shanlung (shanlung) wrote,

To Shanlung-Charlie and clicker training


I have not started Li Bai on touch target as yet.


Perhaps you might find the answer in this very recent discussion I have in a forum.
I think this is also very good for my livejournal where it might benefit others as well.

It started recently with a letter I received on the same day I made that last report.

Charlieboy first wrote to me with

hi shanlung. I hope you can give me some advice as I'm sure you use
clicker traing for your birds. My grey Charlie is 11 years old and a
few days ago I got him a clicker so we could do some clicker training.
He took to it really well but after 5-6 times he started to try to mate
with anything in sight, so i stopped. Now everytime I try after a coupe
of goes he tries to mate with everything again. Am I doing something
wrong? what should I do next? should I stop for a few weeks in the hope
he 'forgets' to mate with everything or ignor the behaviour?
I hope you
can help as he does seem to enjoy it.

I could only reply


I do not know how to advise you.

You know Tinkerbell and Riamfada are girls, at times sweet, at times bitchy, and a combination of that at all other times.

I always look at everything and not just the immediate problem. You obviously cannot tell me everything, your environment, he a flier? your relationship with him, his environment, his other behaviours etc. You did not even tell me where you are in clicker training program. Conditioning the clicker? target training? etc etc

Without knowing the total, I am very wary at giving advice.

In general, should Tink or Riam had behaviours I do not like, I try to divert that to behaviour more acceptable to me.

Charlieboy came back with a lot more information making it easier to see the problem from different perspective.
And I felt perhaps it should be in forum where more folks might be able to benefit from the discussion. Charlie agreed and this thread came about in,7144.0.html

The second letter was posted

thanks for getting back to me.

I'm not sure if charlie is a boy or girl but given how he is I would suspect a boy. We have an excellent relationship. He spends time with me out of his cage and spends time on the perches and stands around the house.
He is an excellent flier and I have never clipped his wings (I loved reading about your free flight and agree that greys look excellent flying free but would never do this with charlie after reading your diary).

I've had him for 11 years and had him from a baby and finished his hand rearing at home. He totally accepts me and I can lay him on his back and tickle his belly and he is totally trustworthy with me. He is happy for the kids to come close to me ( when they give me a kiss goodnight).
He's tolerant of my husband but accepting of my 3 teenage children. He is happy for the kids to come close to me ( when they give me a kiss goodnight).

He lives in the living room in a large cage and we have a moustached parakeet who finished laying eggs about 4 weeks ago. The parakeet does not want to be friends with charlie when they are out together but when they are away they are best friends and call to each other.

I breed lovebirds and ringnecks so there is normally babies in the room with him but he seem accepting of them. He seems to know they will be going but he will always stay.

He is eating Harrison's bird food and has plenty of fruit and veg to eat. 3 times a week he has scrambled egg with peanut butter on toast for breakfast.

I am doing the target training just started at the weekend) and he seemed to be enjoying it and apart from the mating behaviour he is doing well.
I do the training on his stand on the dining room table. There is no physical contact between us apart from giving him the treat. I'm on my own when i do the training. He has sunflower as a treat when training.

I'm unsure if I should continue with the training or not?
Others wrote in as well.
Asking more about clicker training.
And if the birdie will go on to imitate the clicker sound.
And Marilyn asked if Tinkerbell and Riamfada talked.

After some hiccups, I wrote into there trying to address as much as I can.

What I wrote there have been slightly modified in this Livejournal entry to explain a bit more than that off the cuff reply that I did,


I like this forum and very bad vibes need to be kept away to make this a nice place to return and return to.

I next like to answer Marilyn,

Talking is relative. What folks think as talk is mimicking of sounds.
On that , I had all kinds of sounds from Tinkerbell and Riamfada. Words, whistles, microwave oven, door creaking, mobile phones going off, lots of kitty sounds (which I think had been done to irritate and confuse kitties), evil laughter( from me), shrill peals of laughter (from my wife) and more sounds and many more I had no idea where that originated from.

But not once have I heard a clicker sound from either of them. I have not heard any others I know of who clicker trained remarking their birdie imitated clicker sound.

Everytime I did a recall, I would start with the name Tinkerbell, or Riamfada. I must have said that thousands of times. Long long after I stopped using the clicker.

Never did I hear my birdie said their names to me.

Of the two, Tinkerbell was the exceptional one. She hold conversations with me from time to time. Much as I adored and love her, my hair stood on end on everyone of those conversations. Not that the conversations were long, about 4-5 answers and replies, and infrequent. Her usage of words , and in context, blew my mind each time.

Riamfada was nowhere comparable to Tink. Perhaps would have been better should we remained together. But fate decided otherwise.

Those that have little idea of clicker training (or known as operant conditioning) take a break and do a quick read of
Tinkerbell Legacy - VH parrot and Clicker Training Rant 06

After that, perhaps read my experiences with Tinkerbell and how she took a hand in clicker training of me.

Some thoughts on clicker - The initial experience with Tinkerbell

Clicker training and bonding with Tinkerbell

Clicker training is “The finger pointing to the moon and not the moon itself” .
Clicker training is a very convenient technique, but just only a technique.
Do not make the mistake that clicker training is the one all and the end all.

I had this meeting with a most remarkable man in a remote hamlet in Taiwan who was a true birdwhisperer. A humble man and who pointed the path that I am walking on. He is so far ahead of me that I cannot match. Read of him, and then think of the context of clicker training. What he did so effortlessly and naturally will blow your mind.
Tsaoling Bird Whisperer Revisited

A hand can be turned into a fist and a punch. The same hand can also touch and caress.

