For the next phase, I placed the bin a little to the right or left of the bottle. Many of the times the bottle would hit the edge of the bin and fall in. On those instances, the bird would get a treat. On the times it fell to the ground, nothing. By the fifteenth repetition I saw that he was leaning towards the bin to ensure the bottle – bin connection.
Each session lasted around three to five minutes and within that time I was handing him the bottle five to ten times. Then I would take a break for an hour or two and then go back to where we left off. Each session ended with Pebbles getting the bottle in the bin, with a treat following the behavior. If he had missed putting the bottle in the bin a few times, I would make the bin closer to increase the chance of him being successful.
By the next morning I was able to present the bottle anywhere on the play stand. Pebbles would come over and take the bottle and then climb around to get to the recycling bin.
To train a dog, cat or small mammal I would go about it in the same way. If your dog, for example, isn’t interested in retrieving an item, smearing a little peanut butter or wet dog food on it might entice them. If you have the opposite problem, with them not wanting to let go, showing the treat before the behavior is completed will often do the trick.
Making it very easy in the beginning and gradually raising the bar will make this behavior fun and manageable. Having your pet show off their new trained behavior throughout the year will not only show off your training skills, but also you and your critter companions’ love for the environment.
Kenny Coogan has a B.S. in animal behavior. Please email your questions to email@example.com, or search for "Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan" on Facebook.