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Clicker Training for Beginners - Lesson 1

BraveheartDogs

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Lesson 1

How clicker training works
In clicker training the click serves as a bridge between the behavior you want and the reinforcer. The click is a marker that marks the correct behavior. The reinforcer is going to be a food reward (more on that in just a minute). The click tells the animal "what you were doing when you heard the click was correct and I promise you that a food reward is on the way".

So, why not just reinforce, why do you need the clicker? The clicker allows you to mark or click behavior away from you. It gives you a moment to deliver the food after you click. It gives clearer, non emotional information to the animal. The click ALWAYS means a food reward, always, no exceptions. "Good boy", "Good girl", "Good bird" and other verbal praise or encouragement are fine, but they don't always lead to food, in fact, they may often lead to other things that the bird may or may not find reinforcing like petting or scritching. This is fine to use this in your training too because anything that the bird finds pleasant can be reinforcing but the click always equals a food reinforcer. Also, for many animals the clicker tells them it's training time and they are more likely to start working and offering behaviors.

Finding your birds reinforcers
While everyone is working on getting clickers, the first lesson will be to start testing reinforcers. The reinforcement will be food. You will need to test several different food items to figure out what works best for your bird. You want to find something the bird goes crazy for, not just eats. If your bird is not comfortable taking food from your hand, you can put a little dish in their cage or near them to drop the food into one reward at a time.

In my experience the small birds like budgies or cockatiels or bourkes like millet spray. You can use a spray of millet and just allow them a bite of millet per click. My Green Cheek Conure likes safflower seeds. This is the only time she gets them and they have proven to be her favorite. My amazon goes crazy for peanuts and sunflower seeds. To me peanuts are too large and fatty to use for training for him, so we use sunflower seeds and I save peanuts for specific training I am doing with locations.

The treat should be small enough so that the bird can eat it fairly quickly so that the training can have some momentum. The species and size of your bird will help to determine good things to test. Some ideas are millet, safflower seeds, sunflower seeds, almond slices, pine nuts, small bits of dried fruit like mango, papaya or banana. Just make sure that they are small. The seeds I use for training are not fed to my birds at any other time, they are strictly used for training and therefore limited and highly reinforcing.

Getting started
So, here is your assignment. Start trying different types of treats for your birds. Experiment and try several things. Keep notes of what they like the best. If your bird is fearful of hands, drop the treat in food cup. You can get a special little cup that signals training to the bird so that they understand to grab it and move on. This step in our training plan will actually take more time than you think because some birds will need to learn how to take the treats but that's ok, we have time:)

Once you have settled on your reinforcer I want you to experiment WITHOUT the bird around how you plan to hold and deliver your reinforcer. How will you hold it, how will you hand it to your bird or drop it into their cup? All of this needs to be ironed our BEFORE you bring the learner into the picture. If you don't have a clear idea of how things will go that will confuse the learner. It is our responsibility as trainers to have this worked out before we go into our training plan.

Ok, off you go! Please let me know if you have questions or need help. And, let me know when you all get clickers.
 

Ede-bird

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I can hardly wait to get started! Is there anyway to save these threads so that I can find it easily again? ( I'm not very computer savvy)
 
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itzmered

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Maureen you can go to thread tools and subscribe to the thread. You can then find it by going to your user contol panel ( userCP) at the top of every page. Hope this helps.
 

Oknuma

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yay lesson 1
I am going to be trying batman with millet as i can use a longer piece to allow a bite and not be upsetting her by expecting her to eat out of my hand.

RB i think will be getting either millet or sunflower seeds but not 100% sure yet.

clicker should be here by end of week or early next week :D
 

BraveheartDogs

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yay lesson 1
I am going to be trying batman with millet as i can use a longer piece to allow a bite and not be upsetting her by expecting her to eat out of my hand.

