Friday, September 11, 2009

Increasing Desirable Behavior

Back on the previous discussion of Increasing Desirable Behavior post!

We left off with the discussion example:

A-Dog Barks/human cues bird to say 'pretty bird'
B-Bird Says Pretty Bird
C-Bird Receives Valued Reinforcer (treat)

The desirable behavior selected (bird says 'pretty bird') was selected as a behavior to reinforce. It would be desirable for the 'pretty bird' to replace the scream that was following the dog barking.

What would be really spectacular:

1. The very first time the dog barked, the human cued the bird to say pretty bird, the bird actually said pretty bird immediately, and received the treat; and

2. From the point forward, every time the dog barked the bird would never scream, but would always say pretty bird and the human would be there ready with a treat in hand!

That would some kind of "It's a Wonderful Birdie World" Christmas movie! I don't know about your birds and your household, but mine don't usually work quite that way, and certainly not the first time around!

So, let's look at some practicalities.

In our scenario, we selected the 'pretty bird' phrase because it was one that our pretend bird could already say. This is important.

In preparation, I would want to start with simply reinforcing the behavior itself (absent the dog barking):

A-The Human Cues for a 'pretty bird'
B-The Bird Says 'pretty bird'
C-The Bird Receives
Valued Reinforcer (treat)

Then, we continue on to the regular training:

A-Dog Barks/human cues bird to say 'pretty bird'
B-Bird Says Pretty Bird
C-Bird Receives Valued Reinforcer (treat)

If the bird screams in response to the dog barking, it does not receive the treat. But if it says pretty bird, it does receive a treat.

One thing about working with positive reinforcement is that it does not always yield instant results. Notably, punishment can at times, be a much quicker road to behavior change (just ask my dad). However, it holds great potential for damage to a relationship.

First and foremost, we identified a behavior that we wanted to see increase, one that was an alternate behavior to the screaming, and one that we could positively reinforce.

I find we often do this by nature with our children, but may need to work a bit harder to remember to do it with our birds. For example, we teach our young toddlers that if they want something, they must say 'please' first. This is an alternate behavior to 'throwing a fit', screaming, crying or any other undesirable behavior!

When we look at it from this perspective, it can become challenging and quite interesting to contemplate alternate behaviors to train for our birds. And enjoy the sense of accomplishment in watching them grow.

Just as we must often remind our toddlers "now, what do you say?", the same consistency is important in our birds lives.


1 comment:

Mary H. said...

How interesting to transfer the cue for 'pretty bird' from a cue given by the human to a cue given by the dog. Have you actually tried this?

My uncle has a parrot who enjoys barking for attention--sounds just like my uncle's dog.

Mary H.

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