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Recommendations for Training and Training Treats

Discuss the methods and techniques of clicker training, target training and bonding. These are usually the first steps in training a young parrot.

Recommendations for Training and Training Treats

Postby QueenPanPan53 » Wed Jul 22, 2020 10:45 am

Hi
I have a 3 month old Lineolated/Barred parakeet and I need some help.
At the moment in his cage I can scratch his head but any other interaction with my hands gets me warning nibbles. I let him out of his cage every day and he will interact with me by standing on me and grooming my hair but as soon as I move my hands near him he flies away.

I have tried many different treats to try and get him to step up on to a hand held perch and to get used to my hands (I'll add a list later of treats I have tried) nothing seams to be working, its almost like he isn't food orientated so it's difficult to get him to do anything.

His normal diet is pellets, seed mix and fresh veg. The treats I have tried are Sunflower seeds, Pumpkin seeds, dried Goji berries, Almonds, Cashews, Walnuts, Peanuts, dried Peas, dried Chilli and Millet. Millet worked when I first got him and was trying to get him used to me and let me scratch him but the rest of the time he just looks at the millet or will climb away. When he is out the cage he isn't interested in the millet at all. I interact with him everyday and talk to him all the time, Ive tried getting him to step up on to the hand held perch but he just walks away and I dont want to force him to do anything so I am kinda at a loss at the moment and any help would be much appreciated as he is my first bird and I need all the help I can get.

Thank You
Tasha
QueenPanPan53
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 3
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Lineolated/Barred Parakeet
Flight: Yes

Re: Recommendations for Training and Training Treats

Postby Pajarita » Thu Jul 23, 2020 10:00 am

Well, there are three things that you need to take into consideration:
1) most linnies, an aviary species, are parent-raised so they are not and never will be imprinted to humans.
2) I don't know how long you've had him but, at his age, I doubt you've had him longer than a couple of weeks, if not less, and that means the bird is still in its honeymoon period.
3) with the diet you are offering, you will never be able to find a good enough high value item for training.

Now, let me elaborate and explain what I mean by these statements and how they relate to your training question.

Parent-raised means that they were not handfed by humans when babies so they never imprinted to them and, once the narrow window of time when you can do this closes, there is nothing you can do about it. BUT, even if an aviary species is hand-fed, the close bond does not last past the time the bird becomes sexually mature. Most people do not realize that there are two types of parrots, the aviary species and the companion species and while the companion species, if treated right, bond very deeply to humans, the aviary species will never be happy once they reach adulthood unless they have companions of their own species (which does not mean the bird will stop loving you, by the way).

The honeymoon period is what we call the first few months after a bird comes to live with us. During this time, there should be no training because you need to build trust and love first BEFORE you can start training. Parrots are not naturally 'programmed' by nature through genes to understand the concept of obedience or subservience so, although training is perfectly doable, the bird needs to trust you and love you so it obeys you not only for the reward but also because it wants to please you because the desire to please the object of its affection is programmed into their genes as they mate for life.

The reward for training needs to be something the bird prefers above anything else. This is always a food item and it is always a protein food. If you free-feed protein, the bird will not crave it enough to prompt it to obey just so it can get it.

Now, what you need to do. You already have the right idea: let it out of its cage, spend as many hours you can with it talking, singing. whistling and, every now and then give it a high value item as a GIFT - this is not a reward for the bird doing anything, it is a gift from you to him to win him over. The fact that you will not be actively training does not mean the bird will not be learning valuable lessons. It will learn to trust you and, as time goes by, it will learn to love you. It can also learn to step up (something you have been trying to teach it) and step down but this is not done on a training session but as you go along and spend time with him. Parrots always want to be on their humans and this is a fact. If the bird does not want to be on you, it's because it does not trust you - and this is why you need to spend a lot of time with him without asking anything of it - because asking for it to perform when it doesn't trust/love you is considered an imposition by them. The way to teach it to step up is to offer it a treat on your open palm every now and then UNTIL you see the bird takes it from it without any hesitation and it is eager for your company (he will come close to you, walk towards you on its own and will have no hesitation on climbing on you whenever it feels like it). Mind you, you always have to wait for the bird to do something for a few days and consistently without hesitation before you go on to the next step. Once it is stepping on your hand to get the treat, you start holding it with one hand (the non-dominant one so, if you are a lefty, you would hold it in your right hand and, if you are a righty, you would hold it in your left hand) and putting your other hand in between the bird and the treat so the bird needs to step on your hand to reach it. And always praise, praise, praise when it does it even if it did not involve the bird doing anything to get it because you need to get the bird used to making a connection between praise and reward. Once he is stepping on your flat hand, start slowly and very gradually moving it so it perches on the side of your hand, first and they on your finger. Once he is doing this, start moving your hand VERY slowly and VERY gradually increasing the distance so it gets used to being 'carried' on your hand. Once you can get him from point A to point B, start teaching Step down by putting him close to a perch (the feet need to be at the same height as the perch, cage of whatever) and, once he steps down, praise, praise, praise and reward.

