Friday, September 25, 2009

Clicker with clucker

There is a camp ("Chicken Camp") famous among dog trainers, where participants hone their dog training skills by training chickens. Not dogs. Obviously the participants will need to go BACK to dogs, after camp, because that's where the money is. But if the market shifts one day, these people will be able to train chickens too.

Actually, clicker training chickens is (somewhat) popular because it is a good way to practice the mechanics involved in clicker training anything. As a dog trainer with a flock of chickens, I always thought in kind of a vague way that I would clicker train one someday.

Well, someday started yesterday...and it was an inauspicious beginning. For starters, I frightened my chicken with the target I constructed for her to peck. Also, I planned to shape the behavior of pecking, starting with just looking at the target--but unfortunately I realized on the spot that I couldn't tell when she was looking at the thing. Her eyes are on the sides of her head. I did some hasty reconsidering and decided to train "turn in a circle to the right" instead. So we started on that.

An extremely cursory review of YouTube videos shows me a quick way out of the target problem--namely, make a target that looks like something the chicken would peck at naturally, and then capture the peck instead of shaping it. Ahhhh, I see.

They say "clicker is quicker," but clicker is even MORE quicker when "trainer is brainer." We'll just have to see if I am smart enough to train a chicken.

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