Training Tidbit – HECK YES!
Our birds are self motivated. When we asses what our birds are willing to work for, it’s our birds who decide what’s awesome and what’s less awesome. Does your bird prefer cashews or almonds? Head rubs or foot toys? Singing or dancing? The bird decides.
Making it more difficult, some items are only valuable for limited times. Headrubs are only valuable between 8-9pm. Cashews are great, but after a while lose their appeal. Satiation can change their views. That’s why it’s great to have a list of 10 food items and 10 non-food items that your bird values. Please try to keep these bird appropriate (no cheezies!) or find bird-safe approximations (instead of coffee, offer warm water in a mug).
It’s our job to use those motivators in such a way that our birds say HECK YES to whatever we are asking. Want to step up? Heck yes! If your bird isn’t saying Heck Yes, what can we do? One thing is to look at the motivator. Let’s start there. (environment) We will also visit pre-arranging scenarios (antecedent arrangement) as well as practice (positive reinforcement)
Why does your bird like you? Because you’re a snappy dresser? Because of your taste in music? Because you change the food bowl? Because you have value to your bird. You could be the bringer-of-treats, or designated-head-rubber, or even transporter-of-featherbutts, you have value to your bird. In deciding what your bird likes, be sure to consider his point of view!
If you know your bird likes cashews, and they still won’t come down off the curtain rod, it’s time for another approach. Practice! It can be useful to practice step ups in a variety of locations, with a reinforcer each time.
Be sure to practice each scenario so the bird has history of reinforcement. New people always = awesome things, when you come down off the curtain rod you still get headrubs and still get to play. Then the next time you ask, the bid can say Heck Yes, because last time was awesome!
What about arranging the scenario to your advantage? What about going into the cage? What could we do to make the experience a HECK YES! We can practice going into and out of the cage, for a reinforcer each time. Or what about sometimes you go in your cage and it’s filled with hidden treats, that I put there when you weren’t looking? Would that be awesome? Would that make the next time I ask you to go to your cage a Heck Yes?
What about dropping the forbidden chapstick? What could we do to make the situation easy for the bird to say HECK YES. That’s a pretty valuable forbidden item. In that case, we practice with a less desirable object, like a piece of crumpled paper. We teach a “drop it” on cue, in exchange for a reinforcer. With enough practice and repetitions, this behaviour can be a life saver (chapstick saver?)