Target Training

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You have just finished clicker training your parrot. You see it looking for the treat after it hears the click, so now your ready to move on…. NOW WHAT? WHAT’S NEXT?

Target training is your next best bet. Why? If you target train your parrot it will be easier to get your parrot to move from one place to another or get him/her to go where you want him/her to go. This is a convenient tool to have in your back pocket regardless if you have an amazingly obedient parrot. This is great to even teach tricks with, I’ve taught turn around with it several times. Another example of its use is if you have a parrot that doesn’t want to come out of its cage, you can target it out with the stick once it learns target training. It’s very useful!

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To start target training you need 3 items not including yourself and the bird.
1) A clicker (only needed if you are doing clicker training)
2) Target stick (I use a chopstick)
3) The bird’s favorite treat

You start by placing the target stick as close to the bird’s beak as possible (I would start this training in the parrot’s cage) but far enough that the bird has to open its mouth and touch it. Now different things can happen here, your bird can fly away to the other side of the cage or it can lean away from the stick or it can ignore it or just automatically touch it. Hopefully it’s the latter but if not, that’s okay. If your parrot flies away then we need to work on Trust exercises before this. Usually I would have just said to keep moving the stick to wherever the parrot goes until it finally touches the stick.  Then you would click, remove the stick and give a treat however this wouldn’t be very good for your parrot in the long run because it would be exposing them to”Flooding” and we want to stay away from that. So if your parrot is flying away, you need to stop here and go read this post first.

If your parrot is leaning away, you can keep the stick there and wait for the parrot to look at the stick (the parrot makes an acknowledgement of it) then click, remove the target stick and give a treat. You will continue doing this until the bird gets comfortable enough that when you do put the stick in front of its beak, it will nip at the stick. BINGO! Once the parrot does that, we are on the right track….

If your parrot ignores it, you can touch the stick to the parrot’s beak, click and give a treat. You want to be careful with this one, don’t overdo it because you don’t want the bird thinking your suppose to touch him/her and that’s how it receives the treat. So make sure you only do this a few times and give the bird a chance to touch the stick on its own.

Hopefully you are lucky and the parrot just touches the stick but that’s a hit and miss, it all depends on how well your parrot was socialized before you. So you place the stick in front of the parrot, he/she touches it, the exact moment they touch it, you click and give a treat. (If the parrot won’t take a treat from your hand – go back to the previous mentioned post or just drop the treats in the food bowl – your choice!). Once your parrot gets the hang of touching the stick when it is right in front of it, you’re going to slowly put more distance between the parrot and the stick therefore causing the parrot to have to move two or three steps to touch the stick then you’ll click and give a treat. Gradually extending the distance until you are able to put the stick anywhere in the cage and the parrot will move around the cage to touch the target stick. VIOLA! You have succeeded in teaching your precious feathered friend how to do target training!

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First Things to do with Your New Parrot

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You just got a new parrot, you are all excited and want to start playing with it right away. BAD IDEA!!! I don’t care if your parrot was the friendliest bird in the world at the breeder’s. The first time in a new home can be very traumatic and you should proceed with caution. If you know the bird is in a good place then this process should move by really fast for you.

1) You brought your bird home, you place the carrier or box inside the cage if you can and leave it open to let the bird come out into the cage when it feels comfortable. If you can’t put the box/carrier in the cage you have to find a way to quickly get the parrot from the carrier into the cage without any interaction.

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Purrain’s 1st time in the house

2) Leave the bird alone so it can observe it’s surroundings and get comfortable – 24 hours if you can.

3) Do trust building exercises (day 2):
Sit and read softly by the cage
Sing nursery songs
talk on your phone but quietly
eat beside the cage
Basically you want to do calming activities that don’t involve a lot of movement or loud noises and ignore the bird (I know this is the hard part but think about the long term affects over short term gain)

If you do this and see that the bird is not cowering away from you, not showing any fear but instead is coming to the side of the cage where you are sitting and interested in you then I would do the same thing but with the door open. Before opening the door though you might want to just put your hand on the cage near the bird to test out it’s comfort level with hands and if all is well then teach clicker training, target training and step up training in the cage presenting treats through the bars but if your not interested in those things then go ahead and open the door.

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Purrain listening to me read

What you are doing by opening the door is inviting the parrot to come out and explore without any pressure from you. This is the ideal situation but sometimes things aren’t so pretty and simple. If not, then you need to go back to the very beginning and sit further away from the cage until the parrot shows calming responses and you can slowly move closer.

