Shaping the step up (back to basics)

Roz

Regular Member
Shaping is a wonderful tool to teach any single behaviour without force. Since some parrots have a strong fear response to hands I thought it would be useful to show how to shape stepping up onto a hand held perch.

Before we can even begin shaping the step up we may have to introduce our parrot to the hand held perch using systematic desensitisation.

Systematic desensitisation is gradually exposing the parrot to the perch (or any other fear eliciting stimulus) in tiny steps. We only move to the next step when the parrot shows calm behaviour. So, for example, we may walk slowly into the room with the perch. The parrot shows calm behaviour. We approach a few more steps. The parrot shows calm behaviour. If at any time the parrot shows a mild fear response, we stop and back off a little until the parrot shows calm body language again. We don’t want to provoke anything stronger than a very mild response. I’m not going to suggest a time frame as we go as fast or as slow as our parrot is comfortable with. Our aim is to eventually be close enough to begin shaping the step up.

Ollie the Orange-winged Amazon used to be fearful of this perch…



Now that we have successfully desensitised our parrot to the perch, let’s shape the step up. Again we take our cue from the parrot – we go as fast or as slow as he leads us.

First we should be clear about our goal behaviour and what we intend to use as our reinforcer - see additional info on reinforcers here:

https://theparrotclub.co.uk/community/index.php?threads/reinforcement.21179/

Goal behaviour: Step up onto a hand held perch

Reinforcer: Pieces of cashew (because they are one of Ollie's favourite treats)

We are going to reinforce each successful step with a piece of cashew.



Approximations:

These are a series of tiny steps or approximations towards the final goal behaviour. Listed 1 - 7 are examples of the behaviours we are looking to reinforce and in brackets our response. Our parrot may skip a few of these steps or he might need them all:

1: Bird looks at perch (yay – treat!)



2: Bird turns body towards perch (treat!)



3: Bird takes one step towards perch (treat!)



4: Bird takes second step towards perch (treat!)



5: Bird lifts one foot towards perch (treat!)



6: Bird places that foot on the perch (treat!)



7: Bird lifts other foot and places it on the perch (treat!)



Only the last behaviour in the chain of behaviours is reinforced ie. once the bird achieves steps 1 and 2, only step 2 is reinforced. Then once steps 1, 2 and 3 are completed only step 3 is reinforced, etc. The bird might move very quickly through the steps or he might get stuck on one, in which case we would go back to the last one he did correctly, and then work back up using smaller steps. Wherever we decide to end the training, we always end on a successful approximation. Only train in short bursts.

At the beginning showing the bird the treat may help to kick start the behaviour. Bear in mind that this is a bribe or lure and should be faded out as quickly as possible by beginning to hide it in our hand.

As soon as the bird is perching, we immediately put him down again. That way he is in control and he will begin to trust us.





Steps 1 - 7 can also be done another way, by free feeding. The bird eats broken up treats or seed out of our hand, and as we move the feeder hand (or cup) up our arm or along the perch, he will follow. Again it’s like a dance… one step forward, maybe a step or two back, then forward again. The parrot begins to pair good things (food) with the arm or perch he is stepping onto.

Then we might want to increase the length of time the bird remains on the perch and/or we might want to start moving the perch. The next steps might be…

Bird grips perch as it moves a centimeter (treat! And let him step down again)

Bird grips perch as it moves two centimeters (treat! And let him to step down again)

Etc…

I taught Ollie to step up from inside his cage as he was cage bound for the first 1.5 years of living with me. I used desensitisation to get him used to the perch and me. After shaping the step up, I very gradually brought him towards the cage door and then through the door. Then a few steps away from the cage. Next I began turning a semi circle to briefly block his view of the cage and back again. The whole process took months – perhaps as much as a year, since back then he would only take a huge palm nut from me. Because he could only have one palm nut a day I could only ask for one approximation a day. After 1.5 years of very brief training per day he suddenly flew out of his cage and landed on some hanging toys the other side of the room. It happened to be Christmas day and the best present I could have! His world became a bigger and more enriching place from that moment on.

 
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Karen brown

Regular Member
Thank you Roz....what an invaluable incite in to training. This is going to help us so much. And in lay and terms too. And wow....18 months cage bound. Hats off to you and Ollie. 
 

Roz

Regular Member
Thanks DizzyBlue and Karen!  I'm glad the thread might help.  Yep, parrots will surprise you with their abilities.  Ollie always surprises me as I'm sure Merlin will do too!  Anything and everything is possible! :)
 

Lou

Regular Member
Ollie is Stunning its amazing the transformation thank goodness he ended up with you, excellent post that's really going to help so many peeps, nice one Roz :thumbsup:   :hi:
 
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kayla66

Magpie Stalker
Regular Member
Thanks Ros, that was really simple to follow, and as Dizzy said always good remind ourselves to take small steps.
 
