How To Train Your Bird Using “Bridges”

Connect with your bird.

Being able to communicate with our birds is something all pet lovers and trainers aspire toward. Having an expression that signals to our bird that they did something correct and a treat will be provided, is essential if you want that behavior to be presented again.

This term is called a bridge. Bridges in training, like actual bridges, make an association between two distant points of interest. They make a connection for the animal. The animal performs a behavior, they receive a bridge and then they receive a treat. The bridge communicates to the animal that the behavior they just performed was correct.

Bridges can be seen in the form of words like “good?or “OK,?a whistle or the noise of a clicker. One of the reasons why bridges are used is because treats are not always readily available the instant animals do a behavior.

In this example, Kenny Coogan taught his chickens how to till the soil by using the bridging technique.

How To Bridge
Our pet birds generally associate the behavior immediately before the treat, as the behavior that is being rewarded. A delay of a few seconds could mean reinforcing the wrong behavior. Sometimes it would be impossible to give a treat immediately after the behavior. They could be flying around the room or across the yard jumping through a hurdle. The use of the bridge allows us to delay the reinforcer.

My chickens are often times scratching on the ground through the mulch. If I want to capture this behavior to encourage them to till my yard in a specific place I would first train them to understand the bridge. After observing my chickens scratch a few times in the soil, I say, “Good?and toss some food their way. The next time I observe them scratching I will repeat the previous steps but wait just a little longer to get them to scratch a little more. Soon, when I say “good?my birds are looking up at me for a treat.

In the beginning every time I offer a treat to my birds I say the word good immediately before the presence of the treat. Through this pairing, your birds will gradually learn that after that word a treat will follow. During your training session when you say “good?your bird will anticipate a treat after they performed the behavior.

After the bridge is set in your bird? repertoire my favorite technique can be employed: capturing a behavior. The best thing about capturing behaviors is that you can do it anytime and anywhere, as long as you can find treats shortly after the behavior and are able to say the word “good.?lt;/span>

A chicken tilling the soil, as she has been trained to do.

Capturing Behavior
Capturing a behavior is like taking a snapshot of your bird? behavior that you want repeated. If you want to capture your bird doing a summersault on their perch, it? easy. Once they start tumbling, say your bridge and reinforce. If the treats at not within arm? reach or can? be delivered immediately it should still be okay. That bridge should signal to them that what they did during that bridge was worthy of a treat.

Any complete behavior you see your pet doing can be captured. You can also capture vocalizing on cue. The next time your bird chirps or mimics something unique say the bridge and reward. After a few times of observing your bird you will be able to see what triggers them to vocalize. Right before they vocalize you can introduce a cue, like the word “bark,?”sing?or “chirp?and then when they vocalize say the bridge and reinforce. You could capture quiet chirps, with your cue “hush,?and loud barks with a cue of “bark!?This will work best if you can guess when they are going to be loud or quiet. You will soon be capturing many behaviors. Scratching their neck, puffing their crest, tumbling on a perch is not much easier to train, using this capturing technique.

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Article Categories:
Behavior and Training · Birds