moves to a certain perch (body language) located on the outer edge of her Fort where it is easy for her to hop on my arm.

If she moves to that perch, she wants to join me. Simple; honest. Therefore, with equal honesty, I allow her to come along if she chooses - every time.

If I did not have the time to allow her to ride along, I would not change the water dishes; I would simply ask my husband to do it. She does not associate his changing the water bowls with riding along. There are a number of times when she might choose not to come along with me; I like that she considers her options, and chooses what she would like to do at that moment. I will respond in kind, by letting her come with me if she would like, or going to change the water on my own if there is something else she would rather be doing.

While I do not change the water bowls at the same time every day, they could be changed at any time of day, or several times, one at a time or all in one trip, I am consistent in allowing her the choice of riding along. If she has not already moved to her outer perch to indicate her desire, I stop at that outer perch (body language) to give her an opportunity to join me. Consistent; honest. It may seem small, but it defines our relationship.

Why is it so important to me?

If there is one thing I have learned about my parrot, it is this:
She is watching my EVERY move, at EVERY moment.

I think I am a studier of behavior?
Compared to Coco, I am a mere amateur!

She knows my patterns better than I know my own.
All birds need to be dedicated observers of body language; it is a key to their survival both in the wild and in our homes.

I can create chaotic, confusing and inconsistent patterns of behavior and body language, OR
I can create consistent and honest body language. If I choose to do the latter:

1. I must realize it will not happen by accident.
2. I must be aware, purposeful and honest in my communications.
3. I must understand every interaction will result in her learning something.
4. I must own the things she has learned as having been taught by me.

No matter what I am doing, through my every action and movement, I am *training* my birds. They are making observations and learning associations. (Particularly Coco, who appears to be the most dedicated student of behavior in the flock!)

Straightforward, honest and consistent body language is critical in my arsenal of relationship-building tools.

(PS: For all the "Barney-Fans" out there... stay tuned - he has been itching to get at the keyboard, and will be making another blog entry soon!)


1 comment:

Marianne said...

I pick up my birds with either hand. However, my B&G prefers my right hand because I am right handed and she feels more secure on that hand than on my left. I think she senses that it is not my dominant hand.

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