Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Training with Positive Reinforcement is Positive Reinforcement to Me!

I really love working with my animals using positive reinforcement.
Although working out how to reinforce my leopard geckos in such a way that they associate the behavior with the food is a challenge, it's still a lot of fun. I'm working on training my fat boy leo Samir to walk onto a scale at the moment. So far I've been concentrating on desensitizing him to the scale in his tank, but eventually I plan to feed his mealworms only on the scales surface, so he associates going on the tank with yummy, wiggly mealies.

Today I was working again with my African Grey Marnie. I have been slowly working on recall with her as she has finally grown in some primaries on the damaged wing. She normally picks up behaviors quickly, but for her this behavior has been a challenge. She normally only flies because she's spooking at something, so the concept of flying because she wants too is foreign to her. Still we have slowly been working on her stepping out onto my palm and gradually increasing the distance my palm is from the training perch. Now she is leaning forward and catching her beak on my thumb and helping herself over to the hand with a little flap of the wings.
Marnie works best with a lot of excited verbal encouragement when she is hesitating, so my neighbours quite often hear me through the screen on my patio saying "Hi Baby! Marnie Baby! Ready!! Come Here!!!!!" in a high pitched squeaky voice.

Lucha was already put up for the night when I was working with Marnie (he's an old man who likes to go to sleep with the sun), Puff ended up alone on the playscape. It was interesting to see him with his eyes glued on Marnie and I.
When he first came he was fascinated by Marnie interacting with me, and I credit this version of the Model/Rival method with teaching him to trust me and to step up.
He's been a little disinterested for a while, and has been a little sticky in training. For example he has been holding out for an almond in the shell before he would step up from the playscape.
Tonight however I put Marnie up for the night after our training session and heard repeated "step up?" coming from the playscape. Without getting any treat, I walked over to the playscape. Puff rushed over to where I was standing and presented his foot, stepped up and went back to his cage with zero clicking or eye pinning!

All in all today has been hugely rewarding for me, and yet another reason why I will continue to work with my animals using positive reinforcement.