The 3 Most Important Behaviors to Train Your Parrot
by Luke Beyler
The sky is the limit on what is possible to train with our parrots! As we know, parrots are very intelligent with a huge capacity to learn, but there are three behaviors that every parrot needs to know how to do. These behaviors will make your life easier and their life less stressful.
The first is how to step up and down. Moving your parrot to and from its cage is one of the most common behaviors we ask our parrots to do, yet it’s actually a huge request to ask from our parrots as we are asking to come into their personal space. The key to this behavior is to not force yourself into their space. Forcing your parrot to do anything is only going to break down any trust that has been built and will likely result in a bite because your parrot feels cornered. If your bird is pinning their eyes, fluffing their feathers, and sitting with their beak open, that is NOT the time to reach into a cage. Learn how to fluently read your parrot’s body language; they will tell you when it’s okay to move into their space. When your parrot chooses to step up to your hand, reward them for placing their trust in you. They’ve earned it! This may be a favorite piece of food or a head scratch (only if you already know your parrot enjoys head scratches). In the same way, reward them for stepping off of your hand and back onto their perch or cage. Making sure that the environment you are putting them back into is equally exciting as being on you will help to prevent your bird from developing “Velcro-bird” tendencies where they never want to leave your side.
The second behavior is how to calm station. With this behavior, you are simply reinforcing your parrot for quiet, calm behavior. There are many practical uses for this behavior such as when cleaning papers, changing food bowls, or simply when you want to enjoy a phone conversation or movie. By building a history of reinforcement for quiet, calm behavior, issues like screaming become nonissues by simply ignoring that scream. Why would your parrot scream for attention when so many other great things happen when they are calm or playing independently? Why would your parrot lunge at your fingers while changing out a food bowl when their beak is already busy munching on their favorite treat for sitting calmly? The applications are endless.
The third behavior is a recall. A recall is for when you need your bird to come to you. This may be necessary as you have to leave the house and playtime on the top of the cage has to end or in an emergency situation like a fly off. Having a parrot that knows a recall can make a very stressful situation a little more tolerable. A recall is taught by rewarding your parrot for any time they come to you. You are basically teaching your parrot that they can always trust you to be a safe place where good things happen. Starting on an even surface like the floor or a table and then adding difficulty for your parrot like climbing or flying down from a toy is a good place to start. Always make sure that they are reinforced for coming to you. Again, they earned it! It’s better to train this behavior in a controlled setting instead of potentially going through a stressful situation.
Successfully training these behaviors will do amazing thing for you and your parrot. For examples of what each of these behaviors look like, please check out www.GoodBirdInc.com or request a behavior consult with MDPR for in-home coaching.