Originally Posted by Ally
If I didn't make it clear before, the "3 second rule" is NOT, in fact, a rule, but a general guideline that I have found with dogs and seems to carry over pretty well to make that exact association I want. It can be difficult to do without a CR, which is why operant conditioning and conditioned reinforcers are so incredibly powerful in shaping behavior. They capture the exact moment or behavior you are looking for without the delay that reaching for a tidbit (or other treat) can cause. I love operant conditioning, I am a firm believer that it can turn a "good" trainer, falconer, teacher, whatever, into a great one.
The absolute rule
is actually more like ~15 minutes. However, the longer the time between the CR and the actual delivery of the reward, the weaker the association will be. Although it should be noted that the subject animal will frequently pick up on cues, and be rewarded by them, knowing that the treat is coming. A classic example is when you click a dog, then fumble in a pocket for the actual treat. They are rewarded by your hand in the pocket, in anticipation of what will be coming out, and all of that gets associated to the behavior that you tagged with the CR. Hawks do just as well with that anticipation being a reward of sorts.
Now to go back and re-examine the 3 second...shall we call it a guideline
?... a bit. One thing that is very important to remember, especially when working with a well armed animal from the solitary side of the social/non-social spectrum like hawks, is that they have frequently have less than friendly reactions to rivals for their food, and these behaviors typically express themselves when they get impatient about expecting food to appear and not actually having it appear. This means that you need to be very careful about delivering the food after the CR is given, or you have some ugly anti-social behaviors show up, and THOSE
will be reinforced. Sometimes instead of the behavior you are trying to reinforce.
The key is to wait out the ugly anti-social behaviors. Preferably until they are gone all together, but sometimes you may need to settle for them being reduced. The hawk will quickly put it together that it only actually gets the reward if it minds its manners.
There are very strong instinctive impulses backing these anti-social behaviors, and they dont take very much reinforcement to become very strongly expressed.