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Taught "Off!" to Kili

Discuss the methods and techniques of clicker training, target training and bonding. These are usually the first steps in training a young parrot.

Taught "Off!" to Kili

Postby Michael » Wed Dec 23, 2009 12:52 am

Seems like she picked up on this relatively quickly. There were a few times my Senegal Parrot wondered into places she really can't be so I'd throw stuff at her to scare her off. The good thing is that I coupled that with a cue "Off!!!" Any it's great because it works and I no longer have to risk hitting her by accident with a ball by throwing it past her. Now if she lands some place she shouldn't be I shout off and she flies right back off.

Anyone else done this with their parrot? Do you think this is better than punishment? Is it an effective way to cue your parrot to get off of some place?

Also, I am wondering about parrot's comprehension of projectiles? Like if you throw a ball at a parrot. Does it associate that ball with you or does it just think it's another bird flying at it? I have these bean bag balls I ended up inadvertently using when I needed to scare her down from some place because she wouldn't come down. The good thing is that after a couple of times she developed an aversion to them and just showing them to her is enough or if I put them somewhere I don't want her to go, she stays away.

I know that a parrot can develop a bad association with the person committing punishment (like squirting) but if the person is throwing something, does the parrot still associate that with the person or does it just think it's some scary flying thing of its own? Of course punishment can be quite effective for eradicating bad behavior, the primary reason we cannot use it on parrots is because it causes them to fear us (and possibly lead to more biting/bad behavior). So it is important that punishment can be "remotely administered" if it is necessary. Positive reinforcement training is fantastic at evoking new behavior. It is terrible for eliminating bad existing behavior!
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Re: Taught "Off!" to Kili

Postby Mona » Wed Dec 23, 2009 2:37 pm

Hi Michael:

First, I do think it is important to train "off" with a FLIGHTED BIRD. (It is not the same case with a clipped bird because clipped birds cannot escape) IF you have a good relationship with your bird and IF you have done quite a bit of training, they can be easily taught "off" without much stress or adverse consequences. I think "off" is one of those cues that needs to be taught for safety reasons as well as convenience reasons. You have to teach it the same as you train any thing with positive reinforcement: "Cue - Bridge - Reinforce". You posted that you added an aversive to the cue and I have to admit, as controversial as it is, I have done the same. IF I can get the bird "off" an object with a recall, I usually will try that but the disadvantages to not using an aversive are two-fold:

1) It can become a game. The bird will fly to where you don't want them to be just so you can cue them to come. I have this going on all of the time in my house and it can get a little bit old....but I will play these games with the birds for fun.
2) It doesn't always work if the bird is ensconced in what they consider to be a really fun behavior (like going after the TV remote or chasing other birds). If you are cueing a recall and the bird won't respond, you whittle away at the integrity of the recall cue.

SECONDLY, the caveat...YES the birds will associate YOU with a projectial object. Jack and Babylon are boy friend/girl friend. I can cue an "off" with Babylon but if I back it up with a projectial (in my case, a nerf ball) and he sees me do it, I risk having him fly and attack me. He definitely knows. Babylon doesn't attack after an "off cue" but if you frustrate a bird or frighten them, you always risk escallating aggression and this is something you need to avoid at all costs. You also need to be aware that if you DO escallate aggression, it is your fault - not the bird's. just can't use this with every bird. With some birds, you risk increasing aggression responses. I think you really have to have a very, very solid training background with a bird (as you do with Kili) before you can use it so that the bird perceives the situation as part of their training and NOT as a threat. Also, you NEVER want to do this if you are mad. It is NEVER about getting your frustrations out (although this is extremely tempting to do) and it must always be used in conjunction with training.

The other problem is that if your bird is timid, you can also escallate their fear and you can set the bird up for a phobic issue. You do NOT want to do this with a bird that has any sort of fearful or phobic tendencies at all. This tactic should only be used with a confident, fully flighted bird. I cannot emphasize enough that you should NEVER use an aversive to startle a clipped bird. A clipped bird cannot escape and you will risk losing that animal's sense of security, safety and trust.

Having flown my birds in different environments, I can see the difference between a bird that is trained "off" when they fly where they should not be and one that is not trained. The bird that is trained will usually fly "off" easily and without stress. They also usually seek me out and fly to me. A bird that is not trained can get stuck or (if you have to resort to an aversive to get them down) the bird will panic and the situation becomes much worse from there. The bird may fly away and you will loose that bird's trust and it's just, I really see the advantage of training "off" but with the caveat that it must be done very carefully and purposely....and it should never be used to scare a bird. You don't want to scare them. You DO want them to perform a behavior and you want to reinforce that behavior. The behavior you are reinforcing is simply "Fly off".

I also think that training "off" needs to be considered a bit more advanced training than training that uses simple positive reinforcement. As a trainer, you should have a lot of experience training many different behaviors with success with a specific bird BEFORE you even consider using an aversive. Michael has had a lot of experience training (as per his videos)

THANKS for the topic. I think there is much to say to this and I think it doesn't get discussed thoroughly because people are trying to be "politically correct" but I am a big believer that experience trumps "politically correctness" any day. I also think that people need to train their birds for safety reasons and an "off" cue is one that can be vital for safety reasons...I wish I had more time to chat about it.

Mona in Seattle
Phinneous Fowl (aka Phinney) TAG
Babylon Sengal
Doug (spousal unit)
Jack and Bailey (Gremlins)
Kiri (CAG)

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