Training Tidbit – HECK YES!

Our birds are self motivated. When we asses what our birds are willing to work for, it’s our birds who decide what’s awesome and what’s less awesome. Does your bird prefer cashews or almonds? Head rubs or foot toys? Singing or dancing? The bird decides.

Making it more difficult, some items are only valuable for limited times. Head rubs are only valuable between 8-9pm. Cashews are great, but after a while lose their appeal. Satiation can change their views. That’s why it’s great to have a list of 10 food items and 10 non-food items that your bird values. Please try to keep the list bird appropriate (no cheezies!) or find bird-safe approximations (instead of coffee, offer warm water in a mug). Put your list on the fridge if it helps you remember!

It’s our job to use these motivators in such a way that our birds say HECK YES to whatever we are asking. Want to step up? Heck yes! If your bird isn’t saying Heck Yes, what can we do? One thing is to look at the Motivator. Let’s start there. We will also visit pre-arranging scenarios (antecedent arrangement) as well as practice (positive reinforcement)

Why does your bird like you? Because you’re a snappy dresser? Because of your taste in music? Because you change the food bowl? In reality, it’s because you have value to your bird. You could be the bringer-of-treats, or designated-head-rubber, or even transporter-of-featherbutts. You have VALUE to your bird. In deciding what your bird likes, be sure to consider his point of view! This is what is called Motivation. It’s your job to use his motivators to help him say HECK YES!

What about arranging the scenario to your advantage? Let’s look at ‘going into the cage’. What could we do to make the experience a HECK YES? We could fill the cage with hidden treats, that I put there when he wasn’t looking. When he goes into his cage, it has treats (motivating) and it has value. Would that make the next time I ask you to go to your cage a Heck Yes? Planning scenarios to ‘work’ for your bird can greatly increase your chances he will say HECK YES.

If you know your bird likes cashews, and they still won’t come down off the curtain rod, it’s time for another approach. Practice! It can be useful to practice step ups in a variety of locations, with a reinforcer each time (motivation). Practice step up off of chairs, the mantle, top of the TV, the book shelf, etc. The practice you put into easier places will help with the more difficult places.

Be sure to practice each scenario so the bird has history of reinforcement. Use his Motivators and set up the scenario so he’s likely to say HECK YES. Use the momentum from practice to help you in more difficult scenarios. “When you come down off the curtain rod you get head rubs and a nut and still get to play”. The next time you ask, the bird will say HECK YES, because last time was awesome!

Always make sure it works for your bird. Use your list of motivators, set up the scenario, and practice. It’s your job to help him say HECK YES!

– Robin Horemans KPA CTP