Positive Reinforcement

Aldo inspects a bite-size quail tidbit offered on the tip of my finger.

There are many ways to teach an animal to do a single behavior, like having a raptor stand on a gloved hand. Falconers use a traditional method called “manning” where the falconer sits with a new bird on glove for an extended period of time with the idea that it will become acclimated after hours of exposure. A more modern approach to training the same behavior uses positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement is everywhere in our lives. You lavish your dog with attention if he comes when called. You receive compliments for a new hairstyle. Both of these examples have a reward that makes the behavior more likely to occur again. Your dog will keep running to you if he loves the attention, or you might style your hair the same way to get more compliments. I use the same concept with our raptors, using food as the main reinforcer. Aldo gets a meat tidbit every time he steps on glove or stands still on the scale. New stimuli, like large groups of people, are introduced slowly. Rather than expecting the bird to quickly acclimate, we use food to turn it into a positive environment for the bird. Both manning and positive reinforcement are proven effective, but the latter is favored by education raptor trainers.


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