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.