Now the 'high value item' thing... it's all about diet. For one thing, you are feeding an adult diet to a baby bird and that needs to be changed asap. I don't know what the breeder/store employee told you but a 3 month old bird is not an adult and it is not completely weaned. They tell you this because they want to sell them as soon as possible so they can sell more birds. People that sell birds are NOT bird lovers - if they were, they would not sell them. You need to feed soft food which is 'toddler' food for birds. As the name implies, it's food that is soft, easily digestible and nutritious. There are several kinds: gloop (which is always my first recommendation because you can continue using it when it becomes an adult and what I feed all my birds), polenta/cous cous/pastina/Irish oatmeal cooked and mixed with veggies/fruits very finely chopped and, of course, raw produce and, until the bird is a bit older, also soft seed like millet and quinoa (maybe half and half). Once the bird is older, you should not free-feed protein food which should be reserved for dinner only. I've been doing research for over 25 years on their natural diets and do not believe that pellets are or ever will be the best dietary option for them but, if you have your heart set on them, feed them only for dinner and only the best ones, Tops, and no other brand.
Once you are no longer free-feeding high protein food, you should see which one he chooses as his own high value item by putting three different kinds in front of him and making a note of which one he eats first. Try different combinations like: one sunflower seed, one piece of walnut, one piece of almond and see which one he chooses three days in a row. Then use that one with others like, say it chose the walnut, so offer a piece of walnut, a piece of cashew and a piece of pistachio and see which one he choose out of these. The one he consistently choose first is his high value item and what should be reserved for special treats and rewards.

Let me know if there is something that needs more explanation.
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 17173
Location: NE New Jersey
Number of Birds Owned: 30
Types of Birds Owned: Toos, grays, zons, canaries, finches, cardinals, senegals, jardine, redbelly, sun conure, button quail, GCC, PFC, lovebirds
Flight: Yes

Re: Recommendations for Training and Training Treats

Postby QueenPanPan53 » Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:38 am

Pajarita wrote:Well, there are three things that you need to take into consideration:
1) most linnies, an aviary species, are parent-raised so they are not and never will be imprinted to humans.
2) I don't know how long you've had him but, at his age, I doubt you've had him longer than a couple of weeks, if not less, and that means the bird is still in its honeymoon period.
3) with the diet you are offering, you will never be able to find a good enough high value item for training.

Now, let me elaborate and explain what I mean by these statements and how they relate to your training question.

Parent-raised means that they were not handfed by humans when babies so they never imprinted to them and, once the narrow window of time when you can do this closes, there is nothing you can do about it. BUT, even if an aviary species is hand-fed, the close bond does not last past the time the bird becomes sexually mature. Most people do not realize that there are two types of parrots, the aviary species and the companion species and while the companion species, if treated right, bond very deeply to humans, the aviary species will never be happy once they reach adulthood unless they have companions of their own species (which does not mean the bird will stop loving you, by the way).

The honeymoon period is what we call the first few months after a bird comes to live with us. During this time, there should be no training because you need to build trust and love first BEFORE you can start training. Parrots are not naturally 'programmed' by nature through genes to understand the concept of obedience or subservience so, although training is perfectly doable, the bird needs to trust you and love you so it obeys you not only for the reward but also because it wants to please you because the desire to please the object of its affection is programmed into their genes as they mate for life.

