The Real Secrets of Training Success and Where to Find Them

I received an email from a professional colleague this morning that drove me right to the computer to write about it in my blog. Just recently many professional and personal issues have kept writing blog articles a little lower on the priority list than I would like; however this email was one that simply had to be addressed.
In the past I have written about information and misinformation on the Internet. I have done this in general terms and have not mentioned any names or web sites. My thinking there was that why add to the promotion of bad information and dubious marketing techniques by naming the culprits. Well this time I am going to name the web site because these folks are making a big push into the companion parrot world; plus if their marketing hype is to be believed they have duped at least one “professional” trainer into helping them. So the email I received pushed me over the edge.
I am speaking of the Bird Tricks web site. In particular an article and a story from someone they claim to be a customer. I say claim because the style of writing rings very close to the marketeers own style, plus if one studies the marketing techniques that their campaigns are based upon you will discover that recruiting writers to post to online groups and also to post recommendations is one of the “proven” techniques. Having said that, using such techniques (while ethically questionable) is not what this article is about.
The particular article concerns “taming” a Blue and Gold by using a technique called Flooding, basically exposing a bird to something it can not escape. In this case the bird appears to have a fear of hands and/or touching and bites when a hand is presented. The web site suggests that using a pair of sticks to touch the bird is the way to go. The theory being that no matter how much the bird bites the sticks it doesn’t hurt the owner so the sticks can stay there until accepted by the bird. The bird learns that any action it takes does not remove the sticks; it is helpless to make a change. This is called Learned Helplessness and can be a major factor in actually reducing the bird’s trust in the owner. It also does not teach the bird what to do, which should be the goal of our training.
Now the web site owners claim in some online posts that they have learned and changed the technique. Far from it since I read the article on their web site this morning.
Please be wary of this web site, the so-called trainers bring little to no actual training experience to the table. They have demonstrated over and over again their lack of understanding of the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis and Operant Conditioning by what they write and say. What they have demonstrated admirably is their true motivation in entering the companion parrot world, and that is to maximize sales of their training materials, material that is widely available for free or for little cost from true Professionals. They obfuscate well proven techniques by inventing new names for them, thereby appearing to have invented something novel when in fact what they are selling are well published scientific techniques.
If you are looking for solid advice then read the writings (for free) of Dr Susan Friedman, if you need help with bird behavior join the Yahoo group of Dr Friedman and get a mentor to help you (for free), or take Dr Friedman;s online LLP course for a modest donation to a worthy bird cause. If you would like to support a professional who truly cares and gives a huge amount to the community subscribe to Barbara Heidenreich’s Good Bird Magazine.

Comments are closed.