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2016-Mar Blog

March 21, 2016 -  Working with my Foster bird, Curley (Part 2)

The following demo video is showing Curley picking through the food bowl. Over the last several days, Curleys' first choice has been sunflower seeds (see video) (2nd is safflower and then red pellets). Once I am 100% cure on my observation, I will pull those food items out of the food dish and will only use during training, as the consequence to the desire behavior I am training. As noted, I still have not put my hands near the bird. I want my hands to be good item not a scary item.  <-Click link

March 20, 2016 - Working with my Foster bird, Curley (Part 1)

I have had several emails and IMs commenting that they love my demo videos, but ask have I worked with any new birds (vs birds already in my household). Yes, I foster birds from local rescue to help specific birds with 'undesired behaviors' become more adoptable. To demonstrate that I practice what I teach, the photos below is my 16th foster bird. Curly is a lovebird, Curley history is unknown. Physical Curley is missing a lot of feathers. Again, unknown if another bird plucked Curley or Curley is a plucker. Also, I have no idea if Curley is friendly or not.

When getting a new bird (or adopted bird), my first step is not to put my hand in to the cage to find out if the bird is friendly. My first step is determine what Curley likes to eat. I have stuffed Curley's food bowl with all kinds of bird food, pellets, millets, sunflower seeds, fruits, french fries, potato chips, and saflower seeds. Yes, some items are fatty. I am not going to be give this food choice all the time, I need to learn the top 5 favorite foods of Curley. Since I want Curley to adjust being in my home, this first step is not to be intrusive but be very passive.

These foods will be removed from the daily diet (to be used in my training toolbox which I explain later). I never start with step up. This bird does not know me. I have no history with this bird, so for me to get history, I want good history not force or scary history.

March 11 , 2016 -  Cesar Millan and the future of training.

In the news, facebook, twitter and other news feed, all you read about is Cesar Millan has his training methodology.  Before I got into the training world, I heard about Cesar Millan, and watched his TV shows.
I thought wow, Packs need pack leaders, and you have to show animals how to get over their fear.   
One episode made me stop in my tracks (and stop watching the show), there was Maltese (mix) that was afraid of scissors.  Cesar held that dog down while the owner cut the fur near the dog's face. You could see the fear in the dog's eyes.   I could not do that to my dog. 

My training methodology follows the IAABC (Internation Assocation of Animal Behavior Consultants).
IAABC supports a Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive (LIMA) approach to behavior modification and training.

To learn more:   <-Click link

Depending on behavior, I may ask  people to have a Vet to make sure the behavior is not related Nutritional and Physical issue.  
The following IAABC diagram shows the training process to assist birds toward learning behavior. 

March 9 , 2016 - Understanding Punishment

In understanding behavior, punishment means reducing a behavior. When working with a bird to reduce an undesired behavior, sometimes punishment/aversives are used. How many times have we been told when bird is on your arm and bites you, you shake your arm. I cannot remember how many books or people state doing the "Earthquake" to stop that biting behavior.

I made my mistakes and seen the consequences. Now, I am trying to promote Positive Reinforcement methodology. This methodology may take a little longer but creates a long lasting bond with your bird.
It is a tough battle to show this methodology because many of these punishment methodologies are deep in our culture. 
What is the issue with the Earthquake, if you are teaching a bird to step up on your arm, and you shake your arm because of a bite. You are making your arm an aversive (IE Your bird does not want to step up on the arm because the arm might shake).
In addition, you are losing your bond with your bird.

Punishment/Aversive have consequences: withdrawn, Suppress responding, aggression, and/or 4. fear/phobia.

I share this story because bird education has to move toward the Positive Reinforcement Methodology. We need to know how to cohabitate when living with birds.

Many years ago, at the time, I was still learning about animal behavior. While I was volunteering at the local rescue, an amazon was brought in. This Amazon's life was pure aversives: Wooden spoon hitting the cage or the amazon to stop any noise the amazon made. At some days, the amazon was covered all the time with the wooden spoon hitting the cage. 
This went on for years.

Once at the rescue, the amazon was set up in a nice big cage with chooses. While in the big open cage, the amazon barely ever moved and was so withdrawn. When changing papers in the cage, the amazon would fall to the bottom of the cage and roll over (pure submission - learned helplessness (no choice)). It was so sad.

A rescue staff member visited the amazon every day. The Staff Member just sat in chair a few feet away and talked softly to the Amazon. The staff member's mother started coming in and visited the amazon, as well. This went on for weeks, and the family decided to foster amazon. They hoped being away from the rescue would improve the amazon.

Now, this story is sad, but here is where on of my points comes up when talking to clients. The past is interesting but it not something to dwell on or label your bird. I heard patrons of the rescue when hearing about the amazon, "Damaged bird.", "That amazon will never get over the tragedy." "You can't fix that bird."

'Behavior may have history but history does defined a bird.' You need to move forward. The Staff Member and the family took a very slow time with the amazon. They never rushed the amazon and did small approximation training sessions that was comfortable for the amazon (from just sitting 10 feet away and moving closer over time). They used 'Positive Reinforcement Methodology' and gave the amazon chooses to learn. Yes, there were rough moments but they just adjusted their training. Over the months, Rocky blossomed and the family adopted "Rocky". Now, it is years later, and Rocky is a ham.

I leave you with YouTube of Rocky singing "Let it Go".  <- Click link

Thank you to Rocky's Family for letting me tell his story.

Force is for crowbars and towtrucks.
Force/Punishment training leads to undesired consequences.

Positive Reinforcement training and chooses brings communication and strengthens our bond with our bird.

 March 1 , 2016 - Tuque's Training - Recall - Have Fun

When training with a bird, it is very important to track how the training is going. Start with a baseline and then track how often the trained before is increasing or decreasing. I have been working with Tuque on Recalling back to the hand (back to homebase). Tuque and I work every other night on recall (I started with small approximation to my hand and then added duration and distance). 
A: My hands clapped together (as stand)
B: Tuque flies to hand
C: Hangs out with me (yes, I can be a reinforcer)
I noticed last week, the recall behavior was decreasing. This told me that something changed in the environment which was causing the behavior to decrease. I could not find anything that was obvious. I changed up the recall and added music and bad dancing. Tuque thought that was fantastic. One thing I learned from my birds, if I start to get too serious with the training, the trained behavior I am working on decreases. Remember when doing training try to have fun. I give you "Dancing with Birds" -  <- Click link