Sunday, August 24, 2014

Food Management for Geckos

Photo credit - L. Brand from Flickr
The first week I had Absinthe, my Madagascar Giant Day Gecko, I started to train her to take squirmy crickets dusted in vitamins from my fingertips. She was voracious and ate every one I offered. But that's changed now.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Training in Action: Baby Steps!

My goal is to have a tame Day Gecko that will sit in my hand while I feed him, and maybe while carrying him in the palm of my hand. This will be a challenge for most people because you cannot grab a day gecko without risking serious injury to the animal because their skin falls off if grabbed! It is because of this characteristic that many people claim Giant Day Geckos are untrainable and are a strictly hands off reptile. These people say this because they rely primarily on training involving Negative Reinforcement (R-) which involves grabbing animals. Fortunately training with exclusively Positive Reinforcement (R+) relies on 100% willing participation on the animal's part, and if the animal doesn't want to train they can walk away and the session stops. My training plan with R+ includes a long list of approximations (baby steps). See the videos to see where we are at with training!

Training doesn't always go as planned.

Approximation 1 - Take cricket from tweezers (or fingers!) in front of face.

Approximation 1 in action.

Approximation 2 - take one step to tweezers until each leg/arm(?) moved one time each

Approximation 3 - Follow tweezers one length of cage.

Approximation 4 - Follow tweezers two lengths of cage.

Approximation 5 - Follow tweezers regardless where on cage.

Approximation 6 - Follow tweezers on perch.

Approximation 7 - Jump onto perch/hand to follow tweezers.

Approximation 8 - Stay on perch/hand for 5 sec

Approximation 9 - 10 sec

Approximation 10 - 15 sec

Approximation 11 - 20 sec

Approximation 12 - until five minutes.

Approximation 13 - Stay on perch while it moves.

Gecko is now trained to be held!

Copyright 2014 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog

Saturday, August 16, 2014

He Has a Name!

Giant Day Gecko licking juice off a finger. Photo taken by ColourCodeMe at Flikr.
And his name is Absinthe! Don't know what that is? It's a green herbal liquor that was often used by hippies with a "bohemian lifestyle" in the 1900's and was thought to cause hallucinations and bad behavior. But I just like to think of my Gecko wearing dreads sitting with an ice cold beverage.

Copyright 2014 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Training is Universal Language

This is the happiest Gecko I have ever seen, look at that smile! I recently purchased a Madagascar Giant Day Gecko (today actually) and man is this guy HUGE! He's only 1 year 8 months old and he's already 8 or so inches long. I'm so very excited about this new addition because I'm hoping to accomplish something no one has ever done before.

Photo Credit: Bernard Spragg at Flickr
I am hoping to train my new gecko to learn how to station on my hand, a color, or another object. Teaching an animal to station is a fancy way of saying "stay in one spot" and is used as a great husbandry behavior in zoos worldwide.

I have never trained a reptile using Positive Reinforcement and it doesn't seem to be common practice in reptile circles. Two people I know even mentioned that it is impossible to train geckos because of their nature (speed, jitteryness, "small brain") and ability of their skin to fall off if grabbed, leading to possible infection. Yet I bet that if a gecko's skin did not slough off when grabbed or harassed these same people would readily train these lizards.

Photo Credit: Bernard Spragg at Flickr
The beauty here is that where one contingency fails (Negative Reinforcement resulting in skin loss) another can take place and begin to work (Positive Reinforcement). I have already seen and heard that geckos can learn to associate a hand with food and this is all you need to train.

To get a sneak peek about how I plan to train my Madagascar Giant Day Gecko learn about Approximations on my most recent blog post.

Copyright 2014 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog

Friday, August 8, 2014

Training is Like Eating Steak

How do you eat steak? Most people cut it into small pieces with a fork and knife and eat it one small part at a time.

Photo credit to ecpica via flickr.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

How to Pet a Bird (or any animal!)

How do you pet a bird? The answer is that you ask them!

The most amazing thing about living with a bird is learning how to communicate with them. Sure a lot people can pet their birds but most of them can't tell if their pet truly likes being pet or are just "putting up" with the human they got stuck with. People will immediately start stroking and ruffling head feathers without even seeing if the bird wants to be touched, how rude!