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Clicker training

WillowQ

Rollerblading along the road
Joined
2/4/23
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1,955
Real Name
Heather Gerbyshak
I’m trying use clicker training to train my Quaker and to a lesser extent my Meyers parrot.

My problem is that I don’t have enough hands to do all the things I’m supposed to be doing. Also the Quaker didn’t have many toys before coming to me so every new item has to be conditioned in.

my boy finally decided a kitty jingle ball is ok after I gave him treats to reward him for touching it. Now he will pick it up, hold it, and then drop it into my hand.

I would like to teach him to play basketball but he was afraid of the little budgie basketball hoop and now is afraid of the slightly bigger metal hoop that arrived yesterday. So it’s sitting three feet away while we visit.

I got a clicker on Monday and Quaker thinks that’s scary too. But also I’m not coordinated enough to manage the ball, the clicker, the reward, and the bird at the same time.
We were training on his perching basket but now he’s protective of the basket, too.
I feel like I’m too dumb and clumsy to teach Willow to play basketball. I’m also wishing I had a wood shop because a wooden basketball hoop would be less scary for him. (Maybe we’ll spray paint the shiny metal in a month when it’s warmer.)

do I really need to use this clicker for best training? It’s another new thing to accustom him to and another item I must manipulate. I may just do prompt “Good boy”s and seed rewards.
 

Tazlima

Jogging around the block
Joined
3/7/19
Messages
623
Let's examine what characteristics of the clicker sound make it a good choice for training.

1) It's distinctive. Nothing else in the environment sounds like it, so it's easy to distinguish from background sounds.

2) It's relatively loud and the sound carries. (Although it's not THAT loud. For aquatic animals, trainers usually use whistles rather than clickers because they're easier to hear underwater).

3) Anyone can use it. This is helpful when more than one person may be involved with training. Imagine an elderly woman, an adult man, and a small child each saying "good boy." The same words can sound very different in different voices, and it can be difficult for an animal to realize they're saying the same thing. With a clicker, they all make the exact same sound.

4) It's brief - "goooooooood booooooy" covers a lot of time, during which behavior may change. That can make it more difficult for the bird to determine exactly which behavior is the one being rewarded, and you may accidentally teach it something other than what you're going for.

5) It's mechanical - you don't appreciate this little detail until you have a pet trained to voice commands, and then you get sick and lose your voice for a few days, rendering you unable to communicate as well as usual, or you usually call your dog inside by whistling, and then one day you get chapped lips and can't whistle.

However, there's nothing "special" about the clicker sound that makes it better than any other training bridge. There are plenty of other sounds that meet some or all of these criteria. Indeed, while it's great for initial training of a new behavior, you generally want to phase out clicker use or substitute something else over time, because you may not always have a clicker on you. You can train just as well with a quick "good" (instead of the longer "good boy"), or a click of the tongue, or a snap of the fingers. If your treat cup is metal or hard plastic, you could tap it with your nail. Heck, you could do like aquatic trainers and get a whistle to hang around your neck and give little tweets as needed. Holding that in your mouth would free up your hands for everything else.

Whatever sound you choose to use, just keep these elements in mind and you'll be fine.
 
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WillowQ

Rollerblading along the road
Joined
2/4/23
Messages
1,955
Real Name
Heather Gerbyshak
Let's examine what characteristics of the clicker sound make it a good choice for training.

1) It's distinctive. Nothing else in the environment sounds like it, so it's easy to distinguish from background sounds.

2) It's relatively loud and the sound carries. (Although it's not THAT loud. For aquatic animals, trainers usually use whistles rather than clickers because they're easier to hear underwater).

3) Anyone can use it. This is helpful when more than one person may be involved with training. Imagine an elderly woman, an adult man, and a small child each saying "good boy." The same words can sound very different in different voices, and it can be difficult for an animal to realize they're saying the same thing. With a clicker, they all make the exact same sound.

4) It's brief - "goooooooood booooooy" covers a lot of time, during which behavior may change. That can make it more difficult for the bird to determine exactly which behavior is the one being rewarded, and you may accidentally teach it something other than what you're going for.

5) It's mechanical - you don't appreciate this little detail until you have a pet trained to voice commands, and then you get sick and lose your voice for a few days, rendering you unable to communicate as well as usual, or you usually call your dog inside by whistling, and then one day you get chapped lips and can't whistle.

However, there's nothing "special" about the clicker sound that makes it better than any other training bridge. There are plenty of other sounds that meet some or all of these criteria. Indeed, while it's great for initial training of a new behavior, you generally want to phase out clicker use or substitute something else over time, because you may not always have a clicker on you. You can train just as well with a quick "good" (instead of the longer "good boy"), or a click of the tongue, or a snap of the fingers. If your treat cup is metal or hard plastic, you could tap it with your nail. Heck, you could do like aquatic trainers and get a whistle to hang around your neck and give little tweets as needed. Holding that in your mouth would free up your hands for everything else.

Whatever sound you choose to use, just keep these elements in mind and you'll be fine.
Thank you for your analysis. Yes, I agree that timing is very important in training. I’ve been able to capture a lot of natural behaviors and use them later by being very aware of timing and cueing / rewarding the bird. My birds generally relieve themselves on command when they’re out with me.
I think we’re not going to use the clicker. It’s another scary item for Willow and it’s hard for me to manipulate especially if I have to hide it. I bet a tongue click would work and not involve my hands. I sing and so am also pretty used to spitting out words.
Willow’s fear of new things is really complicating this trick training business. I’m also pretty sure he is more ok with natural materials, so I have the go ahead to find or build props.
 
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Spearmint

Rollerblading along the road
Celebirdy of the Month
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1,226
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Elk [He/They]
I get this! I tried clicker training a while back, but couldn't juggle all the items. And this is also why target training took me so long.
As great as a clicker is, we can make the same noise with our mouth. Or a "yes!".

Choose a noise or word that won't be heard elsewhere, so "good boy" doesn't work for training.
 
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