Training Tidbit – The Rules for Step Up

I hope many of our birds are already comfortable with stepping onto peoples’ hands. We call this “step-up”. Sometimes there are situations where they are less likely to step up, like onto a stranger, or off a high (valuable) perch. To make Step Up bullet proof and fluent in many diverse situations, there are some easy things you can do. Even birds who “already know” step up can benefit from these rules and some gentle practice with rewards.

  1. The bird moves towards you: this seems simple, but really stop and think about it. Offer your hand an inch further back from where you would usually. See if your bird steps or leans towards your hand. This is preferable to pressing into their abdomen or chasing them backwards to get a step up.
  2. The bird gives a signal of wanting to step on: this is called a ‘ready’ cue. Your bird may lift one foot to indicate to you they want to step up. Some birds use their beak to ‘test’ your hand before stepping on. Both are great indicators from your bird that he wants to step un. We always wait for the ready cue, and if the bird isn’t ready, we never force a step up.
  3. The bird has both feet on before you move: This seems silly but is important. Often, when the bird starts to step up, once one foot is on we tend to raise our hand and ‘boost’ the other foot up off the perch. If you wait for both feet, the bird is more stable, and this builds trust.
  4. Watch your birds tail: once your bird has stepped up, you start to move him away from his perch. If the tail is bumped on the way, it may feel uncomfortable for the bird. If you can be conscious of their tail, and move in a way to avoid bumping them into anything, you will build a better history of step ups without any uncomfortable feelings. Building trust helps solidify the behaviour.
  5. You give a reinforcer: At the beginning, reinforce each step up. This can be with a treat, or a head rub, or just by being closer to your bird. You can even set up situations to practice. Once the step up has been mastered, continue to RANDOMLY reinforce for step ups. This will keep the behaviour strong, and make step ups more likely to continue happening.

Practice all the 5 rules of step up every time you ask for a step up. It will help to strengthen and solidify the behaviour. Then you can start to generalize step ups to new situations, new scenarios, distractions, people… More on generalizing next newsletter!