I'm been back from the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Conference in San Francisco since Monday, and am still reeling from all the great information I gleaned from the various speakers. It was a wonderful conference, and as always I learned a lot about different ways that I can be a better dog trainer.
The highlight of my trip was the opportunity to "Click a Chick". For years animal trainers have attended Terry Ryan's Chicken Camps in which they learned to clicker train chickens. Why chickens? Because they are an animal which most people haven't ever trained before, and so therefore won't come with bad training habits. Because people are less likely to bond with a chicken and give in to their emotions. Chickens are also very fast moving animals -- which requires the trainer to be spot on with their timing. And because the trainers aren't going to be taking the chickens home with them -- so therefore don't have to worry about how their training impacts the chicken as a pet.
While official chicken camps run for 4 days, the APDT version was only for a few hours -- however I really did learn a lot from the experience. I learned to remain still and only move when I was delivering the reinforcement (chicken pellets in a cup) so that the chicken was learning without being prompted and so that I didn't unintentionally create a visual cue. I also started to learn to move a little faster with my timing, and to reinforce more frequently.
I got video -- posted below. My friend Trish McMillan -- a behaviorist from the ASPCA, was my partner.