More trust building exercises include the”Blinking game”, the”sleeping game”,  basically copying games. When you can successfully say you have accomplished these you are ready for Clicker training, target training and step up training.

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Purrain Engaged

A lot of people are impatient and want to let their bird out right away. I only say not to do this because you can open the cage door, your  parrot comes out but then wont let you put it back in. Therefore causing a good experience to turn bad and you want to avoid bad experiences.

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Finally out of the cage

Parenting Parrots

The Test -Chapter 4 – Week one and week two update

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Week one was pretty straight forward, I just made sure my “parrids” ( get it??! Parrot kids – PARR from parrots and IDS from kids lol… My new word – I’m going to have to start an index if I keep this up.) knew everything they needed to and were ready to start the The Parrot Wizard’s Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots

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The Parrot Wizard’s Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots

Chapter 4 is called “Taming and Training”. He covers the different type of punishment and reinforcement terms he will be using. He has sections on Motivation, Food Management, Clicker Conditioning, Target Training, Step up,  Touch/Grab, Towelling and Turning on Back. I refused to look at Chapter 5 until I spent at least 2 weeks in Chapter four. I also want to say before doing all of this it is important to have done some trust building exercises because I feel that makes or breaks your relationship with your parrots.

Day one (Saturday November 5):
         Today, I weighed and monitored my parrids making sure I watched how much they ate in a serving, how much they didn’t eat etc. I implemented the first two sections: Motivation and food management. I did absolutely no training with them as I wanted to follow the book as close as possible and not fall back into my old habits of training. So a pretty boring day.

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Ringo on our scale

Day Two (Sunday November 6):
          Today was clicker conditioning day, making sure all my parrids especially my focus subjects knew what a clicker was. I took them out in the morning, did 10 minutes of clicker training and then put them back in their cages for them to enjoy their breakfast. I did a second training session in the evening before bed. All the parrids already knew the clicker but some became stronger trainees after this. Maybe it is just my mind playing tricks on me but I think by spending the time to really make them understand what a clicker’s purpose is, did in fact help me with training Marlee. Everyone else I didn’t see a difference as they were properly introduced to the clicker. I think with Marlee, I must have missed a step because I believe she never truly understood the sound of the clicker. Also with Ringo, (Even though he isn’t part of the focus subjects) I was still using the clicker far away from him as he was afraid of the sound, I now can use the clicker right by him. So call me crazy but I think by really taking the time to introduce the clicker versus just starting to train with it, makes a difference. Check out the video below of how to properly clicker train your parrot which can technically work for any animal that can be trained.

Day Three and day four (Monday November 7 & Tuesday November  8):
   
     Today was target training day, my parrids also already know target training so it was another easy task for me to do.  I did two 10 minute sessions a day. Day three I focused on doing target training inside of the cage. Day four was target training outside the cage. All parrots were very successful as expected. For those who don’t know what target training is. It is a “Chopstick”, clicker and a treat. You put the stick some where, the parrot moves towards it and touches it, you click and give the treat. If your parrot doesn’t know target training, you put the stick right in front of them and wait until they touch it. Do that a few times and slowly move the stick further and further out of their reach until they have to actually move to touch it.


Day Five and day six (Wednesday November 9 and Thursday November 10):
       “Step up”, “Step up”, “Step up”. I tried to follow all his instructions but I have to admit for the parrots that already knew step up, I had to kind of just go over my previous step up sessions. What he says in the book makes sense though because there are times that I go to step up a parrot and it moves away from me. He recommends to teach your parrots to step up by targeting – I think that’s a great idea however I was having a difficult time with it. I did what worked for me and all my parrots were successful except… I found that Marlee is actually afraid of hands so I had to revert back to trust building exercises and target training her inside of her cage. Piper is afraid of perches, so I slowly been introducing him to different perches. I couldn’t do step up by targeting so I taught step up the only way I know how by simply asking the parrot to step up on different perches.

