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.



Unlike a cane toad, pelican, or great blue heron we do not catch and swallow our food whole with it slowly sliding down our throats, if a human did that we would choke! Which is why we know to take things one step at a time, this is why training is like eating a steak!

When training an animal we have a goal behavior in mind that we would like for them to do such as coming to our hand. When I train an animal to willingly come to me I cut the goal behavior into small pieces and take it one step at a time, this is called training with approximations. If we do not train with approximations we might start to choke on our steak and see our animal start to fail. Here is how I cut and eat my steak without choking.

Training with approximations at a 3 day Workshop.
Goal Behavior: Step onto my open palm when you see it.

Approximation 1: look at my hand

Approximation 2: lean toward my hand

Approximation 3: make a small movement toward my hand (slide a bit, take a step, or other small movement based on the animal)

Approximation 4: take a step toward my hand.

Approximation 5: take two steps

Approximation 6: take three steps etc.

Approximation 7: brush my hand with foot

Approximation 8: place part of foot on hand

Approximation 9: place one whole foot on hand

Approximation 10: put some weight on hand

Approximation 11: put more weight on hand

Approximation 12: put all of your weight on my hand

Approximation 13: put all of your weight on my hand while lifting foot off

Approximation 14: put all feet on my hand

As you can see the goal behavior was achieved with many approximations! When training a new behavior make sure to start this training plan and write down as many steps to the goal behavior as you can. The more step you take the less likely you'll choke when training your animal.

Even though this is a long list of approximations an animal that is used to training like this often skips many approximations and can jump from Approximation 1 (look at my hand) to Approximation 6 (take three steps)! Sometimes we eat the steak a little faster when we are motivated to eat it.

Copyright 2014 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog
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