Training Tidbit – When do you have the TIME to train?

We all lead busy lives. Most of us work day jobs, and our evenings are chock full of commitments. Between paying the bills, taking care of family, having a social life, eating healthy, and staying active, it can be challenging to find time to train your parrot.

Here’s the thing – our birds live with us every day. They wake up with us un the morning, and we put them to bed in the evening. We give them their food, water, and toys. We take them out of their cage to play. We are always interacting with our birds. EVERY interaction is important. Think of each one as a ‘reward’. If it is something your bird wants, like being let out of the cage, then it is reinforcing for you bird.

In the words of Lara Joseph – “if an animal can see you, hear you, or smell you, you are training.” It’s not always in a specific training ‘session’ where your bird learns. Our birds are always trying to see what will “work” and what wont “work”. That’s useful, both for us and for them.

If you bird wants to be let out of his cage, great! Be mindful of what your bird is doing before you open that cage door. Are they making a loud vocalization? Screaming is a great way for a parrot to say ‘hey human I want out now!”. If you (like most of us) obey your bird, you will run over and open the cage. Bingo! The bird gets out, which is what he wanted. BUT – didn’t you just reinforce the screaming? He screamed, he got out of his cage. WORKS FOR HIM!!!

What could be an alternative for your bird to do/say/go so that you open the cage? What about saying a nice ‘heloooo’, ringing a bell, or hanging on the door? If your bird does any of those things, REINFORCE THEM by immediately letting him out!!! If he says ‘heloooo’ and you run over and let him out, great! Next time he wants out, he might try the ‘heloooo’ because it WORKED last time!

Every interaction with your bird is an opportunity to reinforce what you want to see. Everything, good or bad. Like it or not, it’s happening anyway. EVERY interaction you have, you are reinforcing something. You may not like it, but if it works for your bird, then it’s going to happen again.

Sometimes you need to teach a specific behaviour. In those cases, I set aside the treats I would normally be giving my bird (like cashews and almonds) and save them for the training session. In my house, a training session last for 2-5 minutes before dinner. That’s when my bird is most motivated by treats, and most full of energy. It’s a fun addition to the evening routine that is part of my meal prep time. My bird gets to learn something new and fun, which he really enjoys. We get to interact closely after I’ve been away all day at work. And he can burn off some pent-up energy (both physical and mental) before he gets his dinner. It works for us!

Setting up a specific ‘training time’ isn’t always an option for some households. That’s OK. Keep in mind that you are always training anyways, and use those opportunities to work on reinforcing the best stuff. Good luck!

– Robin Horemans KPA CTP