Behavior Workshop: Clicker Training for Parrots


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The "Clicker Training for Parrots" workshop is one of the many classes offered by Phoenix Landing.

Clicker training is a fun way to interact with your bird, but it's also a useful tool for addressing behavioral issues. Once you apply the principles of clicker training to your daily interactions, you will be amazed at how effectively you will be able to communicate with each other, how much faster you will build trust, and how quickly your parrot will learn tricks that delight and amaze. This interactive class will be an introduction to clicker training for birds, how it works, why it works, strategies for dealing with "problem" behaviors, ideas for getting started, and pitfalls to avoid. It includes an overview of basic training terminology and in-class exercises to drive home training techniques.

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  • Avoidance. Examples: bird doesn’t like towel, you threaten her with towel, she goes back in cage, towel goes away. Bird bites husband, husband leaves room, bird is reinforced for biting husband.
  • Example: you leave the room when bird yells.
  • What are advantages and drawbacks of this method?
  • What are advantages and drawbacks to this method?
  • Pop Quiz: Is the clicker a cue?
  • Behavior Workshop: Clicker Training for Parrots

    1. 1. Clicker Training for Parrots<br />Phoenix Landing<br />September 24, 2011<br />
    2. 2. Why Teach Silly Parrot Tricks?<br />
    3. 3. Introduction: What Is Clicker Training<br />Clicker training is a training method based on operant conditioning principles.<br />It uses a “clicker” as a marker or bridge to indicate which behavior will result in a reward.<br />It relies on positive reinforcement<br />It’s a process wherein the trainee learns how to learn (and the trainer learns how to teach)<br />
    4. 4. Animals Are Always Learning<br />Every interaction is training, whether you intend it to be or not. <br />With this in mind… what are you teaching your bird?<br />
    5. 5. Clicker Training Goals<br />Teach your bird how to learn<br />Tune into your bird’s body language<br />Show your bird that it has choices<br />Establish a common and consistent language<br />Interact in positive ways<br />Alleviate boredom<br />Teach appropriate behaviors<br />Have fun!<br />
    6. 6. Terminology: Reinforcement / Punishment<br />Positive Reinforcement (R+)<br />Negative Reinforcement (R-)<br />Positive Punishment (P+)<br />Negative Punishment (P-)<br />
    7. 7. How to Remember R+/R-/P+/P-<br />Positive = adding something<br />Negative = taking something away<br />Reinforcement = causes the behavior to happen more often<br />Punishment = causes the behavior to decrease<br />
    8. 8. Positive Reinforcement<br /> After the bird does a behavior, you give him something he likes. This encourages the bird to do the behavior again. <br />
    9. 9. Negative Reinforcement<br /> The bird does something. Then something he doesn’t like gets taken away. This causes the behavior to increase. <br />
    10. 10. Positive Punishment<br /> The bird demonstrates a behavior (or absence of desired behavior). Something happens that he doesn’t like. This causes the behavior to decrease.<br />
    11. 11. Negative Punishment<br /> The bird demonstrates a behavior (or absence of behavior). Something he wants is taken away. <br /> Sometimes referred to as a time out from positive reinforcement. It’s best if immediately paired with positive reinforcement or will lead to frustration.<br />
    12. 12. Motivating the Bird<br />It is our job to figure out how to make the bird want to offer the behavior<br />Give cues vs. commands (the importance of offering choices)<br />There has to be something “in it” for the bird<br />
    13. 13. Reinforcers / Rewards<br />Something is “reinforcing” if your bird will work to attain it<br />Rewards can be food, praise, affection, attention <br />Only the trainee can determine what is “rewarding.”<br />Food tends to be a stronger reinforcer (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs)<br />
    14. 14. What Is a “Clicker”<br />A clicker is:<br />a mechanical device that makes a sharp, distinct sound<br />a “marker” that indicates the precise moment the desired behavior occurs<br />a signal (“a promise” even) that a reward will be forthcoming<br />
    15. 15. What a Clicker is NOT<br />A clicker is not magic. It does not compel an animal to do something<br />A clicker is not the reward <br />A clicker is not a request<br />A clicker only has meaning insofar as you pair it with a reward<br />
    16. 16. Why Use a Clicker<br />The clicker has several advantages as a marker:<br />It’s precise<br />It’s distinct<br />It’s consistent<br />It’s a unique sound<br />
    17. 17. The Problem of Language<br />
    18. 18. Creating a Common Language<br />Initially, the click is meaningless. You must create meaning by teaching your bird that click=treat.<br />At first, just “charge the clicker”. <br />Click  Treat, Click  Treat, Click  Treat<br />Then begin with simple exercises. <br />Set your bird up to succeed<br />Teach your bird that it can make the click happen.<br />Be consistent and don’t allow the click to lose meaning.<br />
    19. 19. Timing, Timing, Timing<br />Because the click has very specific meaning, it’s important that you apply it precisely.<br />Practice your clicker timing. <br />
    20. 20. Exercises: Perfecting Your Timing<br />Drop a ball, click when it hits the ground<br />Have someone else drop a ball, click when it hits the ground<br />Work with a partner, agree on a specific behavior to capture and click at the exact moment it happens. Give each other feedback on whether the timing was right.<br />
    21. 21. Ways to Get the Initial Behavior<br />Capturing<br />Luring<br />Shaping<br />Approximations<br />Chaining<br />Forward chaining<br />Backwards chaining<br />
