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2015-Dec Blog

December 23, 2015 - Training Plan - High Reinforcer

To continue from last blog, I am trying to train Flash not to bite my hand when I open the food door. The first part of a training plan to work is I need to find a way for Flash to freely choose to interact with me.

How do I promote Flash to interact with me?  Positive Reinforcement. Positive Reinforcement does not mean Positive as “Happy or Good Reaction”. Positive means adding(+) stimulus (situation) immediately after the behavior.  Reinforcement means increasing the strength of a behavior.  

What can I add to Flash’s environment to increase a behavior. Through observation and history, Flash loves his liquid nectar. He has plenty of other food but he really enjoys his liquid nectar.  I need to make the liquid nectar high value.   I have removed nectar from his daily treat. The nectar is now part of my training tool.

When getting ready to train your bird, learn what your bird really likes from food(s), a toy, scratches or attention.  All of those items (top 5 ) this will become tools in your toolkit to join with a training plan.

Note sure what is your bird favorite item could be, watch what your bird eats first in the food bowl?  You can always put different items in the bowl to see if the bird is interested or disinterested.  I found my cockatiel loves the banana pellets in her food. I removed the banana pellets, the cockatiel still has all the other pellets so she is not starving. I use the banana pellets for training. 

See what is your bird favorite item(s) are: food, scratches and so.  Determining that high value item will be your communication during training.  Let’s turn it into human terms: Why do you go to work everyday (why do you want a job or new job)?

Your behavior to go to work happens every day (when applicable). You may hate your job but you still go in, so what is reinforcing you to go. What is your high value…Money.  What if your employer decreased your pay, would you continue go to work? What if your employer increase your pay, would you work harder or accept more assigns.  Maybe or Maybe not, but there is a reinforcer why you continue keep going.  This same methodology or thinking works for birds, why should they continue to interact with you, what reinforcer is in it for the bird.

High Value Item.

December 14, 2015 - Where to Start?

I have had bird people tell me they have no undesired behaviors with their birds. That might be true, but sometimes you do not know you have undesired behavior because you are just managing the behavior. You think well it is not a big deal. I have a beautiful Lorikeet, Flash. I adopted him 12 years ago. 12 years ago, I had several popular books about having a bird. In trying to learn how to work with adopted bird per a quote from one of the books ,I still have,: " When working with a bird, start by capturing the little bird gently in both hands. The bird may squawk and nibble, but if you are gentle and calm, the bird will settle down quickly. Hold the bird with one hand and caress the top of the head." You know what I got after many attempts of following those directions, a very bitty bird. Yes, I said "No" and did many other items per other books. What I am trying to tell people with education all of these attempts come with consequences. We seem shocked by these consequences but lets go forward 8 years, Flash's behavior has moved to biting my feet, if I am near the cage he bites or he bites when trying to get dishes out his cage. My coercion created Flash's behavior.
Now learning more and more about Applied Behavior Analysis and Less Intrusive Methodology over the last couple of years. I realized my approach was causing these consequences. I had to change my way. Flash and volunteering at the MSPCA was part of the reasons why I became Certified Bird Behavior Consultant.
With that, I still have a few 'Undesired Behaviors' I need to improve myself and working with Flash.
So where do I start?  
Find the undesired behavior that can be reproduced every time with the same environment and can monitor.
Issue: Changing of food bowl
Antecedent (what triggers the behavior): Opening the food bowl door
Behavior (what is the behavior): Flash bites hands
Consequence(what occurs exactly after the behavior): Hand is removed
IE: When I open the food door, Flash Bites my hand, my hand is removed.
Sounds odd, but Flash's behavior is being reinforced because my hand is being removed. This goes back to my professors comments "The bird picks the reinforcer".

What is the next step...ah wait for next blog :-P
November 24, 2015 - Observation and Understanding is everything.

As my Heart of Feathers Education website is about to go live, one key thing I have learned on my road to being a Certified Parrot Behavior Consultant: Observation and Understanding.  I have a beautiful yellow streak Lorikeet. He is a 'nutcase' but a loving nutcase.  Well, one day, I opened his cage and recalled him to my hand. As he jumped onto his perch and prepared to fly, I noticed his eyes pinned, but I was unclear why. Before I could call off the recall, he was in flight and he bypassed my hand, and jumped on my head. He clawed at my head and my upper face.  As he was tearing at my head, he pulled off my hand band and glasses. I was able to finally get him off of me with only a few pulled hairs and a small scratch on my head. 
My first reaction was what triggered this 'unpredictable' behavior?  Now, I could have labeled my bird aggressive and unpredictable. Instead, I realized my bird did not do this every-time I open the cage. Somehow I changed the environment, creating a new behavior. The following day, I opened the cage and recalled him. On this day, he did what was expected and landed perfectly on my hand.   For weeks, his recall process was perfect.  
I wish I could say that was the end of the story without really understanding what caused the attack. 
One day when I came home, I heard my husband grumbling.  I asked him what's up?   He stated when he went
to get our nutcase lorikeet, the lorikeet 'attacked' him on the  head and removed his hat and glasses. This comment gave me the key I was missing.  I know the glasses were not causing the issue because my husband and I both have glasses and have gotten the lorikeet with no issue.  Ah, the key observation is that neither one of us usually where a hat or put our hair up when getting the lorikeet out of the cage.  

One simple change on how we appear to the lorikeet, made him feel uneasy and insecure.  The Lorikeet was not being a jerk or 'unpredictable'.  There was a reason for the behavior that served a purpose for the bird. The hat and band that tied my hair up created aversive (fear) in the bird (unclear what the bird was thinking, but the consequences were the hat needed to go).

If I wanted to go further into this behavior, I would say the hat/hair up triggered an aversive stimuli.  My lorikeet had a fear or anxiety to the hat,since he did not see a way of avoiding stimuli , he attacked the object. 

Once I understood this behavior, my husband and I simply managing this behavior by no longer wearing hats or hair up around the bird.