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Clicker Training for Beginners Lesson 4

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BraveheartDogs

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Target Training
Target training means that you teach the bird to open his beak on a "target". In our case, the target is going to be a target stick. I use a chopstick for all of my birds. You could also use a pen, a dowel or some other thin stick.

We are going to train this behavior by "shaping" it. Shaping means that you mark and reinforce (click and treat) approximations towards the finished behavior instead of trying to get the entire behavior right away. Shaping is great because it allows you to set criteria low enough so that the animal can always have success.

Before you start training you might want to have a few little sessions in another room without your bird to practice and prepare for how you will execute your training. You need to decide which hand you will hold the target stick in, which hand you will hold the clicker in and how and where you will deliver the treat.

If I am training with seeds or anything that is individual pieces then I will put them on the desk next to me so that I can reach for one after every click. In this case, I would have the clicker in one hand and the target stick in the other hand and I set the clicker down after each click so I can hand the bird a treat. If I am training with millet, I hold the millet in the same hand as the clicker (if the bird is comfortable with that). I can then click and present the millet spray so the bird can take a little bite.

Train in 10 treat sessions. The bird can be inside or outside of his cage initially. The first step is for the bird to just look at the target stick, not touch it. This is great because if the bird is leery of new things, the target stick is far enough away so that he can build an association between the stick and the food.

Present the target stick to the bird, and click and treat the bird for looking towards it. If the bird shows any signs of fear, hold the stick further way. Repeat this 10 times in each session. Put the target stick behind your back each time when you are feeding. This is important because we don't want the bird to look at the stick but not get rewarded.

Probably very quickly the bird will become excited when you present the stick. The next step is to present the stick but don't click just for looking at it, instead hold out and see if the bird will lean towards it, then click and treat. If your bird was afraid of the stick you will just be holding the stick closer and closer as the bird becomes more comfortable.

Continue like this until your bird actually puts his open beak onto the stick.

Your steps might look something like this:

Looking at the target stick
Leaning towards the target stick
Leaning even more to the target stick
Opening beak while leaning forward
Putting open beak on the target stick

You can probably see why I have been asking people not to jump ahead. I see people get excited with training all the time and want to jump ahead before having the mechanical skills or a training plan in place and then they end up confusing themselves and the animal and giving up when the animal "doesn't get it". Except, it's not that the animal doesn't get it, it is that the training was flawed. There is so much to think about and plan for before bringing the animal into the mix. Because I train for a living it is important that I not only set the animal up for success but also that I get results. I have learned that it is critical to have a plan in place and know what your next step will be.

Happy Clicking!
 
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cmoore

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Lots of people ask, "Why teach targeting?" It seems like a not-very-useful behavior at first glance. It's actually a really useful behavior for a lot of reasons:

a) It's easy to teach, and it's a great way for both you and your bird to get the hang of the "clicker game."

b) You can use it to move your bird from place to place without force or risking being bitten.

c) You can use it to teach a lot of other tricks, such as go through a tunnel, spin in a circle, go into a travel carrier, step up onto a new perch, climb a ladder, etc.

d) You can use it to show your bird that objects and places aren't scary. Since the "touch the stick" behavior is one that will soon be very familiar to your bird, you can use it to slowly convince him to move closer and closer to things that are at first scary, and eventually to touch the scary object on his own. I've used this many times to teach my birds that new objects are not so bad.
 

BraveheartDogs

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Lots of people ask, "Why teach targeting?" It seems like a not-very-useful behavior at first glance. It's actually a really useful behavior for a lot of reasons:

a) It's easy to teach, and it's a great way for both you and your bird to get the hang of the "clicker game."

b) You can use it to move your bird from place to place without force or risking being bitten.

c) You can use it to teach a lot of other tricks, such as go through a tunnel, spin in a circle, go into a travel carrier, step up onto a new perch, climb a ladder, etc.

d) You can use it to show your bird that objects and places aren't scary. Since the "touch the stick" behavior is one that will soon be very familiar to your bird, you can use it to slowly convince him to move closer and closer to things that are at first scary, and eventually to touch the scary object on his own. I've used this many times to teach my birds that new objects are not so bad.
I totally agree! I think it's a great thing to start with and it's fairly easy to teach:)
 

rocabird

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You can probably see why I have been asking people not to jump ahead. I see people get excited with training all the time and want to jump ahead before having the mechanical skills or a training plan in place and then they end up confusing themselves and the animal and giving up when the animal "doesn't get it". Except, it's not that the animal doesn't get it, it is that the training was flawed. There is so much to think about and plan for before bringing the animal into the mix. Because I train for a living it is important that I not only set the animal up for success but also that I get results. I have learned that it is critical to have a plan in place and know what your next step will be.