The reward for training needs to be something the bird prefers above anything else. This is always a food item and it is always a protein food. If you free-feed protein, the bird will not crave it enough to prompt it to obey just so it can get it.

Now, what you need to do. You already have the right idea: let it out of its cage, spend as many hours you can with it talking, singing. whistling and, every now and then give it a high value item as a GIFT - this is not a reward for the bird doing anything, it is a gift from you to him to win him over. The fact that you will not be actively training does not mean the bird will not be learning valuable lessons. It will learn to trust you and, as time goes by, it will learn to love you. It can also learn to step up (something you have been trying to teach it) and step down but this is not done on a training session but as you go along and spend time with him. Parrots always want to be on their humans and this is a fact. If the bird does not want to be on you, it's because it does not trust you - and this is why you need to spend a lot of time with him without asking anything of it - because asking for it to perform when it doesn't trust/love you is considered an imposition by them. The way to teach it to step up is to offer it a treat on your open palm every now and then UNTIL you see the bird takes it from it without any hesitation and it is eager for your company (he will come close to you, walk towards you on its own and will have no hesitation on climbing on you whenever it feels like it). Mind you, you always have to wait for the bird to do something for a few days and consistently without hesitation before you go on to the next step. Once it is stepping on your hand to get the treat, you start holding it with one hand (the non-dominant one so, if you are a lefty, you would hold it in your right hand and, if you are a righty, you would hold it in your left hand) and putting your other hand in between the bird and the treat so the bird needs to step on your hand to reach it. And always praise, praise, praise when it does it even if it did not involve the bird doing anything to get it because you need to get the bird used to making a connection between praise and reward. Once he is stepping on your flat hand, start slowly and very gradually moving it so it perches on the side of your hand, first and they on your finger. Once he is doing this, start moving your hand VERY slowly and VERY gradually increasing the distance so it gets used to being 'carried' on your hand. Once you can get him from point A to point B, start teaching Step down by putting him close to a perch (the feet need to be at the same height as the perch, cage of whatever) and, once he steps down, praise, praise, praise and reward.

Now the 'high value item' thing... it's all about diet. For one thing, you are feeding an adult diet to a baby bird and that needs to be changed asap. I don't know what the breeder/store employee told you but a 3 month old bird is not an adult and it is not completely weaned. They tell you this because they want to sell them as soon as possible so they can sell more birds. People that sell birds are NOT bird lovers - if they were, they would not sell them. You need to feed soft food which is 'toddler' food for birds. As the name implies, it's food that is soft, easily digestible and nutritious. There are several kinds: gloop (which is always my first recommendation because you can continue using it when it becomes an adult and what I feed all my birds), polenta/cous cous/pastina/Irish oatmeal cooked and mixed with veggies/fruits very finely chopped and, of course, raw produce and, until the bird is a bit older, also soft seed like millet and quinoa (maybe half and half). Once the bird is older, you should not free-feed protein food which should be reserved for dinner only. I've been doing research for over 25 years on their natural diets and do not believe that pellets are or ever will be the best dietary option for them but, if you have your heart set on them, feed them only for dinner and only the best ones, Tops, and no other brand.
Once you are no longer free-feeding high protein food, you should see which one he chooses as his own high value item by putting three different kinds in front of him and making a note of which one he eats first. Try different combinations like: one sunflower seed, one piece of walnut, one piece of almond and see which one he chooses three days in a row. Then use that one with others like, say it chose the walnut, so offer a piece of walnut, a piece of cashew and a piece of pistachio and see which one he choose out of these. The one he consistently choose first is his high value item and what should be reserved for special treats and rewards.

Let me know if there is something that needs more explanation.


Hi
Thank you for your detailed response, I have only been feeding him a pellet mix because my vet told me it was the best for him and I mix it with seed I buy from the breeder. I am going to stop the pellets (Tops branded is what I use) and keep him with the seed mix but I am going to add more variety to his fresh food/gloop, is there any vegetables that you recommend?

I'm not going to start training yet and just let him get used to me and build trust between us. I have grown up with dogs so having a bird is a very big learning curve and I was taught to train dogs young so that's probably where my head was at.

