Bonus “micro lesson” – Hand feeding challenges.


There may be situations where you’re having a challenging time hand feeding an animal. For example, you might risk being bitten. This was initially the case when training Devey the Brush Tail Possum. You can see Devey in this lessons video. The video shows some very early stages of his training. Due to his management at the time we had prioritised the behavior of him voluntarily enter his crate. This however posed a challenge with regards to successfully delivering him his reinforcement.

You can see in the video that we overcame this by placing his food in plastic milk bottle caps. We combined this with the use of a clicker. So when Devey exhibited desirable behavior we clicked and then placed the plastic lid (with food inside) on some shelving. Devey quickly learned that this was how his reinforcement was going to be delivered. It therefore allowed us to easily avoid the possibility of him trying to bite. You can also see that later in the video I am able to hand feed Devey through the mesh door of his crate.


My time working with Devey unfortunately ended before we got to the stage of training him to hand feed from everyone without having to use the bottle caps or the mesh door. To do this we would have used positive reinforcement to shape Devey towards taking food from the hand in a more desirable fashion. You will learn more about shaping in the following three lessons.

In this situation the clicker really came in handy. Firstly as we learnt in lesson 7/A, one of the pros of the clicker is it’s unique, clear, distinct, sharp and universal sound. Secondly as we learnt in the last lesson it can help communicate to our animals when they might not be able to see us. We combined these qualities with the technique of feeding Devey in the milk bottle lids. As you can see we got results.