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An Introduction to Clicker Training

BraveheartDogs

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I haven't seen anything here on clicker training yet, so I thought I would add something.

Clicker training is a method of animal training based on operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is when animals learn because of consequences that happen after a behavior is performed. If an animal performs a behavior and that behavior is immediately reinforced (or followed by something rewarding) that behavior will go up in frequency.

A clicker is a small noise maker that makes a click-click sound. It is used as a reward marker. A reward marker tells the animal that whatever he was doing when he heard the click is going to be reinforced with a food reward. Each click will be immediately followed by a food treat. There are other reinforcers that you can use in training and in everyday life such as attention, scritches, access to a person, access out of the cage that will also reinforce behaviors. But, for clicker training the reward should be a high value food reward that the bird can eat fairly quickly.

Here is an example of clicker training a simple behavior. The behavior is targeting. I am going to teach the bird to open his beak onto a target stick (chopstick). I present the target stick a couple of inches from the birds face (if the bird shows any fear, I would start with it much further away). When the bird looks at the target stick, I click and then treat. While the bird is eating, the stick is behind my back. I present the stick again, and click and treat for looking at it. If the bird looks comfortable, the next time I present the stick I will hold out and see if he leans towards the stick. If he leans towards it, I click and treat. I do this a couple of times. The next time, I hold out and see if he opens his mouth on it. When he does, I click and treat that. Once he reliably opens his beak on the target stick, I will begin to move the stick a little distance away so that he has to take a step to get the click and treat. Once the bird is willing to follow the target stick, I will name the behavior by adding a cue. The cue is what makes the bird do the behavior. In this case, the presentation of the stick is the cue, but if I wanted to add a verbal cue so that the bird would target other things, I would do so by saying the word "target" or "touch" just before he touches the stick and continue to click and treat for doing that.

I have clicker trained my birds to do some behaviors including stepping onto my hand, and off of my hand, hanging upside down, following a target stick, spreading their wings, and coming to me from one play area to another.

I love clicker training because it allows the animal to try things and experiment which can be very powerful, particularly for shy or fearful individuals. It allows confident birds to problem solve and is a great form of enrichment.

Here are some videos of my birds doing clicker training.

Feather spreading her wings:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RD-rvrUfzXs&feature=channel


Oliver targeting a stick:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O22BHSv4j6Q&feature=channel

Vicki
 
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Cynthia & Percy

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thanks for sharing great training videos
 

Cydney

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Great write-up! I could dig up a couple of Kai's training videos to add if you like.
 

JLcribber

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Hendryx

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I personally don't like clicker training,I prefer my birds to just be birds..no tricks involved,but it has been proven to work well in a lot of cases,it's just not for me..great info though..;)
 

BraveheartDogs

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I personally don't like clicker training,I prefer my birds to just be birds..no tricks involved,but it has been proven to work well in a lot of cases,it's just not for me..great info though..;)
Actually, it isn't just for trick training. We can also teach useful behaviors like allowing gentle handling, stepping up, stepping off, recalls which are not tricks but behaviors that are necessary just for living with and managing our animals. At the zoo we use it to train behaviors like stationing, getting on the scale, accepting handling for medical procedures. So, while it can be used for training trick behaviors, it is also effective for training necessary management behaviors.

Vicki
 

cmoore

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Hendryx, I agree with Vicki. You say you want your birds to just be birds, with no tricks involved. But birds in the wild don't live in houses, or interact with humans. They chew things that humans generally don't want chewed (clothing, furniture, walls and moldings, etc). They poop wherever they happen to be. They are very curious and like to fly over and investigate (and chew, and poop on) anything that catches their eye.

With training, we can teach our birds some basic ground rules about living in a house and interacting with human beings. They can learn to step up, they can learn to leave dangerous objects or places on cue, and they can learn to step up onto a human hand or a stick and allow husbandry behaviors (nail trims, vet checks, palpation to ensure healthy weight) without causing stress or damaging their trusting relationship with their human companions.

I do teach my birds many "trick" behaviors as well as husbandry and "manners" behaviors, and I don't think it keeps them from "being birds." They still fly around my house, play and wrestle with each other, preen each other, scream out warnings when hawks fly by the house, and all the other "normal bird" behaviors.

The difference is, by clicker training my birds, I've built up a strong bond of trust and respect. It's a mutual bond - I've learned their boundaries, and to watch and listen to their more subtle communications, even as they've learned that I am someone who will give them good things and can be trusted.

Here are some videos of my guys doing some of their behaviors:

Various tricks: YouTube - Parrot Tricks

Wing extension: YouTube - Wing Extension

Flighted retrieve: YouTube - Flighted Retrieve

Flighted put-away: YouTube - Flighted Put-Away

Rings on a peg: YouTube - Caique Parrot Rings on a Peg

Coins in the piggy bank: YouTube - Coins in the Piggy Bank
 

Cynthia & Percy

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cmoore thanks for the videos they are great and I would want to welcome you to the Avenue if you like you could post and introduction I would love to hear more from you :hug8:
 

Stevo

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Great posts and videos!

I agree with all the positive statements about behaviour shaping (I really HATE the term trick training, lol).

I'll just add that it doesn't need to be a clicker to bridge the action/reward sequence - a verbal cue 'good', or whatever you like as long as it's consistent in delivery, will work just as well and saves having to hold the clicker. Even the simple motion of moving the reward/treat holding hand towards the bird when the identified behaviour occurs will act as a bridge, once the bird has worked out that that's what's going to happen. :D

They're smart animals!
 