Thank You
Tasha :)
QueenPanPan53
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 3
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Lineolated/Barred Parakeet
Flight: Yes

Re: Recommendations for Training and Training Treats

Postby Pajarita » Sat Jul 25, 2020 10:33 am

Ahhh, yes, training dogs is completely different. I used to consider myself a dog person and, even when somebody told me: "AHA! I KNEW you were a bird person!", I still considered me a dog person. Now, I consider myself primarily a bird person but a dog and cat and all animals person second :D You see, I had always had multiple dogs (since a young child) and I had always rescued and trained them on my own so, like you, I used to use the same techniques that had worked on dogs but birds are COMPLETELY different and I'll tell you why. Leaving aside the fact that birds are aves and dogs are mammals, dogs are predators, parrots are prey (HUGE difference in how they look at everything!). Dogs have been domesticated for, at least, 30,000 years and bred for thousands of generations to be people-oriented while parrots, with the exception of the English Budgie, are all undomesticated and genetically identical to their wild counterparts (and even the English Budgie is not really that trainable because the domestication process concentrated in physical appearance and not behaviors as was done with dogs breeds). But the biggest difference is that, although both parrots and dogs are social animals that live in family groupings, parrots do not live in a hierarchical society so they are not 'programmed' by nature to obey because they all do whatever they want to do whenever they want to do it and however they want to do it. And that is what makes training for parrots so different from dogs. Dogs are 'programmed' to follow an alpha pair (their parents) and to obey their rules and, when the puppies don't obey them, the mothers or fathers correct them by gently punishing them (a very light half-bite on their side) so when we get a puppy, giving them rules is something that they expect. They actually benefit from training because having consistent paraments defined, makes them feel secure. But parrots resent having to obey or follow rules that they do not consider necessary AND they are much smarter than dogs because you can't fool or trick a parrot for very long - eventually, he will figure it out and then you would have lost its trust. We only have two things going for us: their survival instinct with their predilection for protein food and their monogamy which makes them bond very deeply to their loved ones. And that's why making them trust us (we are, after all, giant alien predators to a little bird) and love us (because their love will make them want to please us) are so important and essential to their 'behaving'. You have a more difficult chore in front of you because your bird has not imprinted to humans at all (parent-raised aviary species do not regard humans as 'part of their family') so you will need to tame it (make it trust you) and make it love you before you can train it but, even after this, it will not behave like any of Michael's birds no matter how good you are at training or how much you try. It can't. And it has nothing to do with what you do or don't do, it's genetic so don't feel that there is something wrong with the bird or with what you are doing because this is not so.

As to avian vets recommending food.... well, I tell you, this is my number one beef with avian vets because I firmly believe that if you don't know anything about a subject, you have no business making a recommendation as if you did. Avian vets do not study parrot nutrition. The avian medicine texts have an Avian Nutrition chapter that is super generic because it needs to cover all kinds of birds, from natural seed eaters (like canaries), to birds of prey (fish or meat), to omnivorous (like chickens and seagulls), etc. Sheesh, we have parrots that eat only nectar and pollen, parrots that eat grains, parrots that are mainly fruit eaters, etc.

What veggies? Well, they do love corn on the cob, fresh leafy greens (but be careful with greens that are high in oxalic acid -like collard/mustard/beet greens- or kale -high in sorbitol- and never feed spinach -way too high in iron- or parsley -nothing is higher in oxalates- and broccoli (the best), finely diced carrots, cooked sweet potatoes and any kind of yellow or orange pumpkin/squash, little sweet peas, stuff like that. They also like fruits and I bet it will like berries most of all. In the wild, they eat insects and larvae BUT although this is always mentioned on the 'list' they give you, even birds that eat a lot of insects don't do it all year round for the simple reason that there are very few ecosystems where there are insect available all the time - and linnies live in high places where it gets cold during the winter so the higher protein food should be reserved for the breeding season and not given all year round (mind you, animal protein -like meat, eggs, cheese, etc- is NOT the same as insect protein and cannot substitute for it).
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 17173
Location: NE New Jersey
Number of Birds Owned: 30
Types of Birds Owned: Toos, grays, zons, canaries, finches, cardinals, senegals, jardine, redbelly, sun conure, button quail, GCC, PFC, lovebirds
Flight: Yes


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