An introduction to targeting behavior for all birds
What’s the Click; an introduction to targeting, a foundation behavior for all birds including cage bound birds.
By Scott Robins, Head Trainer
Scott Robins Edutainment, Inc.
Hello again. In my last post, you learned how to teach your bird what the sound of the clicker means. Once you have built that connection, you are ready to move forward. Another foundational element to training is to teach your bird how to target. For this, you will need a target stick. You could obtain a quarter inch wooden dowel inexpensively, or you could use a wooden spoon, or for smaller birds like parakeets or cockatiels, a chopstick also will work. Once you have your target stick we can move forward.
Now you may be asking, Why? Targeting is an foundation behavior. We use targeting to help point out desired direction, objects, and to help shape more advanced behaviors. Also, targeting is crucial to help teach cage bound birds how to come out of their cage. Currently, my blue and gold macaw (16 yrs. Old) Moe, is very hormonal and aggressive. Because he targets well, I can use a target to distract him or to relocate him without having to directly handle him. In about a month or so, his hormones should calm down and he should be more handle able. Targeting can be taught with your bird in its cage as well as on a T stand. I also do targeting on my table surface regularly.
Okay, I am assuming once again, that your bird is on the T stand. I always present the target stick to my new birds with some distance between the stick and the bird. For the first couple of trials, I simply present the stick and watch my bird’s reaction. I look for the slightest look at the stick. I c/t as soon as the bird looks in the direction of the target stick. What I am doing initially, is to desensitize the bird from the presence of the stick. After a couple of trials, I am looking for slow progress forward. Logically, the next behavior change beyond just a look is for your bird to take a step or a lean towards the stick. Again, c/t for the additional movement towards the stick. Although it may not appear so, we are moving forward. Some birds will simply be bold enough to move to the stick and touch our bite it. C/T immediately. In fact, you may choose to reward your bird with a “jackpot” of several treats or a treat that is extremely high value. Once your bird will move to the stick and touch it, you can turn it into a game for a few days. With the target game, you can encourage your bird to follow the target for a few steps in, on, and around its cage or play stand. For birds that like to play on the floor, you can even do targeting exercises with your bird on the floor.
For cage bound birds (older amazons are frequent victims of this), get your bird to follow the target around the inside of the cage. Do this with the cage door open if your bird is not threatened. When your cage bound bird follows the target stick well, the goal is to slowly build the confidence in your bird to target near the open door. Once you can get your bird there, use targeting sessions to encourage your bird to come out. Also very important, THINK SMALL STEPS. I always work at the pace of the bird. If your bird is timid and only comes out briefly before turning around and going back in, it is okay. Your goal here is to work towards having your bird come all the way out of its cage and to perch on the open door or on top of the cage. You may also want to place a small perch on the door for your bird. In dog training, we do many exercises like “down” where we work at building duration for the behavior. You can encourage your cage bound bird to hang out with you on top of its cage by offering special treats or perhaps its daily fruit and veggie portion in the new special feeding location.
Go to www.youtube.com/scottr751 to see targeting video clip samples. Check us out at www.scottrobinsedutainment.com . Please bear in mind that we all crawl before we walk. Teaching foundational behaviors is important to both you and your bird. You are learning how to communicate with each other. As a novice, you are also going to become a better observer of your birds behavior and even smallest movements. You are going to improve your timing to deliver the click, or your bridge signal, quickly combined with the reward. As a novice, you will be learning as much as your bird. Okay, keep clicking. Make sure that you work with your bird daily. The fun is just beginning.
Thank you to Mitch and Catherine at Windycityparrot.com
Scott Robins Edutainment, Inc.