Happy Clicking!


Sorry for jumping ahead. Please no one follow my lead. I've been clicker training for a long time and targeting is always the first thing I teach.

Having worked with birds, do you have a recommendation as to how many times the bird should get that particular step correct before moving onto the next step? 80% is the rule I am used to following. Do you find you can do better with birds?

Eco has picked up beaking the stick real quick. He didn't show much of a response to the clicker when I was charging the clicker, but when I click for beaking the stick he quickly lets go and looks for his treat, so he "gets it"!

 

BraveheartDogs

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Sorry for jumping ahead. Please no one follow my lead. I've been clicker training for a long time and targeting is always the first thing I teach.

Having worked with birds, do you have a recommendation as to how many times the bird should get that particular step correct before moving onto the next step? 80% is the rule I am used to following. Do you find you can do better with birds?

Eco has picked up beaking the stick real quick. He didn't show much of a response to the clicker when I was charging the clicker, but when I click for beaking the stick he quickly lets go and looks for his treat, so he "gets it"!

80% is standard and I think it's a very safe percentage to go by:)

That is excellent about Eco! I also find that sometimes the prop helps them understand the concept more.
 

cmoore

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Hey clicker training crew, how is this going? Post and let us know how your target training is progressing!
 

Cynth

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Eco has picked up beaking the stick real quick. He didn't show much of a response to the clicker when I was charging the clicker, but when I click for beaking the stick he quickly lets go and looks for his treat, so he "gets it"!
This is what all three of my conures did. They beaked every time, but they finally started letting go when I clicked and looked for the treat.

I blew it and started with this so do I need to just let them look at it and then click or is that for birds that wont beak? Also is there a word we are supposed to use for them to "beak"? Or follow?
I think I will have to do this with a toothpick with the budgies. :hehe:
Also is it good to change the "stick" sometimes to get them to understand different sticks so they aren't just seeing the same stick or if we lose it we aren't back to square one? or is this too much?
 

BraveheartDogs

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This is what all three of my conures did. They beaked every time, but they finally started letting go when I clicked and looked for the treat.

I blew it and started with this so do I need to just let them look at it and then click or is that for birds that wont beak? Also is there a word we are supposed to use for them to "beak"? Or follow?
I think I will have to do this with a toothpick with the budgies. :hehe:
Also is it good to change the "stick" sometimes to get them to understand different sticks so they aren't just seeing the same stick or if we lose it we aren't back to square one? or is this too much?

I use a chopstick with budgies too:)

If they beaked it and you clicked and they let go, that's actually perfect! You didn't do anything wrong. Keep doing that.

The behavior for right now it to click when they beak the stick, if they let go after you click that's fine, it tells you that they know a treat is coming. Good job!

No, you don't need to change sticks:)

No, you don't need to name the behavior yet, we will do add the cue later.
 

cmoore

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You don't *need* to switch up the stick you use, but if your bird gets really good at targeting and will walk or climb to get to the stick and beak it, you can start introducing different target sticks. When you first introduce a new target stick, go back to square one with training - that is, train it as if your bird has never seen a target stick before. He'll quickly understand that it's the same game even though the stick looks different.

I started out using an orange plastic stick that came with my clicker book, but ended up teaching my caiques to target to a chopstick, pen, or pencil. I did this because I often misplaced my actual target stick, but I always have lots of pens handy.
 

rocabird

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Thought I would post a little training update. I had been able to capture Eco targeting and he was doing okay with it until Sunday. He wanted nothing to do with the target so I took a few days off. He is still adjusting to a new environment. I started back up, reduced the number of responses I had been doing from 10 to 5 and had to shape a little to get him to start beaking the stick again. He did better today. Hopefully we are over that little bump and will be ready to move on to the next step.
 

