Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

The Instant Expert

Friday, May 24th, 2013

I have a new post over on the Companion Bird World Blog … just a short one. Hop over and take a look.



Extinction Defined

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

One often hears about this procedure in connection with undesirable behaviors such as excessively loud vocalization by companion parrots. It is also a term that is often used incorrectly so here is a short discussion of extinction.

In operant training, the procedure of withholding the reinforcers that maintain a behavior.
Paul Chance – Learning and Behavior.

While this is fairly simple to understand there are a couple of challenges with the use of this procedure. First it requires that the trainer really knows what the reinforcers are that are maintaining a behavior. In addition to this the trainer needs control of those reinforcers and sometimes the reinforcers are not in our control, making the application of extinction just not possible.

There is one more term that is worth discussing here with extinction and that is the extinction burst.

A sudden increase in the rate of behavior during the early stages of extinction.
Paul Chance, Learning and Behavior.

This effect of the extinction procedure is one that can set the caretaker of the parrot up to end up reinforcing a higher level vocalization just because they cannot stand the extinction burst level and they reinforce the higher level by reacting to it. This reinforcement, because it is not delivered after every vocalization is what is called intermittent reinforcement. A term to be discussed in a future article. For now the important part of understanding intermittent reinforcement is that it builds behavior that is more resistant to extinction. This serves to make the effective application of an extinction procedure even more difficult.


Raptor Class Testimonial

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

We are in the process of organizing and promoting the 2013 Raptor Handling Class. This will be the 10th year of presenting this class that was was conceived to raise the bar for anyone working with raptors in education programs. Over the years we have collected some wonderful comments from our attendees with our end-of-class survey. However, just a few days ago I received the following in an email from Joan Cass who came to the 2012 class from the Tucson Wildlife Center in Tucson, AZ.

Hello! I took the class last summer, and I wanted to tell you of my progress. When I returned to Tucson Wildlife Center here in Tucson, I began working with our three-year-old imprinted American kestrel falcon. She was used to coming to the glove for food but not much more. After new jesses were put on, I went daily for three weeks, using yummy mouse organs for rewards. I built her a small transport box and one for our GHOs (photo attached). (They are so wonderfully light and easy to carry!)


Over the weeks and months I slowly introduced out little Kiki to the world, and now she is happy to attend whatever gathering we ask her to. She is used to dogs, generators, running children, and umbrellas. When the breeze comes up she opens her wings (I call it glove surfing) and shows off her lovely tail.

Only once she worried us by ducking and scanning the area. We noticed two Harris’ hawks circling far above us. She had seen the shadow from under the pop-up tent.

Thanks for providing this course and giving me the credibility and the confidence to move ahead with her training!

Thank you
Joan Cass

This is exactly why I present this class and this note from Joan is great reinforcement. Please visit this link for information about the 2013 class and raise the bar for the birds in your collection.

Keep soaring,

Punishment and missed opportunities

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

I have to admit it is very encouraging to see the growing number of people talking about training these days who are becoming more and more familiar with the science of behavior change. Just every now and then however I am having a conversation or sitting in a meeting and I hear something that makes me think … really? That happened recently and I thought that maybe a short blog telling the story might help people understand this valuable science a little better and also to really think about places in everyday life where we can apply our most positive, least intrusive strategies to behavior change.

The story begins with our “hero” walking in a park behind a group of several young women. The young women are deep in chatter and generally having a great time. They, and our hero, continue through the park in the same direction, at one point one of the young women finishes the candy bar she had been eating. Don’t you hate how young people can eat anything and not gain weight? Anyway, I digress. With the candy bar finished she purposefully throws the wrapper onto the beautifully kept grass alongside the path. Now our hero, who considers herself a good trainer, formulates a plan to attempt to change this behavior. She walks over and picks up the wrapper, taps the young lady on the shoulder, and tells her she dropped something. The young lady sheepishly walks over to a trash can and while being teased by her friends she drops the wrapper into the trash. Feeling pleased to have applied her training knowledge our hero happily sets off home.

In relating this story our hero tells us that as she walked away the teasing of the friends continued and she can imagine that the friends would continue the teasing as their walk continued. She tells us this would lead to reducing the wrapper throwing behavior in the future.

So, do you see what made me think to myself … really?

Here we have an example of focusing ONLY on reducing, or punishing the unwanted behavior with no attempt to build the acceptable behavior. Because of the focus on reducing the wrapper dropping behavior our hero missed a golden opportunity to use the most powerful strategy in our trainers’ toolbox. The power of positive reinforcement. The moment the wrapper was dropped into the trash she could have heavily reinforced that behavior, instead she walked away pleased that the aversives would continue to flow from the friends.

While this is a simple story it nicely illustrates the approach that says rather than focusing on the behavior you don’t want, focus on the behavior that you do want to see and use positive reinforcement to build that desired behavior. It almost makes you want to have a candy bar in your pocket, ready to reinforce the wrapper going into the trash … but not eating the candy bar oneself is a whole other behavioral issue ;o)
Keep soaring,

9th Annual Raptor Handling Class

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012
Avian Ambassadors is pleased to announce the dates of the 9th Annual Raptor Handling Class.The class, presented by Avian Ambassadors’ founder Sid Price, will be held on the weekend of June 30/July 1st 2012 at the Marriott Hotel in Albuquerque, NM.
Running from 9 am until 4 pm  on Saturday and Sunday the class is an excellent opportunity for both beginning and experienced raptor presenters to learn the most contemporary, science based approaches to handling raptors for educational programs.The hands-on workshop will cover equipment usage, handling techniques, and the science of behavior change.
RobinAndProphet 150 3x2 150

Once again our special guest presenter for the fourth year will be Robin Shewokis of the Leather Elves. Robin is a renowned enrichment consultant to zoos and the companion bird community. She will present a special workshop segment about enriching the lives of captive raptors.

The cost of the two-day class is $115.00. This includes printed class materials and a light lunch on both days. Pre-registration is required and class size will be limited to ensure all students get maximum time “hands-on” with our birds – contact us  (classesatavianambassadorsdotcom?subject=8th%20Annual%20Raptor%20Handling%20Class)   today for your registration form or call (505) 349 5714. We look forward to hearing from you!

Early-bird special!

Register and pay before May 31, 2012 at the reduced fee of $105.

Registered attendees are offered a special rate of $89.00/night by the Marriott Hotel for the weekend of the workshop.