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Kerin

Regular Member
Lovely reminder of exactly how to take things at your birds pace, and how to entice them to try things they fear, thank you Roz. Ollie really is very beautiful, I absolutely Love the pictures of him. Especially the last with him on his boing, tail fully flared. :)  
 
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Phtevey

Regular Member
Thanks a lot for this and your other post on stepping up, Trying to train our new addition (OW Amazon) at the moment, he likes to sit on his cage door perch when its open and play with his seed stuffed log toy while we hold it for him


we sure are parrot butlers.?
 

ladyc

Regular Member
Love this thread. Here's my question... how do we go about it if my OW loves me to scratch his head but won't step up?


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Fartin Martin

Regular Member
I wish I could get Billy to step onto a stick! [emoji17] he's gingerly tried to take a hold of my finger a few times but I know if he grabbed it he'd most likely try bite me[emoji23]


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Roz

Regular Member
Love this thread. Here's my question... how do we go about it if my OW loves me to scratch his head but won't step up?


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Hi ladyc, sounds like you are asking too much too soon from Rocky.  Break the behaviour down in teeny tiny manageable steps for him.  You will probably have to start by desensitising him to the presence of your hand/arm/perch: 


Show him your hand or perch from a distance that won't provoke any "fearful" body language and immediately reinforce his calm body language with the head scratch or treat.


Bring the hand/perch a little closer and immediately reinforce his relaxed body language.


Closer still and reinforce relaxed body language.


Any time his body language changes then you have gone too fast.  Go back a step or two and try again using even smaller steps or approximations.


Eventually you'll be able to put your hand or perch near enough to him so that he can start moving towards it himself in teeny tiny approximations.   


The first step here might be looking at the perch/hand - immediately reinforce!  Timing is crucial to have him link the correct behaviour with the reinforcement.


Then he might turn his body towards the perch/hand - reinforce!


Then he might lean towards the perch/hand - reinforce!


Half a step towards the perch/hand - reinforce!


A full step towards the perch/hand - reinforce!


Lifts one foot onto the perch/hand - reinforce!


Two feet on the perch/hand - reinforce!


Always go at a pace he's comfortable with.  It might take hours, it might take days or more.  Some approximations may have to be broken down into even smaller steps and others he might just scoot over and take you by surprise.


Stepping up is one of the most difficult behaviours to teach - especially with a bird who is afraid of hands, so another option if you are new to this is to start with something easier like target training.  This way you can both have a little fun and get to know each other, whilst you can practice getting your timing spot on!  Timing is everything.  Then try training the step up a little later. :)
 

Roz

Regular Member
I wish I could get Billy to step onto a stick!
he's gingerly tried to take a hold of my finger a few times but I know if he grabbed it he'd most likely try bite me



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Hey Martin.  Another beautiful Orange-wing!    


Will Billy take any treats from your fingers?  Have you introduced him to a stick yet?  It's easier to use one he is already familiar with... perhaps one similar in colour and shape to an existing one in his cage. 


I'll wait for your response before continuing.  :)  
 

Fartin Martin

Regular Member
Fartin Martin said:
On 3/7/2016 at 18:50, Fartin Martin said: I wish I could get Billy to step onto a stick! [emoji17] he's gingerly tried to take a hold of my finger a few times but I know if he grabbed it he'd most likely try bite me[emoji23]
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Hey Martin.  Another beautiful Orange-wing!    


Will Billy take any treats from your fingers?  Have you introduced him to a stick yet?  It's easier to use one he is already familiar with... perhaps one similar in colour and shape to an existing one in his cage. 


I'll wait for your response before continuing.  [emoji4] 
He is beautiful indeed [emoji5]


Tried it all..years ago I bought a buddy perch..he just always backed away. Or flew off. Any other perches I've used he'll just fly off from it. Or seems to think it's time to go back in the cage [emoji23][emoji23] he will take food from my hand. Even the tiniest of seeds and shows no aggression. He's just a strange wee man [emoji23]


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Roz

Regular Member
That's excellent that he will take food from your hand, Martin.  You can use his absolutely favourite food as reinforcement (or reward if you like) for doing the correct behaviour.  If his favourite food is a nut of some sort, then break it into smaller pieces so that you can get more reps of behaviour before he becomes satiated.


You can shape absolutely any behaviour you want to, including the step up.  You can also shape the length of time he stays on the perch.  Shaping is breaking that final goal behaviour (the step up in this case) into tiny manageable steps or approximations.


If Billy flies off at the sight of the stick, you may have to start off by leaving it in the room near enough so that he can see it but far away enough so that it doesn't provoke a fearful reaction.  Then slowly bring it nearer to his cage maybe each time you come into the room.  Go as fast or slow as he is comfortable with.


Soon you'll be able to get quite close to Billy with the stick in your hand.  Reinforce his calm, relaxed body language with a piece of treat each time you bring the stick slightly closer.  If at any time he backs off, then you have gone to fast.  Take a step back and try again using smaller approximations.  Eventually you'll be holding the stick within Billy's reach. 


Then:


Billy looks at the stick (he has to look at it before moving towards it) - TREAT!


You might want to kick start the behaviour by using the treat as a brief lure so that he has to stretch towards the perch to reach his treat.


Then hold the next treat a little further away over the stick so that again he has to stretch even further to get his treat...


Billy stretches further to get his treat.


