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Conure is possessive of props

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Conure is possessive of props

Postby Andromeda » Wed Mar 06, 2013 6:13 pm

My green cheek conure is possessive of the toys in his cage and on his stand meaning if I touch them he will run over to me and nip me as long as I handle them. That's not a big deal as I just move him to another location if I need to handle his toys.

However, he now is displaying this same behavior toward the props I am using for fetch (a small white box and four colored shapes). He was not like this at first but since he learned the trick two days ago he apparently now considers the props "his" and has become possessive.

If I set up the box and shapes before I place him on the table it's fine but once he puts all four in the box if I go to remove them he charges and nips my hands when I touch the box. If I go to set up the shapes on the table he charges and nips my hands as well. He only does this if I am holding or touching the box or shapes. If my hand is empty he doesn't care.

I don't want to reinforce this... What should I do? I hate the interrupt the "flow" of training by removing him from the table every time I want to move or re-set the props but maybe this is the solution?
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Re: Conure is possessive of props

Postby Michael » Wed Mar 06, 2013 6:18 pm

I'd focus more on positive reinforcement training. If he "wants" the treat or better yet "really really wants the treat", that helps overwhelm the want to bite. Sounds like your bird could use a bit more motivation.
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Re: Conure is possessive of props

Postby Andromeda » Wed Mar 06, 2013 6:32 pm

Michael wrote:I'd focus more on positive reinforcement training. If he "wants" the treat or better yet "really really wants the treat", that helps overwhelm the want to bite. Sounds like your bird could use a bit more motivation.


Thanks, Michael. I'm not exactly sure how to motivate him more. He is not on free-feed and so I know he is hungry when I train him. His favorite treat is millet and the only time he gets it is when I train. Sometimes he gets other things for variety like walnuts, papaya, pear, or apple.

He is motivated enough to do the trick because once the shapes are in place he immediately places them in the box when I say "fetch". When he didn't know the trick he wasn't nipping me but now that he does know it he doesn't like it when I touch the props. He charges at my hand and nips in exactly the same way he does if I handle "his" toys.

He only knows one other prop trick (go through a tube) and he doesn't nip when I touch the tube. He also knows wave, turn in a circle, and flight recall and he doesn't nip during those tricks, either.
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Re: Conure is possessive of props

Postby Michael » Wed Mar 06, 2013 6:36 pm

Basically the technique for SLOWLY taming this problem out of him is to get him motivated, intentionally irk him just a little, but have him do that or another trick instead to earn treats. Basically you're teaching him to ignore the things you do that bother him for a far better reward. Over time you do more of the thing that irks him, closer, or for longer and he will become more tolerant until it is entirely overcome. Hopefully that will also carry over for when you handle other things that trigger the same response. It may be a bit of work though.
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Re: Conure is possessive of props

Postby Andromeda » Wed Mar 06, 2013 8:19 pm

Okay, thanks; I understand what you are saying generally but I am trying to come up with a specific strategy for the problem.

What if I touch the box, and when he charges me and nips I don't move my hand (due to reinforcement) and instead I leave my hand there and use my other hand to target him to the other side of the table where he will get a treat for targeting? Then I can remove my hand when he's not looking and try touching it again, targeting him away if he runs and nips, repeat?

Michael wrote:It may be a bit of work though.


I love Bubba with all of my heart but the :gcc: propensity to be "nippy" (seemingly species-wide) is very challenging sometimes. I mean here I just thought I was going to teach him a new trick and once he knew how to fetch that would be the end of it, I didn't expect him to become nippy and possessive of the props.

Oh, well, at least I have a plan to deal with the behavior and eventually it will stop if handled properly.
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Re: Conure is possessive of props

Postby friend2parrots » Wed Mar 06, 2013 11:15 pm

Andromeda wrote:What if I touch the box, and when he charges me and nips I don't move my hand (due to reinforcement) and instead I leave my hand there and use my other hand to target him to the other side of the table where he will get a treat for targeting? Then I can remove my hand when he's not looking and try touching it again, targeting him away if he runs and nips, repeat?


i think there might be a risk of Bubba interpreting what you've described here in the following manner:

Bubba's thought process:

"hey, look, there's her hand again by that box...lemme go charge and nip that hand because if i do that, then that other hand over there is probably going to rush over and play that fun targetting game that i love, and that i get treats for! Yeah! lets go charge that hand!"

[charges and tries to nip hand. you bring out target stick]

"hey, whaddya know? there comes that other hand with the target stick, just like i thought it would! YAY! ok. lemme do this target thing to get the treat. ok. got it. "

[MUNCH MUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH.]

"ok. what next...i'm bored....lets see...how bout some preening?"

[preens]

"ok. done with that. now what? i'm hungry. wish i could get a treat right about now.... hey, look! there's her hand there by that white box again! COOL! lemme go charge and nip that hand right away so that other hand comes with the target stick --- and then i'll get my treat! "

[and Bubba charges and nips the hand again]

I could be wrong about this. this is just my guess based on how Ringo interprets a lot of things. he gets into these loops sometimes too, where I would like him to see things one way, and he ends up acting like he's figured something else out. :roll:
Ringo - Green Cheek Conure
Toby - Bourke Parakeet
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Re: Conure is possessive of props

Postby Andromeda » Thu Mar 07, 2013 12:19 am

From what I've read, one way to deal with aggression is to cue an incompatible behavior repeatedly and reward for that behavior instead. Targeting (or waving or turning in a circle) is incompatible with attacking my hand so that's why I had that idea. However, I don't want to teach him to attack my hand when he wants to target. Should I just cue different tricks one after another as fast as I can while leaving my hand on the prop and (hopefully) he would stay so busy with the tricks that he would forget about my hand?

One other thought is that I could teach him to "station" (stay still in one spot) while I set up the props.

I don't know; I don't want to accidentally teach him the wrong thing.

As it stands currently my solution is not to give him the opportunity to attack. I set up the props before I place him on the table. Then I put him on the table and once he puts all four shapes into the box he gets a reward and I remove him from the table while I set up the props again. As long as he's not on the table while I'm touching or moving the props he doesn't charge or nip (even though he could fly there to attack if he really wanted to do so).

It took him 5 days to learn to put the shapes in the box and for those 5 days he wasn't possessive or aggressive at any time. Now that he will do the trick correctly 100% of the time he's decided the props belong to him and has gotten really nippy. :gcc:
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Re: Conure is possessive of props

Postby Shelby » Wed Jun 19, 2013 11:20 am

I think stationing could work. Then he is seeing you touch "his" props which will be helpful if you ever want to show the trick to your friends. Also, cuing a behavior that is incompatible with biting does work to prevent a bite. If you want to stop him from biting to get you to cue a behavior (which somebody else mentioned) I think that could easily be done by just cuing a random behavior instead of the same one every time he tries to go for your hands. One time cue a wave, the next cue spin; mix it up.

How is the trick going with him lately?
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Re: Conure is possessive of props

Postby janetafloat » Wed Jun 19, 2013 5:39 pm

Shelby, this an old thread and sadly Andromeda's GCC, Bubba, has died since then :(
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