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Chrysocome

Clicker Training Squee

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Chryso the budding avian behaviourist is at it again! Yep, I have another project for my eager little Squee.

 

This post is a quick introduction to clicker training (with endless thanks to the bird-click group)

 

What is clicker training?

Clicker training uses an event marker to reward (and therefore reinforce) behaviours we like. Reinforced behaviours are more likely to be repeated. Behaviours we don’t like are ignored, and since there is nothing to reinforce such behaviours, they eventually stop occurring (they are extinguished). A behaviour can also be shaped, which means it is slowly changed by rewarding the small steps towards the desired behaviour.

 

Common event markers are the noise of a clicker device (but it doesn’t have to be – it can be praise, the click of a pen, two taps on wood, or any other noise), and reinforcers are usually food (which works well for budgies, but others include a head scritch, a favourite toy etc). Trainers use a clicker device because it is cheap, is easily manipulated while holding other props, and makes a consistently repeatable noise at the instant it is clicked. But there is nothing special about the clicker – it is just an event marker. If you can consistently make the same praise word (same tone, length, etc) at the right time, then that works just as well.

 

What does the click mean?

We are teaching the bird two things –

  1. The click only occurs when a certain behaviour is performed
  2. Food is coming after the click

With the motivation of food, the bird repeats the behaviour that earned it a click and therefore receives the reward.

 

What do I need?

  1. An event marker – usually a clicker (readily available from Big-W or K-mart)
  2. A reinforcer – usually the bird’s favourite food
  3. A bird (of course!) – any age or sex of bird can be taught, some take longer than others but they will all learn eventually
  4. Your imagination – there are endless props and tricks a bird can learn

Why clicker train?

There is a popular belief that clicker training can only be used for teaching “silly tricks”. While this is a starting point for clicker training, it can be progressed to husbandry, changing problem behaviour, and even medical needs. For example it can be used to help a bird that's deathly afraid of coming out of its cage, or hands, or it won't step up. It can be used to teach a bird not to fear being towelled by a vet, have its wings examined or nails trimmed. It can also be applied to problem behaviours such as biting or screaming.

 

Some rules for clicker training

  • Be very aware of timing – click at the exact time of the behaviour to avoid confusing the bird
  • Always treat after a click – even if you did it by accident
  • The order of teaching: prop tricks, non prop tricks, more prop tricks, then tackle problem behaviours such as biting. The reason to teach prop tricks first is to stop the bird begging all the time by offering the behaviour eg while it is in the cage or when you don’t have the clicker handy. With prop tricks, they can only perform the trick when you have the prop (and therefore clicker) ready
  • Plan your lessons and record results
  • Keep lessons short – about 10 minutes. Stop the lesson before the bird loses interest – keep them wanting more, and therefore have them willing to train next time
  • Only train when you are feeling enthusiastic and willing. Clicker training can be frustrating at times and your stress can also influence your bird's learning

So I've started with Squee, the brighter and more inquisitive of my birds, and will post my progress here. Stay tuned!

Edited by Chrysocome

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NOTE: from now on I will use the shortcut ‘c/t’ to stand for “click and treat”.

 

1. Getting Started with Squee

Step one: practise with the clicker! I’m a musician so coordination isn’t a problem for me. It is important to be able to click at the precise moment of the desired behaviour. A suggested way to practise clicking at the drop of an object eg every time a ball hits the ground.

 

Next to work out the type of reward. It’s simple for my budgies since I know what they will practically kill for – sunflowers and millet sprays. Since I’m going to be constantly training I opted for a munch from a millet spray – sunflowers are way too unhealthy to give at such a high rate.

 

2. Conditioning the clicker

First to teach that the click means food is coming, and not to fear the strange new noise. (Sorry, no videos, I didn’t think to take any at the time. I was a bit too excited about starting and felt like I didn’t have enough hands as it was!)

 

Steps:

  1. Click
  2. Give the treat
  3. Wait until she’s finished munching and repeat

That was it for the first lesson! After a while, Squee heard the click and ran towards my right hand looking for the millet.