A clicker in the hand can be a tool worthy of a Marine Drill Instructor to impose your will and lordship, or a means of communicating to your bird who do not understand you much yet that you are trying to reach out to him/her and his/her mind to bond with.

Do you use the clicker to mark the point where your orders are obeyed? Then you only will see nothing but whether the birdie obeyed or not obeyed.

Or do you treat the birdie as an equal intelligent sentient and give to him/her the courtesy and respect as so required? In which case, you will watch out for his/her nuances as to what you cued, modifying the cue and the training from what you seen in her so that the training is joint and pleasurable to him/her.

All that is in your heart and your attitude and your thoughts.

You get what you are prepared to give.

You all might also noticed I did not write much of the clicker training beyond touch target.

Touch target is the first part , where the birdie takes an active role in the training. In conditioning the clicker, that is passive. Nothing more than to associate the sound of the clicker with food, and the anticipation of food. That the sound of the clicker, a much more consistent sound than one you make with mouth, is a good sound.

Touch target is also very easy. It is natural for a bird to beak something brought close, such as that target stick. To be clicked and treated. For the bird to know the action is required, to do that action. The click is to let the bird know it did what you wanted him/her to do.

Even if the bird is not prepared to do anything else, touch target will be what the bird will do. Which is good to end a training session on a good note, by touching that target.

Touch target is so simple. Yet it is so far reaching in the first step of communicating with the birdie. It is almost like the ABC alphabet that go on into words, sentences and essays.

The problem , especially with greys , is that they are so incredibly intelligent that you must make the training sessions exciting and meaningful for them.

Training sessions must be kept short. Not more than 60-90 seconds. Or your TV commercial periods. Of which half the time be in head rubs and play. A birdie gets bored fast. Stop before that boredom.

I never did more than 4-5 formal clicker training sessions. Recall trainings are never counted as training session. Those had been much more fun and play than training.

Touch target is like lighting a fuse. That fuse once lighted will burn fast. You must keep running and running to keep ahead of the birdie to make the lessons interesting for them. If you are not prepared for a lot of hard work running and running to keep ahead of the birdie, this is not for you. Not to worry. A hundred and one rationalizations can be found to explain why and taking potshots at clicker training in the process as well.

Just continuing with touch target will be boring to the bird. Who likely show his boredom. Perhaps by mating with your hand.

Once touch target is known, bring the target high to make your birdie stretch up, or low to make birdie bend down to touch, to the right, to the left.

On the table, cue your birdie to walk across the table to touch target.

Do a read of

Introduction of Tinkerbell and her recalls to me, in the last part “Tinkerbell come here touch target”

Look especially into this Flickr folder to see the photos below.

I placed the target on Tinkerbell’s perches, in odd places. Not just for her to fly to. She had to fly, then walked and clawed to touch target. She had to pull and pull on chain just to touch target. Same was done with Riamfada.

Simple touch target will bore them to tears, and bore me as well.

I focused more on recalls and less inclined to doing tricks like basketball dunking and stuff like that. But anything to train with a birdie is good in that you interact actively with them provided that is fun for both.

She went past simple touch target so fast that I was torturously and frantically doing my best to stay one step ahead of her to keep her interest .

One reason why I had not gone into target touching with Li Bai as yet. I am laid back, and the really hard work will start after the touch target. As I said before , like lighting a fuse.

You cannot just do simple touch target over and over again.

That was why I had perches everywhere, with names, first to stick the target to. And then to tell her to fly to, in whatever order. Just to keep her amuse, and to keep her off my hair.

See the perch arrangement I had with Tinkerbell (sadly not documented that well) and with Riamfada such as
Rants //Staying home with Riamfada & back2room & sharp turning // Shedding

See also the foraging arrangement with Riamfada (same for Tinkerbell except not so documented)

Riamfada foraging // 3 days 2 nights at Wadi Bani Awf and ending of this chapter

Clicker got faded off very early when Tink or Riam understood me enough and very well.
You do not use clicker the whole life with them, just to kick start the understanding, which must come from the heart.

You might need a cane or a crutch to start walking especially if your first few steps are wobbly and unsteady. Will you continue to use that cane after you can walk, and in fact running as well?

That cane/crutch while useful at the beginning when your steps are unsteady will prevent you from proper walking and running if you still persist to use that once that need is over.

You discard that cane or that crutch and get on with life and look forward.

In the same sense, clicker have been set aside by me after Tink, Riam or Yingshiong clearly understood me.

Do the same.

Live life and smell roses.

if you forgotten about conditioniong the clicker.

Start of clicker training - Conditioning the Clicker (Riamfada)

Clicker training - Conditioning of clicker day 1 (Yingshiong)

Tinkerbell Legacy - VH parrot and Clicker Training Rant 06

Some thoughts on clicker - The initial experience with Tinkerbell

Clicker training and bonding with Tinkerbell

if you forgotten about conditioniong the clicker.


Read Riamfada free flights in villa // And around neighbourhood for explicit details

If what I wrote help you and you like to help, give a thought
for the wildlife sharing our planet.
Do write that cheque to Gerald Durrell wildlife trust

I am a life member of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Do join us to do
whatever we can for the wildlife that shared our planet.
or to any wildlife conservation body of your choice

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