Day 7 (Friday November 11):
            I read over the sections of touch/grab, towelling and turning on back. I was already familiar with towelling as it is something I do every now and then with Grayson, my african grey. The touch/grab method is going to need more time for me to grasp the concept and the turning on back, some of my parrids already do however it wasn’t taught to them as he describes it so I will also have to work with them on this. Basically my training session on Friday was simply just going over target training and stepping up. This concluded my 1st week of trying to train my parrids off of The Parrot Wizard’s Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots

Conclusion: So far, so good. He covers the basics which is important to be successful in the training process and he is teaching things that will help with the basics that parrots are exposed to such as vet visits, grooming etc… If you teach your parrot towelling that eliminates the fear of when the vet wraps them in a towel. If you teach touch/grab that eliminates the fear of when they have to be grabbed out of their carrier and held for the vet. If you teach turning on back, that eliminates the stress of when the vet is checking them out and grooming them. Step up helps you be able to transport your parrot whenever you want. Target training is just a basic method needed to continue the training process in my eyes anyways. Clicker training is the perfect “bridge” to let a parrot know they did an excellent job and will be rewarded for it.    

Week Two:

Day 8 ( Saturday November 12) – Day 14 (Friday November 18):
        This week I continued doing target training in and out of the cage. I continued teaching step up however not by the book standards but by my way of teaching it, getting them used to hands and different perches. I really focused on trying to teach touch/grab, towelling and turning on back however I only got to do touch/grab and even that I didn’t finish. Hovering your hand over a parrot’s head is something that we are taught from the very beginning not to do, as it is like a predator for them but this is exactly what touch/grab is telling you to do. I was able to touch some of the parrids but Piper and Marlee are not that strong in stepping up with different perches and especially Marlee who doesn’t like hands – I didn’t even bother to attempt this with them. So the only test subject that was exposed to this was Grayson and I’m now really close with my hand over him however I started off really far away but I’m still not touching him. I also did this with Nyx, my black-capped conure who I can touch on her head and back with my hand hovering over her. He does tell you in the book that these methods are taming methods and may take a while before you are able to reap the benefits so as of Saturday November 19, I will be reading chapter 5 and moving on while continuing to work on “taming” my parrids more.

Update (Thursday November 30th, 2017: This was started November of 2016 and then I  had stopped implementing it well I started this process all over and I can hover my hand over Piper and Purrain (irn) but did a good distance away. Towelling, I might try teaching it the way I taught it to Grayson as The Wizard’s way seems as though it would take longer. Turning on back – I am only able to do with Nyx (even though she is not one of the test subjects.)

Parenting Parrots!

What time is it?? It’s Training Time!!!

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What time is it? It’s training time!
What time is it? It’s training time!
What time is it? It’s training time!

It’s Parenting Parrots’ Training Time!!

Hey everyone! I think it’s time we focus on getting your parrots trained or at least listen to me get my parrots trained hahahaha. So when I decide it’s training time which happens once or twice a day depending on my workload, there is a few things I have to make sure I have.

1) Quiet space

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Our training room

You need a quiet spot to start training as you want your parrot’s undivided attention. Now when I say quiet it may not be completely quiet but as long as it is quieter than the rest of the house with minimal distractions, it should work. I used to train in the living room with the television off and that worked perfectly.
2) Clicker

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My clicker – I’m missing the orange button in the middle but it still works

We clicker train however if you do not have or want to clicker train than you can always skip this step. I believe in clicker training as I learned about it from www.birdtricks.com. I have been very successful with using it and my birds look forward to a treat once they hear that clicker. I have this clicker currently however I have been through quite a few clickers over the years and as you can see in my personal picture, my clicker is missing the orange button. This clicker is cheaper so if I need to replace the one I currently have I would get this one, as this is what I used to have but lost it.
3) Treat

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Positive reinforcement is what we are focused on here. When you go to animal shows, you will see the animal do a trick and then receive a treat. Well if it is successful for professionals, why can’t it be for the average person? So we do the same thing. They do the trick, you click and give the reward. If your bird will not accept treats from your hands, you can put the treat in a food bowl or offer something else the bird would like. Read this post to understand what “reward” I did with Ringo to get him used to me being near him. I offered him more space when he would display calmness ( got that from birdtricks). I then removed my hand as a reward once he stepped on it (I think I made this one up hahaha). I find that a food treat works best because it’s easy to understand as it is something that they will not receive except for when training. To figure out what treat to give, do what I did in my above picture, get a variety of treats and see which one the bird picks first, second and third. This will give you an idea of what treats you can train with. In the above picture I have, (in clockwise) sunflower seed, pine nuts, peanuts (not a good option), spray millet, walnut and an almond.
4) A watch

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I train for 10 – 15 minutes. Since I don’t want to go over time, I always have a watch or my cell phone or something with the time on me, so I know when to stop. Even if the parrot looks like they would want to keep going I do not pass the 15 minute mark. 10 minutes is my time, however if I feel the parrot wants more I will do 15 but that’s it. You don’t want to “overstay your welcome”. It’s better to stop before the bird wants to stop, that way you are ending the training on a positive note instead of a restless, frustrated or getting fed up note.
5) A parrot that is ready to start eating

