ClickerSolutions Training Articles

Intermediate Chicken Training Camp
October 27-31, 2000

Note: These are the notes I took during the lecture portions of the intermediate chicken training camp offered by Bob and Marian Bailey. If there are any mistakes, they are mine. I have no doubt that my paraphrasing -- or perhaps my plain old understanding -- is incorrect or incomplete in places. If you have any doubts about the validity of something, please verify it with the Baileys themselves at

Day 1, Friday, October 27, 2000

This class will emphasize non-discrete behaviors and cueing. At the end of the class, we'll touch on chaining. The advanced class will emphasize chaining. In this class we'll discuss the fundamentals of developing a training program:

  • What do you want?
  • What do you have?
  • How do I get from where I am to where I want to be?

We'll be looking at rate - how often the chicken pecks a target. We need to count the number of pecks in a specific time period.

This workshop is about behavior. Animal behavior, human behavior, trainer behavior. You must modify your behavior in order to modify the dog's behavior. You will learn from watching others make mistakes.

This class is about fundamentals - we don't cover any advanced training concepts. They don't teach the advanced techniques because when people apply the fundamentals correctly, they don't need as many of these advanced concepts.

This workshop is about good teaching procedures. Between Bob and us. Between coach and trainer. Between trainer and chicken. Between chicken and trainer.

The workshop is about good training procedures. Precise timing. Observing behavior. Quick decisions. Fast trials. More trials. More reinforcement. Higher expectations.

The workshop is not about developing relationships or hierarchies. (Don't alpha roll those chickens.) Thoughts. Emotions. Tricks or gimmicks.

Skinner did not say there were no emotions. He said that at our stage, we should ignore them.

This workshop is not about speculations on cause, intent or function of behavior. It's not about specific behaviors or training problems.

What is animal training and why do we do it? Training is the consequential change of one or more organisms' behavior by the actions of another organism. Training is similar to teaching, instruction, and education. When discussion training of humans, these words are synonyms. With animals, teach and train are synonyms. Behavioral technologists include animal trainers. Animal trainers predict, modify, and control behavior.


  • Learn scientific methods.
  • Learn principles and practice of behavioral analysis.
  • Apply behavioral analysis.

Behavior is anything that an organism does.

Behavior can be complex. Higher animals exhibit high rates of complicated behavior. Even simple animals can exhibit frequent and complicated behavior. There is not usually one single cause for a behavior.

Some animals are social animals. They can work together as groups to accomplish tasks that they couldn't accomplish individually.

One behavior is seldom isolated from other behaviors. Many behaviors occur in groups - walking is a group of individual steps. Some behaviors occur in chains. Higher animals are particularly likely to behave in chain. Driving a car is a chain of behavior. Each behavior creates a stimulus to cue the next behavior.

Mating can involve complex interactions. Courtship behavior leads to nesting behavior.

  • How do we name complex behavior?
  • How do we discuss complex behavior?
  • How do we change complex behavior?
  • Do we change all of a behavior at once?

Trying to change all of a behavior at once is lumping. Breaking a complex behavior into responses is splitting. Splitting is better than lumping.

Behavior is often too complicated to discuss without breaking it down. Scientists separate behavior into smaller units called responses. When you add in the stimulus and consequence, the process is called Behavior Analysis.

A response can be defined as any action or set of actions selected by a trainer to talk about, study, or control.

A behavioral response is not necessarily a reaction or response to something specific. It is merely a defined piece of behavior.

The definition of a response is arbitrary, but it has a definite beginning, middle, and end.

Responses may be defined by a higher authority or by the trainer.

A trainer should train responses, not behavior or behaviors. Training "heeling" is training a behavior. Clicking when the dog's nose is two inches from the pant's inseam for 10 seconds is training a response. It is part of the behavior.

Trainers should use applied behavior analysis. Analyze all parts of the situation - stimuli, environment, etc.

Splitting is reductionist. Lumping is collectivist. We want to split as much as possible because it's possible to control more. Lumping often leads to erratic learning, slow downs in learning, learning plateaus, or dips in learning.

Respondent conditioning. Stimulus + Response = Reflex. Reflexes are mostly physiological, are selected for survival value, and use mostly smooth muscles and glands. Reflexes include breathing, heartbeats, digestion, crying, etc. Respondent behaviors, or reflexes, are less changeable than motor actions.

In reflexes, the stimulus is easier to change - another stimulus can be substituted. But the response is very difficult to change. Pair a neutral stimulus with a natural stimulus and you will get a conditioned stimulus.

Operant behavior begins with innate motor actions. It is so-named because it operates on the environment. In-between behaviors lie on a continuum between respondent and operant - the innate behaviors like uncoordinated arm and leg movements made by infants, for example. Out of these behaviors come full-blown operant behaviors.

Day 2, Saturday, October 28, 2000

Be careful when talking about self-reinforcing behaviors that you're not dealing with a situation you created yourself. For example, Bob had dolphins that during open-water excursions had to swim through schools of fish. If the dolphins had been hungry - if they had been using food for reinforcement - they would have lost their dolphins.

The onset of the red light should be a significant part of our plan.

Do not be afraid of extinction.

Balance your resources. The time to think is not while training. You may feel that training time is limited and must be used, but you may find that you feed too much.

Basic principles of OC: stimulation, reinforcements, extinction, aversives (punishment), and generalization. Skinner doesn't include stimulation as a principle, but the Baileys do.

The basic principles are fundamental processes. They cannot be broken down into simpler processes. However, they can be used in combination to create derived principles. These include discrimination, shaping, ratios, etc. The derived responses require differential reinforcement.

Stimulation is the operation of stimuli. A stimulus is a change in physical energy to which the animal can respond. If the animal can't respond, it's not a stimulus for that animal. We can't hear pitches over 25,000Hz, so those sound are stimuli for us (but are for dogs).

Reinforcement is the process of strengthening a response. A reinforcer is anything that strengthens a response. Scientists judge a response by its probability of occurring. A response is strong when it occurs frequently. Primary reinforcers are determined by the animal and are usually associated with survival. Secondary reinforcers are conditioned by associating a neutral reinforcer with a primary reinforcer. Reinforcers can be added or taken away (positive or negative).

Extinction is the weakening of a previously conditioned response by omitting the reinforcement. Characteristics are extinction bursts (increase in rate), increase in intensity, and spontaneous recovery. Work through them, and the behavior will disappear. Extinction doesn't work with self-rewarding behaviors.

Use of aversives. It's called punishment when a human or other animal applies it. There are lots of aversives that have nothing to do with humans or other animals (touching a hot stove). The individual animal defines what is aversive. Aversives can also be primary or secondary. They can also be positive or negative. A threat or warming is a secondary aversive.

Generalization. Two types: stimulus generalization and response generalization. This is an innate capacity. Some animals are better at it than others. Chickens are not good generalizers. Stimulus generalization means that the animal will make the response that they make to one stimulus to another, similar one. Humans are terrific generalizers. Response generalization is making change in the response to the same stimulus.

All of the above principles can be combined to create all of the derived principles: discrimination, shaping, ratio and interval schedules, and chaining.

The ABCs of behavior: Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequences. A Behavior Analyst analyzes all of these.

Antecedent. Background or context stimuli are often relatively unnoticed by the trainer. Some problems may be rooted in background stimuli, perhaps stimuli that we're not even capable of noticing. The most important antecedent is often the most salient (outstanding) stimulus at that time. This can be a cue, a gesture, or a discriminative stimulus (which tells the animal that the behavior will be reinforced). It may also be a warning of danger.

The salient stimulus should…

  • Be distinctive or unique.
  • Have strong attention-getting properties.