RB i think will be getting either millet or sunflower seeds but not 100% sure yet.

clicker should be here by end of week or early next week :D
That is a great decision on the millet. I love using millet spray for that exact reason. The length of the millet gives the bird from distance from your hand which makes many of them more comfortable:) Good work!
 

BraveheartDogs

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I am going to be moving on to Lesson 2 very soon. How is everyone doing on the finding your reinforcers?
 

cmoore

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I have two caiques, and here's what I use as training treats:

- nuts, broken into VERY small pieces (walnuts, pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds)
- unsweetened banana chips, broken into very small pieces
- sesame seeds
- sips of 100% juice
- teeny tiny pieces of cheese (about the size of a sesame seed)

It's a great idea to use 2 or 3 different reinforcers during each training session to mix things up a bit and keep it interesting for the bird.

It's also a good idea to identify your bird's absolute MOST favorite treat or two and reserve that for training really challenging or important behaviors, like recall. If your bird knows that every time he comes to you he gets his favorite thing, he's very likely to come to you! Use other treats (slightly less high value) for regular training sessions.

It's also a good idea to re-test your bird every so often to see if his favorite treats have changed. (Of course, you guys won't have to worry about this for a while, since you're just getting started! But I figured I'd mention it under the treat testing thread, since it fits in best here.)

Most parrots also really love DRAMA, so I try to give a lot of praise, wave my hands, and make it a party as well as giving treats. Please remember that praise should not be used INSTEAD of treats, just in addition to treats! It's very important that EVERY single time your bird hears a click (that's meant for him) he gets a treat, otherwise the click will stop being effective. (This is also how you can train multiple birds at once, or train a bird while other birds are in earshot - if they don't get a treat after the click, they know it wasn't for them.)
 

BraveheartDogs

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I have two caiques, and here's what I use as training treats:

- nuts, broken into VERY small pieces (walnuts, pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds)
- unsweetened banana chips, broken into very small pieces
- sesame seeds
- sips of 100% juice
- teeny tiny pieces of cheese (about the size of a sesame seed)

It's a great idea to use 2 or 3 different reinforcers during each training session to mix things up a bit and keep it interesting for the bird.

It's also a good idea to identify your bird's absolute MOST favorite treat or two and reserve that for training really challenging or important behaviors, like recall. If your bird knows that every time he comes to you he gets his favorite thing, he's very likely to come to you! Use other treats (slightly less high value) for regular training sessions.

It's also a good idea to re-test your bird every so often to see if his favorite treats have changed. (Of course, you guys won't have to worry about this for a while, since you're just getting started! But I figured I'd mention it under the treat testing thread, since it fits in best here.)

Most parrots also really love DRAMA, so I try to give a lot of praise, wave my hands, and make it a party as well as giving treats. Please remember that praise should not be used INSTEAD of treats, just in addition to treats! It's very important that EVERY single time your bird hears a click (that's meant for him) he gets a treat, otherwise the click will stop being effective. (This is also how you can train multiple birds at once, or train a bird while other birds are in earshot - if they don't get a treat after the click, they know it wasn't for them.)

Yes, it's a great idea to know the levels of value of different treats so that you can use that when you need to up the ante or use a different one.

How is everyone doing on finding their reinforcers?
 

Saemma

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I have two caiques, and here's what I use as training treats:

- nuts, broken into VERY small pieces (walnuts, pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds)
- unsweetened banana chips, broken into very small pieces
- sesame seeds
- sips of 100% juice
- teeny tiny pieces of cheese (about the size of a sesame seed)

It's a great idea to use 2 or 3 different reinforcers during each training session to mix things up a bit and keep it interesting for the bird.

It's also a good idea to identify your bird's absolute MOST favorite treat or two and reserve that for training really challenging or important behaviors, like recall. If your bird knows that every time he comes to you he gets his favorite thing, he's very likely to come to you! Use other treats (slightly less high value) for regular training sessions.

It's also a good idea to re-test your bird every so often to see if his favorite treats have changed. (Of course, you guys won't have to worry about this for a while, since you're just getting started! But I figured I'd mention it under the treat testing thread, since it fits in best here.)

