Thursday, July 23, 2009

Using premack with the birds

Hi all,

I have been super busy this week, so although I have been taking Peepers out to the barn in the morning, and exercising the dogs in the evening, I have not been able to work on harness training or the retrieve. Peepers has been making progress in the barn - we are back to practicing the concept we were doing when we were inside, which is teaching Peepers to distinguish between a recall cue and a send cue. Peepers is still a little confused about it, and is also dealing with the fact that I have heavily reinforced sending from one perch to another, which makes it a little harder for him to think of doing something different :). He also has learned a new trick: "bottoms up!". I did this on one of our quick breaks in the barn. Peepers swings down to hang from the perch when I cue him with "bottoms up". I am also adding in the drinking sign with my hand just for kicks LOL.

I have been watching a debate online that brought up a training principle that seems to be underused with parrots, the Premack principle. The basic definition of Premack is this: A principle that states that contingent access to high-frequency behaviors ("preferred" activities) serves as a reinforcer for the performance of low-frequency behaviors. (source: Basically, what this means is that anything that an animal wants to do can be used as a reinforcer for another behavior.

This is such a powerful concept, and one that rarely gets discussed on the email lists that I am on regarding parrot training. This is something many many competitive dog trainers use to get amazing results with their dogs. If we could figure out how to effectively use this with our parrots, it would give us a world of opportunities in working with them.

So, I've been thinking about how to build this up with Peepers. I was able to use going to the bars in the barn as a reinforcer for him one day, but since then he's just been bleh about the bars. I guess been there, done that :). I also am trying to teach more fun little behaviors, like the bottoms up trick, that may be able to be used as reinforcers for more difficult behaviors later. And in the meantime, while I'm doing other things, I keep trying to work out how best to structure things to use this concept to it's fullest potential.

I guess that's it for my thoughts for now :). I tend to mull things over for a while, then suddenly move on them, hopefully I will come up with something brilliant soon, so I can post about how I am applying Premack to training Peepers and Sparky.

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