November 18th, 2005

conditioning the clicker day 6 - and first use of the conditioned clicker

This entry was written at 10am on Sat. I was going to write it at 1150pm last night. But the beer and the wine and the champagne coursing in my blood from the evening were too much for me to continue sitting in front of my PC.

Another very old friend JL (same vintage as CM and JC) decided to have a bunch of us to eat, drink and be silly in case the world end the next day. That was at a place called Mox at Tanjong Pagar Road and better known as a gay's hangout. The ambience was good and so was the food with enchanting waiters. One was dressed so gorgeously with curves in right places but asked for our orders in such deep low voice.

In cases where I am unable to write for that day, I normally would just combine those days together. But so far, that had not happened yet. Even if it happened, Friday was special enough to be written just on its own as you will see later.

So on Friday morning

YS mash weighed in at 38.9 no change from evening before
Claus weighed in at 35.8 drop of 0.4 from evening before
SL weighed in at 34.9 drop of 0.3 gm from evening before

Yingshiong was 34.8 gm

Sadly but clearly, although the dry mash I made with so much love and effort and with greater nutritional needs wasnt liked by Yingshiong as much as I would like it to be.

Threw that all away and replaced with fresh stuff.

YS mash was 39.0
Claus was 36.9
SL was 39.2

I then focused on the conditioning of the clicker. I click the clicker, then hold out a whitey or suri for YS to fly and hover at fingertips to get it. Or I would stand up with treat and move to YS to give him directly.

So it went on this way with erratic frequency in the morning.

To make that process easier, I would pre select some whiteys to place them in a small plastic box a third that of a ciggie box. As the box lost its lid, I would take that out with me should I leave the room. At times I did forget to take that out.

Yingshiong had taken over the flight room long time ago. He would be flying everywhere and hopping about everywhere poking his nose where it was not welcomed.

So I was in the PC room when I heard loud screamings from YS. When I got to him, that little bugger dragged that whitey box on the floor, with whiteys around his feet and screaming away. He saw me and flew to the perch and looked very smuggly at me. This was not the first time. But I was shocked. There were four whiteys before, and three was on the ground. He could have eaten all of them quietly , and then called. Instead, he screamed and called for me. As if he rather the click and treat with me then to eat that all on his own.

So he need to be rewarded with nice words from me. And of course, a click and treat.

You understand that I felt the 'conditioning of clicker' was completed, that YS understood the sound of 'click' is a good sound. It was an extra bonus to me that he liked the C&T enough to scream and call me back even though he could just quietly gobbled up all those whiteys.

I have written that 'touch target' as the next phase after 'conditioning the clicker'. But that was written before I knew how painfully shy and timid shamas are.

Also, to get into 'touch target' I need to be in close proximity with YS. YS had not allowed that as yet.

You recalled I placed the treat on my body and he flew to me, hovered and flew back again chosing not to get the treat.

I could have withhold food from him to starve him so he would be forced to do that. But by having such powers, it falls on us that by my choice, I will not starve him. I do think of him as companion and friend. Do I win him over by starvation? or do I win him over by his choice as well.

You noticed by the records of his weight, he was nowhere starving.

YS would fly to the treat if I hold the treat with fingers. I gotten him a week ago to hop on my finger, but that was to get to his food.

I could walk to him and he remained on his perch, but only if he saw I had treat in my finger.

If I just stood up, with no treat in hand, he would fly off from his door perch, either to high perches , or back into his cage.

I thought over that and all his interactions with me. I believed we had a rapport. But his timidity and shyness such that he flew away might have been the last vestige and remmants of shama's inate shyness and timidity. That was what he did from the beginning too. So perhaps that became a habit with him that I needed to modify.

I placed a small stool in between my chair and the cage. In the past, evertime I got off my chair to sit on that stool, YS would fly off his door perch.

Operant conditioning, as clicker training really is, give the creature a choice. In what I am doing, food is clearly available at all times. As my personal choice, I do not withhold all food as advised prior to clicker training as they are my companion and friend. And when talking about choice, I want them to have a true choice, and not one induced by great hunger.

But be known at a later stage, I might need to introduce greater food management control for Yingshiong. His weight seemed to be higher than the 28-32 gms indicated for shama. Just as with humans, overweight would not be healthy for birds and shama too.

In the afternoon, YS sat on his door perch. I very slowly got up from my chair. He flew off. I sat down back into my chair, and he flew back to the perch.

I told him I like to sit on the stool and do not fly off. I hold the clicker in his view and slowly got up. He flew into his cage. I sat back on the chair. I could almost hear the clockwork in his brain clicking away.

I told him again, and slowly got up and he remained on his door perch. I sat on the stool and gave a click. I almost feel something in his brain, and I told him 'yes, that is right' and reached into the whitey box to give him a whitey.

So he knew the click is a good sound, and that he had the choice to do as he liked, to stay or to go. But if he accepted me getting nearer by his choice, he got rewarded with the click and the treat that was to follow. The treat may take time in getting out of the box, but surely, that treat would come.

That was repeated. When he flew up to high perch, or into the cage, he did not get the click. I felt almost as if he was trying out the different permutations. But he knew for sure, if he remained on the door perch, and let fly off when I sit close to him, he got the click, and the treat.

I feel sorry if people think this is Pavlovian conditioning, the creating of reflex driven mindless automatons. You demean them , and you demean yourself. If so, then your entire education, in school, and universities , had been a Pavlovian conditoning of you too. And sorry to say, you failed to understand all that I have written, or perhaps my ability to write and communicate is so bad that I failed totally in making you understand. This is a training not only of them, but of them on you and is a dual process.

The stool was moved closer. I shrunk further his radius of comfort, to his willing acceptance. He could always fly off, he forego the treat and my caressing voice. He stayed, and he would be told with the click, and the treat and my voice that he did the right thing.

End of the afternoon, weighing was done again.

YS mash at 38.8 , drop must be moisture. This bag was opened in the fridge to let it dry.
Clause was at 36.8 and SL at 39.1

Yingshiong was a hefty 36.5 gm and loving my company even more.


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

or to WWF or other conservation bodies of your choice

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