Training our pet birds is essential for a variety of reasons. Training allows us to speak in the same language as our parrots, in turn making living together much easier and fulfilling. Training also allows for the voluntary participation in husbandry and veterinary care, as well as exercise and mental stimulation. Here are some of our ‘do’s and don’ts’ when it comes to training your bird:
DO allow your bird to fail: Birds can learn a lot from being allowed to fail. For example, if you ask your bird to wave and they barely lift their foot, don’t reinforce them and wait 5 seconds. This will give your bird a chance to think about why they didn’t earn a treat for what they offered. Cue the behaviour again and more often than not, you will see a more enthusiastic response of the wave which you can then reinforce. If your bird continues to offer an undesirable response to your cue, it’s beneficial to evaluate why this might be happening. We always want to avoid frustration when training.
DON’T train for too long: Training session lengths need to be considered to also avoid frustration – ‘short and sweet’ is best! A training session can last as little as 30 seconds, but shouldn’t exceed around 5 minutes. This is because many parrots will either lose enthusiasm and concentration by this point, or they will become full from eating the treats you are offering. Multiple shorter training sessions spread throughout the day often works well!
DO consider the time of day that you train: Some birds may enjoy training at any point in the day, whereas some may decide not to participate at certain times of the day. Heighted or overstimulated birds may train better later in the day, when they have used up more of their energy which could otherwise escalate training sessions to be a negative experience. Other birds may be too full or tired to train later, so morning sessions might be more successful. Many birds also make great progress by training before having their breakfast. This way they are naturally more motivated and hungrier to participate, however we must make sure that birds are NEVER starved or denied food in order to train.
DON’T accidentally reinforce undesirable behaviour: This is something that is easily done, but can have huge repercussions for how your bird behaves! Offering your bird treats to keep them quiet or shouting at them to try and make them stop screaming will only increase the amount of excessive vocalisations from your bird! Similarly, if you shout at your bird and throw your arms around if they bite you, they’ll see that huge reaction as something fun and exciting, and they will try and see if you’ll do it again! Equally, make sure you reinforce behaviour you want to see more of – all too often people ask their birds to step up, or to go back in to their cages without any incentive – we wouldn’t work for free, so why should out birds?!
DO treat your bird as an individual: When you place unrealistic expectations on your bird based on what you see on social media, or preconceived ideas of how long something should take to train, you are setting you and your bird up a very tough journey. It’s so important to go at your individual bird’s own pace and ability without any expectations or assumptions about how long taming, bonding or training should take.
DON’T train until your bird loses interest: We always want our training sessions to end on a high with our birds wanting more. If we let them end the session because they are bored or full, this may devalue training sessions in the future. We always want our pet birds to be motivated and eager to learn, which is where taking all of these DO’s and DON’Ts in to consideration will set you and your bird up for success!
Let us know if you liked this DO’s and DON’Ts post – we might make this into a series covering other topics if you enjoyed reading!