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Feb 7, 2013

Visualizing. Targeting

Today we begin to develop our first training plan, explaining the different steps of the overall plan that I described, employing as example a key behavior such as "targeting”.

Thus, following the general scheme, today we explain the first step:

Visualizing and describing of the behavior we want to get.

First, we must have a very clear idea of what we want to teach our parrot. It´s not enough to think "I want Rufo to open his wings on my cue," but you have to be very specific about the definitive behavior you want to get, for example "I want Rufo, when hearing my cue " eagle ", to open both wings and fully lift them high and stay in that position for at least 10 seconds."

It is important the detailed visualization of the definitive behavior, because only if we are clear of that final behavior we will be able to shape the successive approximations towards that end.

Once we have viewed and thought the behavior we want, it is advisable to write it down in our training journal.

So, and starting with a first practical example that I will use to detail the scheme of training, write the following in the journal:

"I want Rufo to follow a wooden stick (target) as soon as he sees it, and when he approaches it, he must gently nip the pole tip."

As we see, I want him to nip the pole tip (not anywhere in the stick), the nip needs to be soft (not strong), and he must follow the target as soon as he sees it (without delay), ie, I have established a set of criteria to be fulfilled.

This behavior is called "target" or "targeting", and is one of the most important ones we can teach our parrot, because it will allow us to move him wherever we want without even touching or handling him, which can be interesting at times when the animal, either by hormones or by overdrive or whatever reason, is in a state of aggression that can be dangerous to handle to return it to its cage, or when working with a wild parrot not accustomed to the hand, or even is a behavior that will facilitate many other tricks such as climbing a rope or a ladder. (This technique is used not only birds, but with any species such as dogs or marine dolphins).

Because of that, this is a very suitable behavior to teach our parrot in first place and can even be trained with the animal inside its cage.

The object to follow (target) can be a finger, a stick of wood or whatever we want. I personally use a wooden stick used for Chinese food (about 20cm long).

Thus, we have completed the first step of our general scheme: we have visualized and adequately described the behavior we want to teach our parrot.

In the next post, we will discuss the next step: try to get and capture the behavior.

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