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Stuck On Piggy Bank, Any Advice?

Exchange information about how to teach specific tricks to parrots. Most of these techniques should apply to all bird species. Share your success stories.

Re: Stuck On Piggy Bank, Any Advice?

Postby Pajarita » Fri Nov 06, 2015 11:11 am

Michael wrote:
Pajarita wrote:Yes, fun - but you forgot to add 'for us, humans'. I seriously doubt the birds think tricks are fun. If they did, they would do them without training or reward.


We'll never truly know if the birds think that are fun or not, but quite clearly through their behavior they choose to do them so there's gotta be something in it for them. You don't do anything without training or reward either. Any hobby or thing you do for fun at some point required learning how to do it and something that made it worth your while.


No, that's not quite correct. We don't do work without reward but we do fun things because the reward is in the fun. 'Fun' as a product of play behavior is found in nature in baby animals of some species sometimes (mostly with domesticated species), in adults. But parrots never play in the wild.

If parrots liked doing tricks they would do them without the reward... like dogs or horses would, for example.
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Re: Stuck On Piggy Bank, Any Advice?

Postby Pajarita » Fri Nov 06, 2015 11:22 am

I think that he does the tricks for the treats, just as you said. If you watch professional animal trainers having their animals perform, you will see that the ONLY ones that get a food reward after the trick are the birds... dogs, horses, elephants, etc don't require any.

My problem with teaching them useless tricks for the 'fun of it' is that it sets a frame of mind that part of the parrot's 'use' as a pet is to entertain its human -and I don't agree with that. I've had parrots for over 20 years and, in my personal experience, all they want to do is spend time with me (I am talking about handfed, of course). Do they get into things they shouldn't? Yes, they do! But it's easy to redirect the 'bad' behavior into a 'good' one so it's not as if tricks are the only option we have or a necessity for their wellbeing (and that is and always will be my only priority when it comes to animals living with me) while, on the other hand, training can be and often is a stressor.
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Re: Stuck On Piggy Bank, Any Advice?

Postby Michael » Fri Nov 06, 2015 11:35 am

Pajarita wrote:If parrots liked doing tricks they would do them without the reward... like dogs or horses would, for example.


That's not for no reward. It's for the reward of "praise," "fun", "excitement," "acknowledgment," etc. It's not for no reward. It's just for a different reward. Nobody does anything for no reason and without something rewarding about it (unless it's forced).

Unlike horses/dogs, parrots aren't domesticated. Part of what is domestication is that those animals have been selectively bred to accept useless reinforcement as a reward. Dogs are a prime example. They get rewarded with silly useless things and it makes them very content to keep trying. Parrots aren't even close to this but they can learn it.

Kili is soooo good at tricks and she is so excited to do them that I can make her do a whole routine for no treats at all and just praise/attention. Mostly I rely on treats for long term maintenance and to be able to get her to perform on command any time. For fun at home, I can get her to do tricks most of the time without food rewards. However, when doing it professionally, a 50/50 shot isn't reliable enough so it's about food. Can't wait for when she wants to do tricks just for fun when we're on the clock so then we treat it as work. She doesn't mind. She loves working for food. When given the choice to just get food or work for food, she still works for it. Nothing wrong with that. It's what they do in the wild.
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Re: Stuck On Piggy Bank, Any Advice?

Postby shiraartain » Fri Nov 06, 2015 7:44 pm

What about birds which pick up tricks from watching other birds do it? Fajr and Lemon both picked up kissing noises--Fajr does it on command and Lemon does it to inanimate objects when he's in the mood. Neither of them have been rewarded for it, though Fajr is lavished with attention for doing it (we lavish him with attention for anything remotely cute he does, though...). I think that sometimes birds do pick up behaviours when they notice that they make us happy. When I come home, Fajr will fly to my shoulder and give me a kiss without prompting. He using it for his own means as well, by kissing a hand repeatedly when he wants to be petted.
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Re: Stuck On Piggy Bank, Any Advice?

Postby JessiMuse » Fri Nov 06, 2015 11:41 pm

I knew of one galah who was easily encouraged by laughter. If he got people to laugh when he did tricks, I'm pretty sure it would seem fun to him.
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Re: Stuck On Piggy Bank, Any Advice?