Most parrots also really love DRAMA, so I try to give a lot of praise, wave my hands, and make it a party as well as giving treats. Please remember that praise should not be used INSTEAD of treats, just in addition to treats! It's very important that EVERY single time your bird hears a click (that's meant for him) he gets a treat, otherwise the click will stop being effective. (This is also how you can train multiple birds at once, or train a bird while other birds are in earshot - if they don't get a treat after the click, they know it wasn't for them.)

that's awesome info.:dance4: I was wondering if I could just praise instead of give treats.. now I understand that the treats must be present in order to be effective.:dance4: Thanks!!
 

BraveheartDogs

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that's awesome info.:dance4: I was wondering if I could just praise instead of give treats.. now I understand that the treats must be present in order to be effective.:dance4: Thanks!!
Yes, you must always treat after you click. But, you can still use other reinforcers like praise, scritches, petting or whatever your birds like you just wouldn't do that after clicking:)
 

Saemma

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Thanks Vicky!! I feel like I'll have to be trained to have treats available after a "click":D
 

CarmieJo

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Howard says he likes Utz White Cheddar Curls as much as he likes Cheetos! Seriously, I went to Whole Foods and bought about two TBS of 10 different things out of the bulk food section. The lady at the check out counter looked at me funny. :p Anyhow, so far he just hasn't really been thrilled with raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds, oat groats, sprouted (and then dried) mung beans, almond slivers, or barley. I have pine nuts, walnuts, wheat berries and buckwheat to try. He eats good, but he never attacks his food. The only thing we have ever given him that he really tucked into was Avian Naturals Tails Up Power Mash. Somehow I don't see mash as a very practical training treat.
 
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Oknuma

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I think we have found ours

RB is all about the millet
and i was going to use millet with batman but then i remember she is a cheese freak! She wont take it from my hand but if i cut long thing pieces and let her have a nibble with a click then that could be a good place to start right ?
 

Renae

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I got a clicker today! woohoo. :dancing:

I am going to be using millet, I was going to use sunflower seeds.. but it takes them a bit to get it open and then eat it.. :rolleyes: they try make it last.
 

GG.

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what about using bits of shelled sunflower seeds?
 

BraveheartDogs

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Howard says he likes Utz White Cheddar Curls as much as he likes Cheetos! Seriously, I went to Whole Foods and bought about two TBS of 10 different things out of the bulk food section. The lady at the check out counter looked at me funny. :p Anyhow, so far he just hasn't really been thrilled with raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds, oat groats, sprouted (and then dried) mung beans, almond slivers, or barley. I have pine nuts, walnuts, wheat berries and buckwheat to try. He eats good, but he never attacks his food. The only thing we have ever given him that he really tucked into was Avian Naturals Tails Up Power Mash. Somehow I don't see mash as a very practical training treat.

Actually, if you had a spoon and you clicked and then gave a bite that would probably work. I sometimes use baby food pears, just a bite off the spoon with Papaya and it works well for him.
 

BraveheartDogs

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I think we have found ours

RB is all about the millet
and i was going to use millet with batman but then i remember she is a cheese freak! She wont take it from my hand but if i cut long thing pieces and let her have a nibble with a click then that could be a good place to start right ?
I got a clicker today! woohoo. :dancing:

I am going to be using millet, I was going to use sunflower seeds.. but it takes them a bit to get it open and then eat it.. :rolleyes: they try make it last.
Millet is great a lot of birds love it plus you get the length which is great for fearful birds.
 

Sharpie

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Jasper will probably work for a taste of juice (from a syringe so it's less of a mess) too. I KNOW sunflower seeds thrill him, but I really should look at some other things too I can mix it up and keep him from being bored. I like some of the ideas here.
 

logo89

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Im late joining class but I have a question on the treat. So it should be something they love but not their favorite since you need the best for more difficult tasks?
 
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