Billy takes a step toward the stick to reach the treat.


Billy puts one foot on the stick to reach the treat.


Billy puts two feet on the stick to reach the treat.


As soon as you can fade the lure by beginning to hide the treat in your hand.  You want him to learn the behaviour and not just follow the lure/bribe.


When he steps up and gets his treat, put him down again immediately each time so that he is in control.  Being in control of what happens to you is another extremely important reinforcer.


Next you can train duration and staying on the stick as it moves.


Billy puts two feet on the stick and you wait a second before giving him the treat and let him step off again.


Billy puts two feet on the stick and you move the stick a centimetre and back again - TREAT and put him down again.


Billy puts two feet on the stick and you move the stick 3 cms forwards and back again - TREAT and put him down again.


Slowly build up how far you carry him on the stick always letting him dismount again.  This will build trust and therefore he has no need to fly off.


If Billy fails any of the steps then go back a step or two and break down the approximations into even smaller steps.  Billy might also go faster than you are prepared for and miss out some of the written steps which again is absolutely fine.


He'll be stepping up in no time, just like Ollie.  :thumbsup:
 

Fartin Martin

Regular Member
That's excellent that he will take food from your hand, Martin.  You can use his absolutely favourite food as reinforcement (or reward if you like) for doing the correct behaviour.  If his favourite food is a nut of some sort, then break it into smaller pieces so that you can get more reps of behaviour before he becomes satiated.

You can shape absolutely any behaviour you want to, including the step up.  You can also shape the length of time he stays on the perch.  Shaping is breaking that final goal behaviour (the step up in this case) into tiny manageable steps or approximations.


If Billy flies off at the sight of the stick, you may have to start off by leaving it in the room near enough so that he can see it but far away enough so that it doesn't provoke a fearful reaction.  Then slowly bring it nearer to his cage maybe each time you come into the room.  Go as fast or slow as he is comfortable with.


Soon you'll be able to get quite close to Billy with the stick in your hand.  Reinforce his calm, relaxed body language with a piece of treat each time you bring the stick slightly closer.  If at any time he backs off, then you have gone to fast.  Take a step back and try again using smaller approximations.  Eventually you'll be holding the stick within Billy's reach. 


Then:


Billy looks at the stick (he has to look at it before moving towards it) - TREAT!


You might want to kick start the behaviour by using the treat as a brief lure so that he has to stretch towards the perch to reach his treat.


Then hold the next treat a little further away over the stick so that again he has to stretch even further to get his treat...


Billy stretches further to get his treat.


Billy takes a step toward the stick to reach the treat.


Billy puts one foot on the stick to reach the treat.


Billy puts two feet on the stick to reach the treat.


As soon as you can fade the lure by beginning to hide the treat in your hand.  You want him to learn the behaviour and not just follow the lure/bribe.


When he steps up and gets his treat, put him down again immediately each time so that he is in control.  Being in control of what happens to you is another extremely important reinforcer.


Next you can train duration and staying on the stick as it moves.


Billy puts two feet on the stick and you wait a second before giving him the treat and let him step off again.


Billy puts two feet on the stick and you move the stick a centimetre and back again - TREAT and put him down again.


Billy puts two feet on the stick and you move the stick 3 cms forwards and back again - TREAT and put him down again.


Slowly build up how far you carry him on the stick always letting him dismount again.  This will build trust and therefore he has no need to fly off.


If Billy fails any of the steps then go back a step or two and break down the approximations into even smaller steps.  Billy might also go faster than you are prepared for and miss out some of the written steps which again is absolutely fine.


He'll be stepping up in no time, just like Ollie.  :thumbsup:
God. Ok! I'm gonna give this a bash!


He's quite good at eating shouldn be able to use a few things as treats!


I'll let you know how I get on! Fingers crossed.


Am I better doing this on the cage and maybe putting Bailey in another room..?!(they share the cage)


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Roz

Regular Member
LOL!  Go Fartin Martin!! :thumbsup:   It looks a lot when you write it all down, but easier once you get going in reality. 


Keep the sessions very short and always end on a successful approximation.  You won't be able to do the whole process in one day (well you might depending on the bird).  Just a few steps one day, then begin again the next day and see if you can get a little further.  As he links the approximations together, you will only be reinforcing/rewarding the last one he does.  E.g. I started by reinforcing Ollie's looking at the perch, but now that he knows all the approximations, I only reinforce the full step up... not the looking or one step towards the perch any longer.


Yes, I would do this wherever he's comfortable... and if Bailey is going to be distracting, then you could put him somewhere else.


If Bailey isn't distracting he could stay.  What I do in the evenings is have a short training session with them all after I've done the big clean.  First I get Ollie to do his step up for a piece of cashew.  Then I move onto Bobbie who targets to get her goji berry.  Then on to Chico who also targets for a piece of corn cake with almond butter on top.  Kobe has already gone into his night cage for a piece of almond and is tucked up in bed at this time.  Then next round I might get Ollie to target or turn a circle for his piece of cashew, etc.... 


So you could also teach Bailey to target at the same time! :biggrin:   Training is such fun for all!
 
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