Do you have the right tools for training?
Having a full set of tools in your training toolbox is essential. You can use a screwdriver to pound in nails, but a hammer would be a better tool for the job.
Just like carpentry, animal training using operant condition has many different tools. And choosing the correct one will get the job done smoother.
It? All About The Reward
Here is a story about a woman walking down a sidewalk on a Thursday afternoon leaving work. The following day is pay day and she is on a bi-monthly schedule. She hasn? been paid for nearly two weeks and is very short on cash. Her car is almost on empty and she has no food in her refrigerator. Just as she is about to enter her gasless car, she notices something moving underneath a nearby bush. She walks over and discovers that it is a monetary bill and not just a $1 note, but a $100 bill. She looks around the parking lot and no one is visible. So she picks it up and fills her gas tank and pantry.
What do you think she is going to do the next time she walks by that bush? Behavior can change because of one simple consequence. Training your pet is like providing them with a puzzle. They get the fun task of figuring out how to get their own $100 bill or in a bird? case a half a nut or sunflower seed.
Form & Frequency
One of the tools in your animal training toolbox should be form and frequency. In order for pet owners to change behavior we need to be able to predict, change and control the environment. By changing the environment, (e.g., where you stand, the placement of your toys/props, the proximity of your bird, etc) you can change the behavior of your bird. You can change how often it happens and what the behavior looks like.
By rewarding specific behaviors, you can increase the probability of that behavior happening again. The reward can be your voice changing, a head scratch or a treat.
Other tools include quantity and variety. As a bird trainer you are stacking the deck in favor of your pet. You have control of not only the quantity of reinforcement but also variety. When a pet does something great, you don? have to give them the same boring treat. You could give them multiple treats or a different type of reinforcement that your bird really enjoys.
Birds and humans are constantly filtering out information. We must become significant to our birds if we are going to train them. Providing a treat after our pets have had a large meal will not be as reinforcing to them, as if we offered them a snack before breakfast. Our pets will only pay attention to the important stuff, and figuring out what is important to our pets will make us powerful trainers. A head rub will not be as rewarding if it is done by a family member that doesn? have a good relationship, compared to a head rub by you.
Bird owners, like all pet owners, want to do two things. We either want to increase desirable behaviors or decrease undesirable behaviors. Since behavior is largely determined by its consequences, controlling these consequences is the key to changing most behaviors.
Why Motivation Is Key To Good Training
The last tool that I will mention, in which there are hundreds more, is motivation. Motivation is an internal power that regulates behavior due to drive, needs or desires. By training our animals five times a day with each session at five minutes long, rather than two 10-minute sessions, you will progress much faster with your training plan. Animals that are bored may also seem to lack motivation.
Breaking up training sessions will increase the form and frequency of desired behaviors, increase the probability of the behavior happening again, keep you significant and your pets motivated. Understanding and acquiring more tools for your training toolbox will only help you with your pet projects. Check out Birdchannel.com for more training tools to put in your toolbox.
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