Quentin the Congo African Grey hangin’ around

Quentin is a parrot who is comfortable doing a “Step Up” in many new situations. He accompanies me to the Parrot Club, where he will step up to myself and strangers. At Bird School, he demonstrates the Step Up for everyone at class. Quentin has done many beautiful Step Ups at trade shows, fairs, meet and greets, the In-Laws house, even outside in his aviary. But is wasn’t always that way.

Quentin started slowly, just like every other bird. He was from a rescue, and I didn’t know his background. He knew how to Step Up, but once in a while he would “forget how”. Sometimes he would look at me with a blank stare. I’d repeat myself: “Step up!” It was no use. He wouldn’t do it.

This is when many birds get labeled “stubborn”. Some get worse labels. When really what’s going on is that your bird needs more help. He’s struggling to understand. Last week we learned the “Step up”. That was a Tuesday, after work, while it was snowing, and the TV was on. Today, you’re asking for a Step Up but EVERYTHING else is different. It’s not Tuesday, not the same time, not snowing. Are you sure you are asking for the same thing? How does the bird know?

When this happens, it’s because you haven’t GENERALIZED the Step Up behaviour. Generalizing means practicing in new situations. And often, you will have to repeat some of the basics and build up to fluent behaviour again (though this goes quicker and quicker). Start with achievable changes, like different days or times. Work up to different perches, different rooms, different people. Know that EACH one will need to be generalized and that means temporarily relaxing and re-training Step Up. Often a few repetitions are all that’s needed to be back on top!

Try to change only one thing at a time, and add slowly in small steps. The more you practice, the more generalized the behaviour, the more bullet proof your Step Ups will become. It’s worth it!