The “Up” Command

There is one thing you can train your parrot to do that will improve and help maintain your relationship, it is to step up on command.  This can be done with a simple two word command, “Step up” or as I use with my birds, “UP”.  The command should be used whenever want your bird to step on to your hand from where it is.   It is a very simple and clear way to establish the beginning of a training routine.

The most important time to use the up command is when removing your bird from his cage or from his play stand.  When you first purchase your bird, you may let your bird  crawl out of his cage on his own.  But after a few weeks of handling, as your new pet Parrot becomes your friend,  you should establish the “UP” command.   By using the up command, you can often avoid the tricky issue of cage territoriality.  Birds who develop cage territoriality will snap at you when you reach into the cage or simply refuse to come out.  This causes owners to become reluctant to put their hand into the cage, thus creating a situation where the bird rules the roost.

If such problems already exist, you may be “hand shy” at this point: you pull your hand away as soon as you see the beak head down towards your finger. A few good parrot bites can make anyone afraid to put their hand near their parrot.  However, birds often use their beaks like a third hand to help them balance.  Pulling your hand away gives them the message that you are an “unreliable” perch or just as if they are in a tree they would be happier to step on to a stable larger branch instead of a small floppy branch.

In most cases it is best teach the up command with a stick first.

So, start with the up command by training your pet bird to step up on a long stick rather than on your hand. This allows you to avoid giving mixed messages, which is what happens when you pull your hand away after giving the up command because you fear being bitten.  Gently press the stick against the bird’s chest the same way you would your hand.  Firmly give the up command and push gently until the bird has to step up to avoid falling off the perch. There is no need to use much pressure, as a bird will generally step up as soon as it feels itself leaning back off the perch, but be very direct and clear with this method. If you let the bird run off and start to chase it with the stick, you are sabotaging the very thing you are trying to establish: gentle dominance.

Certain species have a reputation for becoming aggressive during the Spring or when hormones are raging, Amazon parrots in particular. It is highly recommended that you stick train an Amazon and keep up this training throughout its early years so that it will be comfortable with stepping up on the stick when it reaches maturity.

Remember that this training is not just for large parrots. Small parrots such as Cockatiels need this sort of gentle dominance as well. Teaching a Cockatiel to step up when it is a baby is one of the best ways to prevent future behavioral problems.

Once your bird steps up on the stick on command, you can start to train your bird to step up on command onto your hand.  Do this away
from the cage first.

            It is a good idea to have a  floor standing  “T-STAND” for this.  Set the bird on the perch, look it straight in the eye, then put your hand against its chest and press gently while saying, “UP”.  You can occasionally give your bird a treat for obeying the up command, but don’t give a treat every time. Simple praise is an excellent way to reinforce good behavior. 

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