Friday, 30 March 2012

Video 13: The Knock-Down Target

A bit of comic relief this week at the expense of poor Justin Bieber and friends. Brita already knows how to target a red circle, so I changed it up and made it a vertical target that she has to knock down. After watching this video several times I realised that I am making a fundamental error here - my timing sucks, to be blunt. Instead of clicking for the action (pecking the target) I am clicking the result (the target falls down). So I would like to do a bit more of this and fix that mistake and start shaping her for not just a peck but a strong, pushing peck like the one she game Kim Kardashian (at least I think it's Kim, I don't know one of those girls from the other honestly). Brita sometimes pecks and pulls the target towards her, then it slowly falls to the ground against her body. I would like to see the targets go down hard and fast and then get her up to doing several in a row - maybe the whole cast of Jersey Shore?

On another note, I spent all day at the BC Animal Health Technologists Association Annual Conference and got to listen to Dr. Sophia Yin speak all day. I have the option to go to another 2 days of lecture by her and I'm going to do it. She is a remarkable woman and great behaviourist and I am so glad I have the option to hear her speak for a whole three days! Today she spoke about the basics of behaviour including operant and classical conditioning, desensitisation and counter conditioning, and low-stress handling restraint for cats and dogs (the subject of her latest book - which Brita used as a prop [literally!] in her last video). Dr. Yin tossed me a clicker for answering a question. I'm more than a bit of a geek - this was kind of like meeting a rock star for me.

Unfortunately I missed the trade show part of the conference which is my favourite part, but I discovered one of our clinic cats to be very sick and he needed medical attention. By the time we got him fixed up the trade show was over! I enjoy speaking to all the veterinary product reps and salespeople so I am very bummed out - but thankfully our kitty should be okay.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Video 12: Perfecting the Platform

I ran into a bit of a pickle this week when I started training Brita again. She remembered the red ball right away, but was having a hard time with the green square and the platform. She would circle it again and again, always keeping her eye on it, and occasionally step on it or graze it with her foot. I felt there was something holding us back from making further progress. Quail are highly visual, as are most birds, and so far I have been giving her visual cues: i.e. see a red circle = peck it; see a green square = step on it. But thinking about the anatomy of a quail made me wonder if she could see the square while she was standing on it. Her eyes are on either side of her head and they have great panoramic vision, but her feet are quite far back behind her head, unlike a human. If my theory was correct, she could not see the green square when she was on it and therefore did not have any sensory input about what she was doing right. I decided to try using a square of non-skid shelf liner or "earthquake cloth" instead. It has a spongy texture that she can feel without having to see it. Once I replaced the green paper square with that, she caught on right away and was consistently standing on the platform every time and staying there for several moments within a couple of minutes.

For the next session that afternoon, I tried sticking a book under the platform to bump it up a bit. She didn't give the book a second glance and continued to jump on the platform, so I tried another book and another book until the platform was over four inches high. Each time she was not intimidated to jump up! I put a red-ball-on-a-string device beside the platform and she immediately knew what to do with it. As a matter of fact, she seemed so focused on the ball that she didn't want to jump down off the platform to get her treat. I don't know if she thought if she just pecked and pecked some more the treat would get closer to her so she wouldn't have to jump down or what.

Tonight is Animal Health Technology Night at TRU and the people in my class are doing demos and presentations on all aspects of of what an AHT does. My station is Animal Behaviour and I am bringing Brita along to do a demo of the red ball and the platform. I'm also going to be working with a border collie named Kidd whom I have never worked with before. Should be fun!

I have some fun new ideas for what I want to do with Brita next. ow that I can get her to peck things and step on things, I can apply these basic behaviours to more complex scenarios. I would also like to teach her to pull things, but we'll see how far I get by the time exams come around.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Video 11: The Platform

It's been four weeks since Brita and I last had a training session - I've been on a three week clinical practicum and am slowly getting back into the routine of school and ready to start training again! Brita has spent her last few weeks molting and is getting in a nice new set of feathers, though she looks a little scraggly at the moment.

The Platform was something we worked on a week before I left - I've only just found the time to compile the highlights. I started with a short platform and got her to touch it, then put a foot on it, then two feet, and then to to stay there for at least a second. Then I bumped up the platform to be 3x as high. This confused her a bit because not only was the platform taller, it was a little bigger and it looked different. This might have been too many changes at once, so I went backwards with her and clicked her for simply touching it and over the course of a few sessions, got her to walk on it.

I would like to increase the height of the platform and get her to stand on it for a couple more seconds. This week I will mostly be doing review with her as we have a public demo to do at my university for Animal Health Technology night. I will not only be doing demos with Brita but with a border collie as well!