This session is definitely the one I've been waiting for.
We were having incredibly long training sessions due to the amount of time it was taking to get Morgan to step OFF of Patty. Why was this becoming a trouble area?
Inconsistency = unclear communication.
Patty was constantly inconsistent with the step off.
- Sometimes asking her to step DOWN, sometimes UP, sometimes it was more of a neutral level of just walking off, and sometimes she kind of scraped her off onto the surface, or tilted her off.
- Sometimes Morgan got a treat for stepping off, sometimes not.
- If she did receive a treat, it came whether she stepped off immediately or after two minutes of struggling.
- Lots of the time she was made to step off when she did not want to making her more likely to fight against a decision made for her.
- Sometimes she was lured off (following food which doesn't actually teach the behavior), sometimes targeted (way better) and sometimes neither.
The step down has been an evolving process for Morgan and Patty. Before Patty was willing to give the clicker a try (which strongly implies the behavior is desired) she was using luring. I don't like luring as a first option because the bird is not learning anything, it's simply following the food. Training is about teaching and learning, and if you aren't doing either, then you need to change something.
So from luring I asked Patty to use target training to get her to step down because that was a level above luring where Morgan was CHOOSING to step off to touch the stick.
From targeting I finally (in this video session) was able to have Patty start clicking when Morgan steps off so she realizes that is a TRICK in and of itself! This way it communicates clearly to Morgan that stepping off is as equally rewarding to her as the flight. This makes it way more likely Morgan will perform that "trick" when prompted.
So then the prompting issue...
Prompting is basically the "cue" and this was all over the place. I was trying to shape Patty's prompt by making sure her arm was at a level that made it EASY for Morgan to step off of her and up to whichever surface (t-stand, counter, back of a chair) so that Morgan knew the prompt was when Patty held her arm in that sweet spot.
The harder you make it for a bird to step off (which sometimes we think we're making it easier and more obvious by tilting, leaning or otherwise "helping" them off by pushing forward in our motion) the worse it is for the bird. You're basically making the decision for them with your body language. The key to bird training is finding ways to get the bird to make the decision you want it to make. How do you convince the bird to step off on its own? Does it need to be clearer regarding what you're asking? Does it need to be more reinforcing (better reward)? The situation needs to be analyzed in the best interest of the bird.
If Patty truly keeps to keeping this session as the new "standard" for even having a session, her progression will be leaps and bounds.
And what I mean by that is when you shape a behavior, consider the "wave" (the act of a bird lifting its foot) - when you get the bird to exaggerate that behavior for the first time and instead of lifting it just barely off the ground, it lifts it up to the height of its head and you click and reward, that is the NEW standard. Now the bird has to lift it that high every time to get a reward. Because if you start rewarding the bird for waves that are barely off the ground and super high, the behavior is all over the place. It needs to be clear that the wave is "this high". If it's any height, you will slowly lose the behavior being presented at all. Hence the importance of consistency.