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Grayson eating a treat

What I do, is feed them their daily portion and if there is food still in there in the morning, I won’t train. I wait it out until all the food is gone out of their cage then I train when it is time for them to eat again. If the food is all gone in the morning, I will do a morning training session. If the bird is almost ready to eat again, food treats will be a perfect reward however if the bird is full, why would it want more food?? Even if it is their favorite food. Once your full, your full! If I’m not sure when they finished last, I do have a scale that I put them on to weigh them. I keep a chart of their normal weight and what is good training weight which is apparently 10% less than their normal weight. (If you do not have a scale – click on the link and buy one because it is SO worth it). I use a scale for monitoring their weight as it will tell me if they are sick and it comes in handy for training so a MUST BUY!!!

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My bird scale

Once you have all these things in place, you are ready to start training!!! And remember if you have any issues or questions, you can reach us by clicking on contact us. We respond within 24 h0urs!

Parenting Parrots!

He Came on it!!

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I read a lot. I watch a lot of Youtube videos. I surf the internet often. However sometimes when looking for solutions, it seems as if there are no answers.

This was me once I brought the Indian Ringneck home. Beautiful, is the only word I can use to describe his grey coloring but that’s where the pleasure ended. The thrashing around his cage every time we walked by or the struggle to try and remove him even though it’s been weeks was extremely discouraging. I googled every thing I could think of but nothing was hitting my problem on the nail so I sat down and talked to myself. Literally.

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I did what any new owner would do with a bird that was a scary cat. I made noise before I entered the room so he would know I was coming. I sat and read by his cage and would sing soft songs. Put treats in his bowl every time I passed his cage… I knew all those things would work to get him to stop running when I came around, so that wasn’t my issue. My issue was our wonderful, amazingly grey, beautiful Indian Ringneck was so afraid of hands! He would step up from the ground but would look around frantically for ways to escape the very “perch” that would transport him from one spot to another. So I had to fix that!

I brought him to the training perch and I stood a good amount of distance away and when he fluffed up and went back to normal, I would click and step back. ( This method can be done with him in the cage) ( You only want to go as close as you can without him freaking out – You do not want him to actually exhibit any fear once you see him about to start, you freeze and wait for him to calm down. This is very important because if you let him exhibit a fear response then you just ruined the whole process and will have to start over from even further back than before) Wait a few seconds and then approach him again, I would stand closer than I did last time and wait for the same reaction. Once he fluffed and went back down, I would click and move farther away. Wait a few seconds and then come closer than the last time. Stand and wait. I did this over and over again until I was able to stand right beside him and he would be comfortable. This took me a week to master with him, that goes to show you how scared he was. After I mastered that, I was on cloud nine that I could be beside him and him not panic. Imagine living somewhere and your afraid of the very people who you share a house with? It would be ABSOLUTE torture! I could never put anyone through that so I had to get this parrot to be comfortable. This was a big step for me. I’ll be honest, it has never taken this long to train any of my parrots so I was beginning to feel a bit hopeless as each day went on. Once I realized that the time it would take for him to be comfortable with each step closer was getting shorter, I knew we were getting somewhere.

So here I was with this parrot who would let me stand beside him however DO NOT MOVE MY HANDS OR TOUCH HIM or that comfort zone would be over… What do I do?? I had to figure something out so I decided to try the same method I did with my body with my hands. I had no idea if this would work!

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Ringo not liking my hand

 

I would put my hand on the farthest part of the perch and wait for him to fluffed up and back down. I did this over and over again until I was able to place my hand right beside his foot and have him not panic. His fear worked in my favor to get him to at least step on my hand and that is how I got him to be comfortable with my hands (Seems contradicting right??… Hear me out). He would step on my hands to run to the other side of the perch and when he did I would click and remove my hand. I did this over and over until finally when I would put my hand on the perch, HE WOULD COME ON IT!! Just automatically come on it and STAY! WOW! GREAT! I was overly excited!

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He came on it!!!

I would slowly lift my hand off the perch and click and then put him back on the perch and give him some space. Again, I did this over and over until I was able to transport him anywhere in the house without him looking around frantically. This procedure took me 9 days, twice a day, 10-15 min. sessions.

Parenting Parrots!