 

3. The first game: Targeting

Now for the first real lesson. Targeting is a really good first behaviour to teach because it can be shaped to form other behaviours. It’s also good to return to such an easy concept when warming up for other behaviours, or to keep the treat ratio high when they get frustrated or won’t focus.

 

Targeting means to touch a certain object to get a click. That’s all they have to do. For my ‘target stick’ I used a green pen (as seen from my Captive Foraging thread, they seem to associate green things with food, and new objects in green don’t scare them as much as other colours). So if she touches the end of the pen she gets a click and the millet.

 

Aim: To have Squee willingly go to touch the target stick

IMG_5107.jpg

 

I started in the cage just because she could be more comfortable, it could restrict her movement and make her more focussed on what I wanted. First I had to see how she was going to react to the new object. Squee is naturally inquisitive and will usually come over to have a look. She eyed it cautiously, but didn’t want to touch it (clearly it wasn’t food-shaped). I had to convince her to touch it somehow. I rested the millet on the pen and she came right over. She accidentally bumped the pen with her beak– c/t (click and treat). I did this a few times, always in the same place. Then I made the millet further away out of her reach so I only brought it up to the cage on the click (I was thinking she was a little too focussed on the millet to actually realise what she was doing). She didn’t get it at first so I varied the millet distance – start close, slowly move back, move closer if she didn’t get it. Every bump earned a c/t. At one point she got frustrated at not being able to reach the millet so she bit the pen – c/t. She did it about four times more before she figured out it was the pen that earned the c/t.

 

Video: Actually, I went back after typing this up to get the videos, Milly (having watched Squee do it) was no longer afraid of the pen and went up to it to see what was going on. An excellent example of ‘rival theory’, where just because another bird is doing it and getting rewards, the other bird will do the same.

http://s8.photobucket.com/albums/a14/Chrysocome/pets/bbf/2008/?action=view&current=click1.flv

 

I knew Squee had learnt it because I moved the pen about three centimetres to the left so she had to reach a tiny bit for it. She nipped the pen and got the reward. I repeated this. Then I repeated it on the right, having her each down a bit, then reach up a bit. Then, I made it so she had to actually take a few steps to get it. Then across the cage and on the roof. She followed the target stick consistently and eagerly. Lesson learnt :)

 

Video: As you can see Squee well and truly understands targeting. Note that I only reward her for a real grasp of the pen, not a peck.

http://s8.photobucket.com/albums/a14/Chrys...rent=click2.flv

 

Lesson summary

  1. Come to the pen
  2. Bump the pen
  3. Willingly touch pen
  4. Reach left to touch pen
  5. Reach right/down/up to touch pen
  6. Take two steps to touch pen in any direction, then four steps
  7. Come across cage to touch pen
  8. Climb to the roof to touch pen

I'll do this for another day or two. Next lesson: fetch!

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Way to go. :)

 

I clicker trained my horse around four years ago. He will touch objects, stand up on a raised platform, fetch sticks, allow me to throw a hula hoop over his head and I started teaching him to bow. We also played a game were by I give him a slap (nice one of course) on the rump and run off, he spins around and comes off after me. I could also pull a a big blue tarp over his head all the way over his body to the rear end. Considering he is an ex racehorse and thoroughbreds are notoriously flightly we only ever had one real mishap doing that in which I ended up with concussion.

 

I came across clicker training from reading about a seeing eye horse called Panda. I also joined an email list clickryder. I followed the exploits of this exceptional little equine through the Panda Project until life got to hectic and I lost touch with lots of things including budgies.

 

obstacles1_small.jpg

 

Image compliments of clickertraining.com

Edited by RIPbudgies

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I remember Bea was doing clicker training :), this is awesome keep us updated on your progress.

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We had to do a training project for one of our papers and I managed to train Arkady to fly to and land onto his travel cage on command by using clicker training. I wanted to train him to go in, but I only had a week to do it and didn't manage to get that far.

 

My question is. When do you introduce commands?

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SW: From what I've read, you add the spoken command after they can do the trick. It's best done with prop tricks (another good reason to do prop tricks first) because the sight of the prop is a visual command. So once they understand the visual command you can add a spoken word before presenting the prop, and they soon associate the word with the sight of the prop. Kind of like a spoken cue for the visual cue. Hope that makes sense...