BraveheartDogs

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Thought I would post a little training update. I had been able to capture Eco targeting and he was doing okay with it until Sunday. He wanted nothing to do with the target so I took a few days off. He is still adjusting to a new environment. I started back up, reduced the number of responses I had been doing from 10 to 5 and had to shape a little to get him to start beaking the stick again. He did better today. Hopefully we are over that little bump and will be ready to move on to the next step.

That was a good choice to lower the number of repititions. I like that a lot. Always make it easier so that the bird can have success! Good job!
 

zoomama

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I'm just ready to start this step. It took forever to find a treat that Risa was really crazy about. We settled on bits of Cheerios. So we're just catching up. She's done really well so far, but for some reason, I'm nervous about trying this step. I have no idea why. I'm going to try practicing it without her, like you suggested, and not bring her in until I feel more confident. Does anyone else ever get nervous at this step? What do you think is happening? Thanks.
 

BraveheartDogs

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I'm just ready to start this step. It took forever to find a treat that Risa was really crazy about. We settled on bits of Cheerios. So we're just catching up. She's done really well so far, but for some reason, I'm nervous about trying this step. I have no idea why. I'm going to try practicing it without her, like you suggested, and not bring her in until I feel more confident. Does anyone else ever get nervous at this step? What do you think is happening? Thanks.
Okay, let's flesh this out before you start. Can you not identify why you feel nervous? My guess is that you are worried you will do something wrong. Here is the great thing about clicker training, while poor timing or execution may slow things down you will not hurt your bird:)

What I would like to do is to give you some specific homework.

Practice with the stick, treats and clicker without your bird. If there is someone else in the home with you, try it with their hand (shaped like a dog head) being the bird. Or, if you have another pet, try it with that one.

When you are ready to add your bird, make your criteria very small and I want you to have less reps, like 5 so that you can set your clicker down and think about it and not stress out.

Does this help at all?

It is really important that I don't make training aversive or punishing to my trainers either:) In my classes, I am constantly having to modify things for clients based on many variables and we can do that here too. If it is punishing to you, you won't want to train:)
 

zoomama

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Thanks Vicki...that's exactly it. I'm afraid I will do something wrong. It makes me feel better to know that if I'm not spot on, it won't ruin it for the rest of the training :) I'll try your recommendations with my dogs (hope they don't try to eat my chopsticks :p) I'll let you know how I make out. Thanks again!
 

BraveheartDogs

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Thanks Vicki...that's exactly it. I'm afraid I will do something wrong. It makes me feel better to know that if I'm not spot on, it won't ruin it for the rest of the training :) I'll try your recommendations with my dogs (hope they don't try to eat my chopsticks :p) I'll let you know how I make out. Thanks again!

Perfect! You can try it with your dogs with your hand as the target so you are first practicing without holding a target stick. Then practice with the stick without the bird, then add the bird:)
 

ohohraptor

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So I conditioned the clicker a few days ago and we've been working on targeting for two days now. It seems like Layla caught on really quick, yesterday we trained on her play stand and she touched the stick maybe 50 or 60% of the time, and this morning she touched it maybe 80% of the time. Both sessions have only been about 10 minutes as I wanted to keep her interested. I didn't count how many times we tried though, although I will from now on. I'm wondering though, how do you know she is touching it because she knows the command "touch" means beak the stick and click=millet? Sometimes I think she's just touching the stick because I extend it near her or in her cage and she is curious so she has to investigate. Oh, and she will now go all the way across her cage to touch the stick. I can put it above, below, and across the other end of the cage and she will find a way to get to it most of the time.

EDIT: Oh and I don't remember if you remember my post from a few weeks ago about my concern about bringing a bird into the house with 2 terriers, but your advice helped SO much. The dogs were very interested at first, but now they ignore her for the most part.
 
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DidiBird

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I have a question!

I haven't started any training yet. I just brought home my baby Queen of Bavaria Conure one month ago, he just turned 4 months. However I am definitely going to be clicker training him in the near future.

So thing is, this little guy is super curious, and more or less not scared of anything. So I know that if I present him with a target stick, he's immediately going to go for it. So in cases like this where they don't need to be made to feel more comfortable around the stick, are all the in betweener steps necessary? If so, is it necessary to really break it down that much, or could it be as simple as 1) Looking at stick 2) Stepping towards stick 3) Touching/beaking stick?

Thanks! :dance4:
 
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