    22. 22. Capturing: Definition<br />“Catching an animal in the act of presenting a behavior. Typically the behavior is presented in its entirety. When followed by a reinforcer this can teach the animal to present the behavior again. This may lead to the behavior being offered frequently. At this point a cue can be inserted prior to the presentation of the behavior. A challenge with capturing a behavior is if the behavior breaks down, a trainer must wait for it to be offered again to recapture it and put it on cue.”<br />-Barbara Heidenreich<br />
    23. 23. Capturing<br />Wait for the behavior to occur<br />Click at the precise moment it happens<br />Continue to do this consistently until your bird understands this is the desired behavior.<br />
    24. 24. Luring: Definition<br />“A hands-off method of guiding the dog through a behavior. For example, a food lure can be used to guide a dog from a sit into a down. This is a common method of getting more complex behaviors. Lures are usually food, but they may also be target sticks or anything else the animalwill follow. Trainers must take care to fade the lure early.”<br />- Karen Pryor<br />
    25. 25. Luring<br />Lead the animal into the position you want by getting them to follow the reinforcer (or target stick).<br />Not the ideal method of getting behaviors because they don’t teach the animal to think and offer behaviors. <br />
    26. 26. Shaping Approximations: Definition<br />“The form of an existing response is gradually changed across successive trials towards a desired target behavior by rewarding exact segments of behavior.”<br />- Wikipedia<br />
    27. 27. Shaping<br />Reward successive approximations (small substeps or subtle variations) of the desired behavior until the the bird gets closer and closer to the actual desired behavior.<br />At first, reward anything close to resembling the first step of the behavior and slowly increase the criterion for a reward.<br />
    28. 28. Chaining<br />“The process of combining multiple behaviors into a continuous sequence linked together by cues, and maintained by a reinforcer at the end of the chain. Each cue serves as the marker and the reinforcer for the previous behavior, and the cue for the next behavior.”<br />- Karen Pryor<br />
    29. 29. Chaining<br />String individual behaviors together to create a more complex series of behaviors.<br />Forward chaining: begin with a behavior the bird knows and move directly into the next behavior to master. Add new behaviors to the end.<br />Backward chaining: the animal works in successive steps toward the behavior they know. Add new behaviors to the beginning.<br />
    30. 30. Important Tip<br />Always break behaviors down into the simplest steps. <br />
    31. 31. Can You Apply the Concepts?<br />What steps do you think it took for Mika to learn to bring me the pink ring? <br />How would you begin to teach “wave”?<br />
    32. 32. Exercise: Capturing, Shaping, Chaining <br />
    33. 33. Getting Behavior on Cue<br />What is a Cue?<br />A signal that it’s time for the bird to offer a behavior<br />Cues can be verbal, visual, etc.<br />When to Introduce Cues<br />Introduce the cue after the bird understands how to do the behavior. You can’t “cue” a bird to do a behavior it doesn’t know how to do. <br />
    34. 34. Tips on Cues:<br />Cues must be:<br />Consistent<br />Simple<br />Meaningful<br />
    35. 35. Remember…<br />
    36. 36. Learning How to Learn<br /> The goal in clicker training is not simply that the bird performs the behavior, but that the bird goes through the learning process. <br />
    37. 37. The First “Trick”: Targeting<br />What is targeting?<br />Animal touches a “target”. <br />For birds specifically: Bird bites the end of a small stick.<br />Why teach this first?<br />Easy to teach, easy to learn<br />Builds confidence<br />Can be taught wherever the bird is comfortable<br />No opportunity to bite<br />
    38. 38. How to Teach Targeting<br />Goal: Bird Bites Tip of Target Stick<br />Approximations: <br />Bird looks at target stick<br />Bird takes step toward target stick<br />Bird reaches for target stick<br />Bird bites target stick<br />Bird moves in the direction of target stick in order to bite it<br />Bird has mastered this behavior when it will move in any direction, as far as it needs to, in order to bite the stick.<br />
    39. 39. Ideas for Beginner “Tricks”<br />Prop Tricks:<br />Target<br />Station<br />Step Up<br />Retrieve<br />Go Up a Ladder<br />Ring a Bell<br />Non-Prop Tricks:<br />Wave<br />Turn Around<br />“Big Eagle”<br />Walking Recall<br />Flying Recall<br />Dance<br />
    40. 40. Avoiding Common Pitfalls<br />The problem of “begging”<br />Bad click timing<br />Bird isn’t motivated<br />Bird or trainer is frustrated<br />Setting too-high criteria<br />Inconsistency of cues, criteria, goals<br />
    41. 41. Myths and Misconceptions<br />The click is a special sound that encourages animals to perform tricks. - FALSE<br />The clicker allows you to be “dominant” over your bird - FALSE<br />Any training that involves a clicker is “clicker training” – FALSE<br />Clicker training is only useful for teaching silly tricks – FALSE<br />Because birds are undomesticated, you can’t teach them tricks – FALSE<br />In clicker training, a click takes the place of a reward – FALSE<br />If you teach a behavior with a clicker, you are stuck carrying a clicker around forever – FALSE<br />You have to be highly trained to be a good trainer - FALSE<br />
    42. 42. Where to Learn MoreAbout Clicker Training<br />Buy “Clicker Training for Birds” from the Phoenix Landing Store<br />Join the Bird-Click discussion group:<br />Get Jenny Drummey’s Project Parrot Handbook and attend other PhoenixLanding Behavior workshops<br />Visit<br />
    43. 43. Also visit…<br />Visit Phoenix Landing online at:<br /><ul><li>
    44. 44.
    45. 45. And look for us on Facebook!</li></ul>Support Phoenix Landing:<br /><ul><li>
    46. 46.</li>