No Means Keep Trying

The basics of training any creature, even goldfish, requires the use of a reward in exchange for a learned behavior properly performed. Animals are driven by a need for food and mammals and birds also need companionship and approval. Not sure about goldfish or reptiles.

112215 parrot jobs

I am surprised that Maynard has learned things without any reward except my continued affection. He is no longer allowed in the front bathroom because he learned to climb up the rack over the toilet, make his way across to the vanity, unplug the night light, and throw it plus everything else on the floor.

Maynard does laundry

He is okay with sitting in the small hallway leading to the bathroom and saying “Oh, Maynard” in a strange voice. But if I have to go use that bathroom, he takes advantage of the open door and walks in. When I am done, he walks out ahead of me without any protest. I always tell him he’s a good bird.

When I first heard about Dr. Irene Pepperberg and her work with African greys, especially Alex, I read everything and watched all the videos available on her findings. Alex certainly was amazing, but what impressed me most was his attitude. When he felt he had performed enough and earned his reward, he he could be sharp witted and sarcastic.

112215 alex and imp

If I remember correctly, towards the end of a long training session, where the trainers had told him to wait for the nut he wanted, they continued to ask him “what object?” and handed him things he knew, a key, a cork, a cup. He could name it and spell it. When Alex had had enough, he took the object, said “Nut. N-U-T.” I imagine he spoke slowly for the rather dim trainers.

Here’s a great on-line conversation between Dr. Pepperberg and folks who want to know more about her work.

112215 barbara g

And if you want to know just what some of those phrases they use actually mean, here’s a glossary.

112215 parrot wizard

I’ve linked before to videos of a young man called the Parrot Wizard. Michael Sazhin is a wizard with parrots, and has documented step by step his work with a nearly wild parrot, a macaw as I recall, and how quickly she turned into a sweet companion bird. I hope to use his techniques to work with my two Indian Ringnecks, Wraith and Orion. I’ll let you know how it goes. Here’s Michael’s web page and great training information.

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.

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