Postby Wolf » Sat Nov 07, 2015 8:16 am

I have noted that trick training is somewhat of s controversial topic here. I know that I have some reservations about it mostly due to the way in which people use to teach them tricks which can be a major source of stress for the parrot, one that is often not recognized for what it is. This is not to say that I am against trick training, nor that I am in favor of it at this time.
Parrots in their natural environment do not have toys to play with nor do they do tricks per se. These things are taken care of in their foraging habits and in their learning to fly through the obstacle course provided by the canopy of the trees in which most of them live and feed in. Captive birds do not have these things to help them to develop their problem solving abilities and it is very possible that some of the trick training would be able to assist in this area of their development and yes it can be very rewarding to the human and provide much entertainment in the process as well as to help the human to develop their bonding with the bird. I think it comes down to how it is done.
By our taking them from their native environment we have taken so much from them that whatever we can do to give back to them is a benefit and this is how I relate to trick training and for any type of training for that matter. If it enhances their lives then I am all for it, but with as little as we know and understand about out beloved parrots what is the criteria that we can use to tell if this is benefiting them or if it is just adding another source of stress to their lives? I am not sure what the criteria should be, I do know that they are very inquisitive and curious and that they will willingly do things that they perceive will please their humans.
I gave my 15 year old CAG a ball with holes and slots in it that also had a little bell in it, I figured after watching her that she would have fun trying to figure out how to get the bell out of it. She did exactly that for several days and many hours. she also dropped it and I would go get it and give it back to her. She seemed to think that it was great fun to see me go fetch the ball for her, this also went on for several days and then she started throwing the ball at me so I caught the ball and returned it to her. She is not the best at throwing this ball and often will toss it straight up and hit herself with the ball which only served to cause her to throw it even harder and sometimes more accurately. This has progressed to me tossing the ball back to her and she actually tries to catch the ball so I only toss it back from arms length, but she now plays catch with me. This could easily be called a trick that she has learned, but it is not one in which she receives any reward for other than our happily playing together, she will not do anything if a treat is given as a reward for as the first time she does something that I try to reward her for with a treat is the last time that she will do that.
This does indicate to me that trick training may not only be enjoyable to them but that the interaction with their human may be in itself the biggest reward that they get out of it and that it may very well be a good thing provided it is done in such a manner that the bird enjoys it. I watch my birds very closely as I want to have the best relationship with them as I can and if I see them looking for more to do then I try to figure out what they seem to be looking to do and trick training may be just the right answer. I do thing that if approached correctly that it will help them to improve their problem solving abilities. I am not in a position to say whether or not your bird enjoys this trick training or not, only you are in that position and a thorough knowledge of and familiarity with their behaviors and body language will help you to discern if it is enjoyable to them or not.
While these thoughts of mine on trick training may or may not help you it does give you my basic point of view on this topic and hopefully it will help you somewhat as well.
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Re: Stuck On Piggy Bank, Any Advice?

Postby Pajarita » Sat Nov 07, 2015 12:05 pm

Michael, you can't use dog training as any comparison to parrot training. Leaving aside the fact that dogs have been domesticated for, at least, 30,000 years, dogs descend all from the grey wolf which has a hierarchical social grouping where the puppies and young adults strive to please the alpha - parrots don't.

As to learning to do kissy noises, throwing a ball, etc. I think that learning or adopting behaviors that bring the reward of attention or love ON THEIR OWN is not the same as having training sessions for tricks.

My beef with trick training for parrots is that it's like crate training for dogs. I don't use crates to train my dogs at home (I don't need them for my dogs to learn what I want them to learn, same as I don't do target or clicker training with my parrots) but I have used them at the shelter and, when you use the crate as a training tool in a judicious manner (just for the perfect number of hours, at the right time, etc), the technique is invaluable, BUT when you use it wrong, you end up with a mal-adjusted animal that almost always ends up in a shelter. And I know because I have such a dog right now and have had experience with many of them at the rescue.

Basically, my point is that teaching parrot trick training techniques is a double-edged sword because you can teach the techniques but you can neither teach common sense nor can you instill love/compassion for the animal. Therefore, what can be a benefit to the bird in terms of rewarding interaction, enrichment, etc. when done right can end up been the weapon of their destruction when done by the wrong person because, unfortunately, trick training, with its 'YouTube showoff' factor, has a much higher chance of been done only for personal reward than to benefit the bird.

The bird in question is only four months old (FOUR months old - a baby, for heavens sake!). He is been trained several times a day and I would bet the owner does food management, too, as recommended in Michael's book. And let's not forget this is a sun conure, not what one would call the sweetest-tempered bird there is! It's worrisome to say the least...
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Re: Stuck On Piggy Bank, Any Advice?

Postby seagoatdeb » Sat Nov 07, 2015 2:53 pm

We all do things for a "reward" Would you do things for a person if they never showed appreciation? Parrots are like that too. Saying "good bird" is a reward. As long as the bird is having fun there is no too much amount. also the bird will stop cooperating when they are done. Training to do a trick is not different than training not to bite, it is really not training at all. It is all about communication. if you can communicate with your bird you both do things for each other and trick training is no exception. Michael is an expert at training/establishing communication to do complex tricks, so I would listen to what he has to say.
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Re: Stuck On Piggy Bank, Any Advice?

Postby seagoatdeb » Sat Nov 07, 2015 3:21 pm

I have used clicker training with my Red Belly as a short cut to establishing good friendships with other people as she has a big tendency to be a one person bird and be nasty to strangers. She loves the clicker and getting a trieat for figuring out how to get to a target. So if I get the new person to use the clicker she will go over and give them a little "kiss" to show them she loves what they are doing. So she is training them as much as they are training her. They want to do the clicker with her beause she shows so much appreciation.
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Re: Stuck On Piggy Bank, Any Advice?

Postby Pajarita » Sun Nov 08, 2015 12:37 pm

I think you are missing the point I am trying to make, Seagoat. Training, in a wide and general scope, is not bad. We all train our animals in one way or another and whether we need a clicker or a target or not for it is irrelevant. Neither is rewarding good behavior a bad thing whether we use a high value food item, praise or loving. The questionable part is the purpose and manner of training.
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