Bird Training

Once upon a time when wild import birds were all that we had to choose from bird training consisted of teaching a few basic things like “stepping up” onto your hand, or a perch without the bird biting and speech mimicry. Some would teach their birds to “kiss” or to ride on their shoulders.

Interesting to note here that riding on shoulders is not only easily taught but I would not call it a trick at all since  9 out of 10 birds will learn it by accident and prefer it to sitting on your hand.  In fact, the trick is how you get him off your shoulder, show me that trick!   (smile)

So, a quick answer to that for the newest of Parrot owners it to get a large towel and put it around the top of your head.  Then slowly drop it down to your shoulders to remove the bird from your shoulders.  This is really only for the people who feel that they are not yet in control of there pet parrot and leaving him on your shoulder might result in a surprise bite to the ear.  I always tell people to first totally understand a pet parrots temperament before allowing it to stay on your shoulder.

With the advent of domestically raised hand-fed babies; bird training now encompasses everything from the simple basics, to teaching birds to lay on their backs, play dead and roll over on command. Some birds can identify objects, colors and materials.  Speech training has progressed from mere mimicry to a real form of communication between a bird and it’s human trainer.

It only takes a short period of ownership before most people realize the intelligence of these creatures. They are capable of learning almost anything. The motivation has been for them to want to learn something and enjoy doing it. Positive reinforcement is the attention, praise and food reward that they receive for their performance. There are numerous books and training videos available that can teach you on a step-by-step basis how to train your bird to do a variety of “tricks”. I will not attempt to duplicate them here.

A baby parrot is very much like a child in that during their life they go through several stages or phases that can produce behavior that is not acceptable to you. As you work through these times it is important to know that usually this is just a stage they are going through.  Some bad habits are actually taught to and reinforced by people who do not understand how their bird thinks. A basic understanding of how your bird thinks is one of the most important things to training your bird.

It’s real easy to make a sweet baby bird the center of your world but when schedules change or the inevitable newness of the pet wears off the bird does not understand why it is no longer the center of attention.  Behavior problems like screaming and excessive destruction can follow.  It is much better to teach the baby that there are times for play with you and there are times for playing on a playpen/play area, by itself and there are times that will be spent in the cage.

The most common complaint that I hear from people is the one that goes “As soon as I get home from work my bird starts screaming and I just can’t stand it.”  Some resort to yelling at the bird, squirting it with water, covering it up, or giving it something to eat (this is a very bad thing to get started). Keep in mind always that negative attention is still a form of attention. What I suggest is a compromise for this type of a situation. Everyone when they get home has a list of things to do but remember that while you have been at work for 8 hours your bird has been in his cage doing his thing too and after 8 hours he is pretty tired of it. When you arrive home your parrot will wants you to give him some attention and to do something different.

If you are in the house and not responding to him he will remind you vocally that he is there and is in need (very much like a child). If you will take a few minutes after you get home, take him out of his cage and tell him what a lousy or great day you’ve just had (this may be a good way for you to relax too). Give him some attention (depending on what your bird likes) then put him on an open play area where he can see what you are doing.  If you like you can give him a food treat at this time (This is different than giving him food to shut him up). Make sure that his play area has toys to play with; especially good for this are the toys that you can put a treat into so that he has to work to get it out. Then at this point you should be able to go about getting your things done and he should be occupied and content. Keep in mind that breaking an already established bad habit does take longer that setting up a good behavior pattern.

The next common complaint is biting.  Biting should never be tolerated.  How you deal with a biting bird is directly related to: how, why and the location of the biting. Never smack, beat or strike a bird.  Some say that when a bird bites they will twist his beak to make it uncomfortable for him, this is done as he bites so that it is not an act of retaliation but more of an extension of his action. They say that it usually does not take more than a few twists for it to sink through even the toughest birdbrains.   Arizona Parrots believes that it will not help to make the bird afraid of you.  Biting can be a parrots normal reaction to fear.  What I have found to be the best is to assume that the bird bite was caused by something I did wrong.  Usually by changing the way that I handle the bird … for example:  I can handle and pet the bird only with a towel, instead of my hands.  I have removed any chances for a bite to happen again.  I will continue the towel use until the bird and I understand each other better.  Arizona Parrots asks you to always respect your pet parrot and  treat it with kindness.  In return you will have a loving pet for up to 80 years !!!

Please remember that this is a simple help page and the intent is to help people have healthy, happy, parrots companions.

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