Behavioural Training – Setting Goals


A Good Training Plan

It's the start of the year which is a great time for setting goals.

The key to any bird training is to be realistic about your goal setting. When it comes to goal setting, a good behavioural plan considers at least 5 things:

  1. The goal is realistic.
  2. The end goal is clearly defined
  3. Approximations are planned to work towards the goal
  4. Motivation is always remembered and considered
  5. Your plan is adaptable if any of the above 4 points aren't working.

What does realistic mean?

Ask yourself is the bird physically and mentally able to achieve the behaviour you are training?

For example; training a step-up behaviour.  A bird with a broken leg may not be able to physically do it.  Another bird that is untame and terrified of humans isn't mentally ready to step up yet.  Meanwhile, a well adjusted bird in good health - can.  If your bird isn't ready for the end goal? You may need to work on another goal first, in order to get them there.


Do you know what the end goal is?

It's all very well to decide you want a bird to step up but what do you mean?  Do you want the bird to jump on your hand, both feet together?  Do you want them to step one foot at a time? Do you want them to step onto your arm or your fingers?  If you don't clearly decide what you want, you can't expect the bird to get it right.


What are approximations?

A good training plan recognises steps towards the behaviour you want.  Shaping a behaviour is a whole topic in itself but in short, if you've heard the phrase "baby steps", you're on the way to understanding this. Think of it as skill building towards an end goal.

For example, training a bird to step up.  First you need to target train your bird (again this is another topic in itself but the short version is teach your bird to touch a stick, no matter where you are holding the stick).  If your bird is target trained, your step-up approximations may look like this:

  1. Touch a stick/target near the part of your hand you want the bird to step up on.
  2. Touch the stick over the part of your hand you want the bird to step up on.
  3. Touch the stick by stepping with one foot onto your hand to reach the stick.
  4. Touch the stick by stepping with both feet onto your hand to reach the stick.
  5. Add a verbal cue "Step Up" when they touch the stick while standing on your hand.
  6. No longer use the stick.  Cue them to step up with the verbal command.


Motivation always needs to be taken into consideration.

Motivation is a topic that isn't spoken about nearly enough. Ask yourself what's in it for the bird?  Are you getting them to step up, to put them away, when they'd prefer to be out playing?  Good luck with that!  Are they only stepping up because they're getting a food reward?  Start to think about what the bird might want and how stepping up gives them that, even if you're not intentionally reinforcing the behaviour and you will start to see a more self-motivated bird who complies more.

Adapt and be flexible.

Any of the above may need to change at any time.  Your bird might hurt its foot and not be in the mood to step-up.  The bird may not be in the mood because it wants to play with its friend - so can you adapt that and make stepping up a way to get to its friend?  Your success at training depends on your ability to change what you're doing to suit the circumstances.


Training plan still not working?

Are you stuck?  Book a bird behavioral consult.  I can help.

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