Interesting side note - parrots seem to respond better to visual commands (eg hand gestures) than spoken commands.

 

I'm making some slow progress with Squee and fetch. To be more accurate, we're doing a type of basketball game (I saw it on youtube and it was too cute to resist). She has to put a ball in a cup. I will write it up soon and post videos of what it looks like. For now though I'm very pleased with how she's going, as it's a hard step to go from targeting to retrieving. She is now pretty good at putting the ball in the cup going to her left, but misses sometimes, and it really confuses her if I try to make her go to her right. (I think she understands that the ball has to go into the cup, but she hasn't quite grasped that whether it lands in the cup is actually under her control. Like she knows that if she flicks the ball to her left and it lands in the cup she gets a click; but not quite that she can place it there so it will always go in). So we're staying on going left until she can get 10/10. Update soon :glare:

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looking forward to the video. :glare: This is a really interesting thread.

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I agree this is awesome :glare:, great job on your progress.

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4. Basketball

Objective: To have Squee pick up the ball and go put it in the cup

This has been going real slow and is a bit conceptually difficult I think. It’s taken lots of shaping to get where I am and it’s still progressing. Here’s what I’ve done so far.

 

Steps: First to familiarise her with the new objects

1. Approach the ball

2. Touch the ball (targeting)

3. Approach the cup

4. Touch the cup (targeting)

 

Next: teach that ball + cup = food

5. Pick up ball out of cup – increasing heights. The c/t is for the ball hitting the bottom of the cup

6. Drop ball into cup – for this I held the ball loosely in one hand. She already associated the ball with food so she came over to play with it. Anytime it dropped into the cup (by accident) she got a c/t. We spent quite some time on this before I thought she understood. But I couldn’t be sure until I moved to the next step

 

http://s8.photobucket.com/albums/a14/Chrys...t=51101.flv

Any time she misses I turn the cup over so she really gets the idea (…and I can get rid of all the crumbs that gather there!) Her understanding here is not very convincing is it?

 

7. Nudge ball into cup – we spent a lot of time doing this from her left (where I was most coordinated). I slowly brought the ball around to the front. We had lots of trouble getting her to go from her right. As I mentioned above, she wasn’t quite aware that she could put the ball into the cup, not throw it and hope that it went in. I think she understands the ball + cup concept because anytime she dropped it, she sort of walked away, instead of going towards my hand like other times. She really got the idea of going right when I switched hands for everything – awkward for me but then she figured it out after that.

 

http://s8.photobucket.com/albums/a14/Chrys...51115.flv

Here I am moving it around so she has to change the direction of pull. I think she is beginning to understand

 

8. Place ball into cup – this is where we are at now. I put the ball into my hand so she is forced to pick it up before putting it in the cup.

 

http://s8.photobucket.com/albums/a14/Chrys...t=51301.flv

I’m progressively increasing the distance to walk. Every time she drops it, I bring it two steps closer than previously. As you can see, it takes a lot of coordination – for both of us!

 

In future I will do this from different directions, then get her to take a few steps in any direction, then (as for targeting) increase the distance. I will also make it so that she has to pick up the ball from wherever it is, not from my hand. But we are yet to get there – it’s been slow progress.

Edited by Chrysocome

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so awesome, I am going to ship Merlin to you so you can teach him too :angry:

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Tee hee - I reckon you should try targeting with him Elly, I think he would pick it up pretty quick.

 

BUT - if you want to mail him to me, I won't raise any objections :angry:

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:feedbirds: Amazing how you can get him to do that? I doubt I could get my budgies so tame :(

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Amazing stuff!! I'll def be keeping up with your progress and taking plenty of tips from you!! It's good to hear about other birds who are further down the track..it'll be exciting watching my baby hopefully follow the same path!!

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Thanks Budgiesaurus, taming and bonding takes time and patience. I spend a lot of time with Milly and Squee showing them that we can all get what we want out of our relationship without there being any need for fear or aggression. I think if you give them enough time you can get your budgies tame as well. Clicker training can help them along - targeting is an excellent way to teach them that you're not going to hurt them. Stepping up and being near your hands is actually not recommended by the expert clicker trainers as a first step - they start with targeting and playing with props before that.

