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non-food rewards

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non-food rewards

Postby InTheAir » Mon Mar 25, 2013 7:07 pm

Hi,

Just wondering if anyone has tried using toys as a training reward, or something besides food, and whether it was successful?

We have an 8 month Indian ringneck who is very enthusiastic and quick to learn new tricks.

Last week he picked up how to wave, with food rewards. The next day he was playing his favourite game of "drop toy off the bed/table/perch and then look at the humans expectantly until one of them fetches it" we retrieved it in exchange for a wave, after about 10 rounds he was looking at us and waving as a signal to us to fetch his toy... It got me thinking that maybe it could be worth trying toys in a training session... Possibly his motivation for that trick was more to do with making us fetch than the reward though...
Pretty much all the training advice I have found about companion parrots has revolved around food motivation, although Irene Pepperburg was extremely successful in teaching vocalisations without relying on food.
The other thing that got me thinking about it is that we have never given food for stepping-up, and it has continued to be 100% reliable.
I am considering trying to train a new trick with toys and see if it provides enough motivation... I am a little concerned that he may become less enthusiastic about training though...
I'd love to hear from anyone who has tried, and how it went!

Claire
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Re: non-food rewards

Postby marie83 » Tue Mar 26, 2013 6:04 am

Ollie responds well to a good head scratch, he used to repond well to foot toys as a reward too but now he gets over excited with them and its lead to agression after the first few goes.
For initial training we stick to food as this is the best way to motivate him.
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Re: non-food rewards

Postby Andromeda » Tue Mar 26, 2013 8:33 pm

InTheAir wrote:Pretty much all the training advice I have found about companion parrots has revolved around food motivation, although Irene Pepperburg was extremely successful in teaching vocalisations without relying on food.


You seem familiar with Dr. Pepperberg's work so I'm probably not telling you anything new but I just want to point out that when Dr. Pepperberg set out to train Alex she specifically chose to avoid operant conditioning and instead used a model-rival technique. When teaching vocalizations (or in the case of Alex, labels) this is probably the most effective method because in exchange for producing the correct label Alex would receive the object he labeled (producing a direct correlation with the label and the object).

However, model-rival probably wouldn't get you anywhere with anything other than labels or vocalizations because while vocalizations are effortless and part of natural behavior other actions such as fetch, flight recall, turn in a circle, etc. are not and therefore require behavioral modification (operant conditioning) to teach.

InTheAir wrote:The other thing that got me thinking about it is that we have never given food for stepping-up, and it has continued to be 100% reliable.


Step-up generally doesn't have to be reinforced with food because once it is learned it is reinforced with other things. For example the bird knows that if it steps up good things will happen such as attention from its favorite human, a head scratch, being carried to a favorite perch, etc. and those things are rewarding enough that the bird continues to have a positive response to the step-up command.

However things outside of step-up or touching/handling are not reinforced in other ways and a trick such as "wave" will go extinct if the bird consistently receives no reward for it.

InTheAir wrote:I am considering trying to train a new trick with toys and see if it provides enough motivation... I am a little concerned that he may become less enthusiastic about training though...


If you use a clicker for training it needs to be paired 100% of the time with a primary reinforcer (food) or the clicker and its effectiveness can be ruined.

If you don't use a clicker you could try toys as a reinforcer but the main thing is that when you are teaching a brand-new behavior you want to get as many responses as fast as you can and if you provide food that can be eaten within a few seconds you can cue/reward again very quickly. If you provide a toy the bird may want to sit and play with it which can halt training altogether or at the very least slow down the pace enough that the bird may not learn the new behavior.

I know you taught "wave" using a toy but just some thoughts. :-) Good luck and let us know how it goes!
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Re: non-food rewards

Postby InTheAir » Sat Mar 30, 2013 6:54 am

Thanks for the replies.

Its more an idle question on parrot motivation than training techniques. I'm interested in whether any parrots are actually stimulated/interested in the type of interaction, or whether its all about parrot stomachs lol
Nila does get pretty excited about training sometimes, and doesn't bother to finish his treat before he's ready to start the next trick... But i doubt he's got enough interest in playing my games without some kind of pay off!
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