BraveheartDogs

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The difference is, by clicker training my birds, I've built up a strong bond of trust and respect. It's a mutual bond - I've learned their boundaries, and to watch and listen to their more subtle communications, even as they've learned that I am someone who will give them good things and can be trusted.
I love this statement, I feel the same way:)

I loved watching your videos. Really nice! My personal favorites are the flighted retrieve and the flighted put away. They are awesome!

Vicki
 

BraveheartDogs

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Great posts and videos!

I agree with all the positive statements about behaviour shaping (I really HATE the term trick training, lol).

I'll just add that it doesn't need to be a clicker to bridge the action/reward sequence - a verbal cue 'good', or whatever you like as long as it's consistent in delivery, will work just as well and saves having to hold the clicker. Even the simple motion of moving the reward/treat holding hand towards the bird when the identified behaviour occurs will act as a bridge, once the bird has worked out that that's what's going to happen. :D

They're smart animals!
Absolutely and thanks for mentioning that. You can bridge with a sound, with a word or like you said, just by moving towards the reinforcer or moving the reinforcer towards the animal.

Vicki
 

clawnz

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Anything that helps you develope a strong bond has to be good.
Trust is a biggy.
I'm sorry I am not into teaching birds tricks. But that said, they do have to be taught how to behave in a captive environment.
If they are to be free flighted in your home, they have to be trained to some degree. Or how are you going to get them back in the cage, that's if they have to go into cages.
Treating is what has got me onside with so many of the Fids at the rescue.
My own not being caged do not get treats as such, much. They are spoilt most of the time and do what they like, to with-in reason. But they have learnt in a very short time to trust me and feel safe. Except Tinkerbell that is.
The strong bond I have made with Pandis allows me to do things that nobdy has done in over twenty years.
I know he has to be taught how to behave while out with me.
Clicker training seems like a quick positive way to train.
I am just a bit more laid back and like to work with how the birds move forward.
 

BraveheartDogs

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Anything that helps you develope a strong bond has to be good.
Trust is a biggy.
I'm sorry I am not into teaching birds tricks. But that said, they do have to be taught how to behave in a captive environment.
If they are to be free flighted in your home, they have to be trained to some degree. Or how are you going to get them back in the cage, that's if they have to go into cages.
Treating is what has got me onside with so many of the Fids at the rescue.
My own not being caged do not get treats as such, much. They are spoilt most of the time and do what they like, to with-in reason. But they have learnt in a very short time to trust me and feel safe. Except Tinkerbell that is.
The strong bond I have made with Pandis allows me to do things that nobdy has done in over twenty years.
I know he has to be taught how to behave while out with me.
Clicker training seems like a quick positive way to train.
I am just a bit more laid back and like to work with how the birds move forward.
It isn't really about teaching "tricks" it is about strengthening the bond between you and an animal with cooperative training. Also, much, if not most of what can be trained are necessary behaviors like moving a bird from place to place, station training (go here and wait), and things like that. Most of the animals in zoos are trained too, we just train them to accept medical procedures and handling.
 

tonyasb

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Thanks for the wonderful information. I'm just learning about clicker training. Though I grew up with birds, we never did much training with any of them when I was a kid. My own Lucina is a 6 1/2 year old cockatiel who I've never worked very much on any kind of training. She naturally began flying to me as soon as she learned to fly and she's just got a sweet temper so I never saw the need. I'm now thinking I'd like to "exercise" her brain a little more though, give her something interesting to do instead of just hang out with me and I'm thinking training to do a few simple things would be a good way to do that and give us more bonding time.

Even though she does naturally fly to me, she's never done it on command. Basically, she trained me in that department. When she flies to me, I put out my hand! So I thought this might be a good area to start. With all the posts and tips for training I've been reading, I was going to start out by rewarding her for coming to me while I was close but we didn't get any farther than her hopping onto my hand. As soon as I began to reward her with a treat (millet is her favorite) she flew away. She did this several times until (dumb human that I am) I figured out that she appeared freaked out by my hand moving toward her with the treat in it. She was fine when the treat wasn't there, but for some reason the treat coming toward her freaked her out. I've read a lot in the last few days and haven't seen anything concerning this. Any ideas?

If it helps, she does like to eat my sandwich while sitting on my shoulder. Sometimes she'll even fly to me if I have a sandwich and try to take it from me! Should I bring her all the way to my shoulder before rewarding her?
 

Saemma

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:highfive: Thanks for sharing Vicki!! Can't wait to try Target Training this weekend with Mabel. These videos are GREAT!!
 

Euphoria

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im acturally trying to get sunni to perform a wing spread. i use the word eagle but i dont get how to make her spread her wings. any advice? ive been putting my fingers under both wings lifting em and say, eagle, click. treat.
 

Annamacaw

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im acturally trying to get sunni to perform a wing spread. i use the word eagle but i dont get how to make her spread her wings. any advice? ive been putting my fingers under both wings lifting em and say, eagle, click. treat.
I say "wingies" to Anna and Kita.... haven't figured out how to get Quito and Capri to spread their wings on command yet.....
 

Ariahna

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Great videos on a great subject. I understand where some of the negative feelings come from about clicker training, mostly it is the extreme trick training crowd that prescribe to extremely limited "training diets" and such in order to train their birds that have caused some of this.

I never put P.J. on a training diet in fact we usually do our training after his dinner. He gets so excited when he sees the target stick and clicker come out because he knows he will be having a fun mentally challenging time and get rewarded for it. :)

I see it more as a wonderful communication tool than anything else. P.J. has learned a few tricks, to come (fly to me) using a target stick and is working on harness training at just four months old, I don't think any of that would have been possible without clicker training.
 
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