Amy goes around a brick

Amy the rat is learning how to walk around a brick, as you’ll see in the video below.

Although walking around a brick might not seem too difficult, this is actually a pretty challenging behavior. Amy had previously learned to stand on top of this very same brick. So, when we first started working on this behavior, she was pretty sure that she was supposed to climb on top of the brick.

Amy and I have been working on this for almost a week and the video below shows our progress so far. I started out with a very high rate of reinforcement. Amy earned a click and a treat every time she took a couple of steps forward. If she got on top of the brick, I just waited until she got off again.

She’s getting the hang of it now. However, if my shaping isn’t going as planned and she gets confused or doesn’t know what to do, the behavior that she defaults back to is getting on top of the brick.

It can be difficult to shape a new behavior with a certain object or in a certain situation if the animal has a previous history of doing a different behavior with the object or situation. In these cases, it is very important for the trainer to train the new behavior in small pieces and set the animal up for success at every step. Otherwise, the animal will often make repeated errors, which can be frustrating for both the animal and the trainer.

Once Amy figured out that I wanted her to walk around the brick, I gradually started increasing the number of steps that she had to walk before each click. Currently, she has to walk about halfway around the brick before earning a click and treat. We will keep extending this until she can walk a whole lap and then, even walk two or three laps.

Watch on Youtube: Amy goes around a brick

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