Do you want to train dogs? First train the chicken!
I believe that every person thinking about professional dog training, should first train chickens. I will even go further – anyone who’s job is to motivate effectively not only animals but humans as well. I am talking here about coaches, managers, teachers and even parents, because each of us in some way is or will be “the trainer.”
When I talk about this to my friends the first reaction is of course – laughter. And then a lot of questions, but why actually train chickens for? So I first let them laugh out loud and then I explain what I mean.
Certainly it’s not about teaching chicken to shake a paw, play cards or pull trolley in between the intervals for egg bearing. It is not about teaching chickens at all (although they learn very fast), but it is about teaching yourself how to train without using aversive methods. It is to convince yourself that much better, faster results are achieved by using methods of positive reinforcement. It is because the secret of an effective behavior change involves the application of methods based on motivation, positive reinforcement, reward, instead of yelling, physical force or punishment.
But why chicken? BIRDS DO NOT LET MANIPULATE THEMSELVES!
How many of you pressed your dog’s rump to teach him how to sit? Did you ever yell at your child because whole trip to the supermarket was just a disaster with baby on your shoulder crying for a new toy?
Listen to this – you will never force anything on a chicken, so you will not be even tempted. Now tell me how many patience did you show while teaching your dog not to pull on the leash or your child not to write on the walls? How many of you would lose it and use the force? I think many – but it is really unnecessary.
Teaching this kind of creature, in principle, sets the coach from the very beginning on the right track – positive reinforcement track. Training chickens shows that we do not need to use violent methods to educate others.
But why chicken? CHICKEN IS FAST!
Training chicken requires tremendous reflex and observation skills. Suppose we want to reward some specific behavior – such as “sit” in the dog. The dog sits and we say SUUUUPER and give him a treat. But it often happens that it only seems to us that we reward “sit”, but from a dog’s “point of view,” it might have been something else. Between the time that dog actually sat and we said “suuuuper”, many other movements could have occurred like lifting the paw, ect. So basically – if I said “suuuuuper” praising dog’s nice “sit”, but just before my “suuuuper” dog lifted his paw – I certainly rewarded lifting the paw – not sitting. Reflex and observation are necessary features of a good coach. Chicken is much faster than most animals – if we learn on one of the most difficult, other species will not be a problem for us.
But why chicken? Chicken does not involve emotionally with his coach!
Emotional relationship is often an obstacle during the training, the coach often does not retain the objectivity and the object trained quickly realizes that he will be able to get away with many things. Chickens do not get attached to the trainers.
But why chicken? Mistakes made by the trainers reflect very quick in the chicken’s behavior.
Dogs are a very tolerant. The dog will finally learn how to sit, despite of the trainer’s mistakes. Chicken will not, either he will not learn anything or he will stop responding to the training at all. By teaching chickens we quite quickly realize what mistakes do we make and we correct them very quickly.
To all interested I recommend the book of Karen Pryor “Don’t Shoot the Dog”
See some practice with chickens on the pictures and videos attached from the seminary I attended myself.