Friday, July 10, 2009

'X' Marks the Spot

It was a beautiful day on the mountain top, made sweeter since it is a Friday! I'm looking forward to spending some quality time with the birds this weekend.

Bucky and Penske and still doing wonderful, continuing to molt, and losing more baby bars as each day passes!

Tomorrow it will be two weeks since they arrived, and they look doing marvelously.

I am spending several short sessions with them each day, simply offering millet and allowing them to become increasingly comfortable with my presence and hands.
When I sense the time is right (something difficult to quantify), I will begin working with them in more of a formal manner.

Bucky seems slightly calmer and a bit more social by nature than Penske. However, neither of them easily spook or thrash.

When the time does come for beginning some lifestyle training, and transitioning the new boys to "fort living", Clicker Training will be one of the available tools to support the process.

In clicker training, the click sound marks the desired behavior, and bridges the time gap between it and receiving the reinforcer.

First, the bird must learn to associate the sound of the click with receiving a reinforcer. (For more detail on reinforcers, see my post on the Changeability of Reinforcers).

Until the bird is conditioned to associate the sound with receiving the reinforcer, it has no meaning and is neutral.

Clicker training can be one of several valuable tools in a training portfolio.

A few considerations:

1. There is a bit more to it than simply 'click-treat'! Time spent in learning the fundamentals and practicing the skills is time well spent. It will help to ensure the best possible results, and avoid frustration on the part of the trainer and confusion on the part of the learner.

2. There is no magic in the clicker itself or the sound it produces. We may choose to condition anything as a marker. (Examples: a sound such as a whistle, or a word such as 'yes'.)

3. A behavior that I would like to reinforce may be presented at any time. And it may come when I least expect it! What works for me is to use a marker that is always available and ready, doesn't need a spare hand or nimble fingers, and provides me the greatest degree of flexibility in my training. The marker I have conditioned is a click/cluck sound that I make with my mouth.

4. It has been my experience that once my birds learn a behavior, I no longer need to continue to mark it. In fact, it seems to impede my flow of our natural interaction, especially Coco.
She tends to quickly learn that the behavior itself will gain the reinforcer.

For Bucky and Penske, clicker training is certainly a way off!

My priority list for them:

1. Giving them ample time to adjust to their new environment;
2. Becoming comfortable around me and my hands in the daily matters such as as changing food and water and cleaning;
3. Transitioning them into fort living; and
4. Encouraging positive flock relationships and dynamics.

Happy weekend everyone!


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