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Question about how much treats when training

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Question about how much treats when training

Postby bmsweb » Sat Jan 30, 2010 3:34 am

Firstly I'm extremely new to this. In fact I've only started Target Training with our new Cockatiel (Jazz) 72 hours ago.

Firstly I was watching this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unO5whIUF-M which blew me away!!

So here is my question. When doing target training I give Jazz millet spray as treat every time he touches the Stick and its worked out great. I've had him out of the Cage twice today for the first time today.

I noticed in the video Kili gets a click every time he completes a trick but only gets a treat after a few tricks. Can someone explain how this works. I was under the impression, treat every time they do what you want them to do.

Cheers
Paul
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Re: Question about how much treats when training

Postby Michael » Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:25 am

It's called variable ratio reinforcement where positive reinforcement is only administered at an average ratio but random occurrences. This allows the trainer to cue more repetitions without filling the animal up too quickly. However, there are some drawbacks. If the animal is not 100% confident in the trick, they might give up and stop doing it. Also, if the ratio is such that reinforcement is too rare, the animal could become aggressive.

Also, I continue to use the clicker even though I'm not giving treats. The clicker is no longer a bridge but a secondary reinforcer. The parrot is working to earn clicks rather than treats and the reason it wants clicks is because they can be associated with treats. The parrot ends up working harder because it doesn't know when the treat will come. Here is a discussion of variable ration reinforcement in greater detail.

But until the parrot knows multiple tricks and is very proficient at the training process, you should maintain a continuous ratio of reinforcement where one trick gets one treat.

By the way, I made a stupid mistake when filming that video. We had to do many takes to get the time down and I got in a habit of reinforcing Kili for the same few tricks every time. You may have noticed that she was avoiding flipping the card. Believe me it is not because she doesn't know what to do. I can get her to fly across the room and flip the card at first glimpse of it cause she really likes doing that. However, in this trick routine I was consistently giving her treats for a few tricks beyond the card flip so she was trying to skip the card which doesn't reward and go to something else. If I wasn't so focused on the video and did things properly, I would be less predictable and more random about which tricks were rewarded. The video was incredible no doubt and I probably had better runs than the one shown (when I was practicing before we started videoing) because at first the bird really didn't know which tricks would get the treats and just tried everything with equal enthusiasm. What is really incredible is that I was getting a variable ratio of reinforcement of about 5 to 1 meaning I got her to do five tricks for every treat. That's lower than what I normally do (about 3 to 1) so after a while she was getting confused and frustrated. After we completed the video I went back and did the same string of tricks and rewarded each trick individually to gain her trust back.
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Re: Question about how much treats when training

Postby bmsweb » Sat Jan 30, 2010 8:49 pm

Hi Michael,

Thanks for the background as it really helps a newbie like myself and my family understand this.

Tried Target training for the first time out of the cage and our Cockatiel showed no interest at all, yet in the cage he's really good at it. I guess this might take a little more time due to the new surroundings.

Just out of curiosity, how long should training sessions last.

Cheers
Paul
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Re: Question about how much treats when training

Postby Michael » Sat Jan 30, 2010 10:12 pm

From 100%-20% motivation. If your parrot is no longer trying to cooperate then you went too far, try to stop 20% short of this point for ideal results.
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Re: Question about how much treats when training

Postby bmsweb » Sun Jan 31, 2010 1:49 am

Thanks Michael, will see how we progress from here. So much to learn :?
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Re: Question about how much treats when training

Postby bmsweb » Sun Jan 31, 2010 11:46 pm

Ok it looks like we are back on track. He is now doing Target training but outside of the cage . . . finally!! :) Interestingly after his first successful session outside the cage, he's looking a lot more confident.

I just got home from picking up my son from school and it looks like he has eaten a fair amount of his food. When doing the Target training, he is going for the chopstick and I click when he touches it but, he's not always eating the millet???
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Re: Question about how much treats when training

Postby Michael » Mon Feb 01, 2010 12:02 am

If the bird is not eating the millet either the millet has gone bad or it is no longer hungry. Don't get too excited and keep going when the parrot stops eating the treats. You might be able to get it going for some more time but it is no progress or even negative progress. It ended up not getting much in exchange for its efforts. Imagine you are getting a million dollars at a time for doing something, eventually you have so much that another million doesn't mean all that much to you as it may have at the start. Think of it that way. The beginning of the training usually means more to the bird cause it really wants the treats. When it doesn't want them as much it will get sloppy, less responsive, and do a poorer job. If you continue rewarding the sloppier tricks, you will pollute the overall quality of your parrot's tricks because it will learn that a subpar job is still passable. This is why you want to stop while you're still ahead and getting A grade motivation/response.
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Re: Question about how much treats when training

Postby bmsweb » Mon Feb 01, 2010 12:23 am

Thanks Michael,

I actually stopped training him because I got a little worried about it. I assume the Millet is OK because its the same stuff he's been having and he had it fine in his cage today. He is with my 10 year old son now. He actually went to him off his perch. So I'm hoping he is getting comfortable with us. Looks like he wants to check out his new surroundings, but he is still jumpy out of the cage!

I'm going to give the rest of the night a miss as far as target training goes. I'll let him just spend time with us.

Hopefully he cooperates tomorrow outside his cage.
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Re: Question about how much treats when training

Postby bmsweb » Tue Feb 02, 2010 12:27 am

I tried target training again outside the cage today around lunch time and no luck at all.

Just got home from picking up my son from school and took Jazz outside the cage and I have no idea what's happened but he is doing target training now better than he was in the cage. I have a feeling he is getting use to the outside environment now and that could have been the problem.

I was a little worried about over doing it so I stopped after 4 mins or so and took him back to the cage . . he actually didn't seem to keen to get off my hand this time. This is a first.

He is back in his cage now and I might have one more go tonight.
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Re: Question about how much treats when training

Postby Michael » Tue Feb 02, 2010 12:46 am

Make the bird look forward to it where doing tricks is a treat rather than a chore ;)
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