 

Keep going ILoveSy&Cilla, I can't wait to see what Cilla gets up to!

 

-------------

Haha! This is what progress looks like, folks. I’m very proud of my Squee. From these videos, it is very clear that she knows what she’s supposed to do. I like the fact that any time I switch positions she has a look at where the cup is before going to pick up the ball. It’s also very cute that when I don’t give her long enough to munch on the millet, she insists by grabbing the ball before I have time to move it far away!

 

http://s8.photobucket.com/albums/a14/Chrysocome/pets/bbf/2008/?action=view&current=133.flv

 

Here’s another video just to prove that she can do it from her right. I also include here the first time I put it behind her, going right. She already can do it from the left so sort of knew the manoeuvre but takes a while develop the right coordination for it.

 

http://s8.photobucket.com/albums/a14/Chrysocome/pets/bbf/2008/?action=view&current=134.flv

 

Shaping at work! I’m very proud of my Squee!

 

Note to myself and anyone who’s going to try this trick: use a smaller ball than I did! I think I made a critical mistake in choosing such a big ball, she has a hard time carrying it while trying to see where the cup is at the same time. If she still has trouble going across the cage/floor with it, I will see if I can convince her to do the same thing with a smaller ball like the ones from a star wheel. I know it can work because I changed the target stick to a pen that looks exactly the same, only it’s yellow, and she still goes after it eagerly.

 

I didn’t think I’d have so much fun or get so far so quickly with this. Squee is enjoying it too, she runs across the cage and jumps on the wall when she sees me coming with the target stick. It’s her favourite game, we always start and finish with it, and if she’s not getting very far with the ball game we play targeting in the middle.

 

Very happy today.

 

Sorry about low quality videos today, as the videos get longer I get more impatient so compress them smaller. ;)

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wow I will have to try this one day

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I see you found out what clicker training is :sad:

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Well I'm so pleased with my Squee. I've finally achieved one of my major goals. Some of you may recall how Milly and Squee were both quite overweight. The whole point of my clicker training/captive foraging endeavour was to get their weight down.

 

I finally tried the flighted target with Squee and she took to it immediately. Normally when they're outside they sit on their cage or wander around on the table, climbing or walking to get to where they want.

 

Now I've got Squee flying to me chasing the target stick. Soon I'll try the basketball game outside and then a flighted basketball game. Things are moving!

 

Sorry about the bad quality/blurry/wonky camera work, it's hard holding a camera, clicker, pen, food and budgie at the same time as concentrating on filming, clicking, treating and moving the bird! :)

 

http://s8.photobucket.com/albums/a14/Chrys...ghtedtarget.flv

 

:blush: Things are moving well. Next: Baskbetball outside the cage.

 

Milly's just watching here. I went away for a few weeks and haven't had time to reinforce targeting with her since I got back. I've decided I will have a different target for her so they don't go chasing the same thing or fight over it.

Edited by Chrysocome

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Thanks for updating us on your progress.

I enjoyed watching the video :D

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Fantastic! What a clever Squee!

 

Wonderful results and your clicker timing is great! I've been clicker training my dogs for about 10 yrs and love that they love it so much.

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that looks so cool train them to fly though a hoop. :D

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Brilliant! Such cute birdies! Thanks C for the vids! I've just started the clicker training with the que stick and your videos' helps give me an idea how to move to the next step later on. Good on ya!!

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How do you know when they are ready to move onto the next step?

My new budgie is 7 wks old, is that too young to start? He's used to my hands etc and he's hardly ever in his cage. He seems to get distracted within 2mins of training...

Should i only use the millet for the clicker training or can i hang some in his cage too?

I cant seem to access the videos you uploaded, id love to watch them. Im sure they are really helpful!

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How do you this method to get to not be afraid to come out of cage and to step up.

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How do you this method to get to not be afraid to come out of cage and to step up.

toni im sorry your having alot of trouble with you friend

have you tryed moving bird to the room you train him /her in

as maybe its the place he /she is thats actually the issue you say its all good in smaller cage

maybe she /he feels more secure in a smaller surounding

just a thought

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