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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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.)

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