Thursday, April 10, 2014

Barbara Heidenreich on Coffee with Cudmore Radio Show



Check out my radio interview this morning on Coffee with Cudmore. We talk about exotic animal controversies, rabbits for Easter and more. Visit www.BarbarasFFAT.com for resources to train your pets.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Answers for Parrot Behavior Problems

Barbara answering questions about parrot behavior via Skype
Recently Dr Susan Clubb and Terry Timberlake organized a great bash for parrot enthusiasts called The Rainforest Parrot Party. It was held in Florida and well attended by 400 parrot loving people. I was invited to participate too. But due to living 1000+ miles away, I had to attend virtually via Skype.

 

I answered questions about parrot behavior problems submitted by attendees.


I videotaped the entire session so that I could also share it with you!


Topics covered included:

How to create motivation for food treats
What to do if a parrot is bonded to one person and showing aggressive behavior to everyone else
What to do if a parrot tries to bite when you clean the cage
What to do if a parrot bites when being returned to the cage
How to train a parrot to be comfortable with nail trims and towel restraint
What to do about screaming for attention
Training a parrot who will only poop in a basket to poop in his cage.
Do parrots make good pets?
Resources to help address feather damaging behavio

 

You can watch the clip below or here is the YouTube link. http://youtu.be/-6mW-5-wc0k 

 

 

Enjoy! Feel free to share the link with your friends, colleagues or clients. 
Barbara Heidenreich
www.GoodBirdInc.com
www.BarbarasFFAT.com
Copyright 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

Get Ready to Train Your Parrot




Are you excited to start training your parrot? It can be a lot of fun for you and your bird if you are prepared. Before you have a training session here are a few tips to help make sure you have a great session.

1.      Pick a location to train. Training is fun if both you and your parrot are relaxed and comfortable. Try to find a place that your parrot enjoys being. This may be in or near his enclosure or another place he frequently visits such as the couch or a play stand. You also want to make sure the location you choose is comfortable for you. You don’t want your parrot perched someplace that is difficult for you to reach. Sometimes trainers end up in some funny positions while they wait patiently for the bird to respond. If this position is uncomfortable you won’t be able to be wait for very long. Also try to pick an area that is calm and quiet. Too much activity can cause your parrot to focus on everything else except you and the training session.

2.      Have a stash of favorite treats and toys on hand. When we train a new behavior or trick it is important that something good happens when your bird does what you request. Usually favorite foods are the perfect thing to use to reward your parrot. Try to have tiny pieces of food prepared before you start training. This means you may have to spend some time breaking up pieces of peanut, almond or sunflower seeds before your training session. It is nice to have lots of extra treats on hand in case your session goes really well. You don’t want to run out of goodies! If your parrot likes toys, you can gather a stash of small toys for training. Have lots of different toys to choose from so your bird will stay interested.

3.      Have a plan. Before you bring your parrot to your training location think about what you would like to teach your bird to do. You will also want to think about the steps you are going to take to train your parrot to do the behavior. Thinking about the steps will help you decide what props and set up will be needed to train the trick. For example if you want to train your parrot to turn around in a circle, you may need to have a target stick and a perch that allows you to easily move your hand underneath the bird.

4.      Make sure your bird is ready for a training session. Two things are very important for training. Your bird needs to be relaxed and comfortable and he also needs to be interested in the treats or toys you have to offer. Try to choose a time of day when your parrot seems to be eager to interact with you and is also happy to have some treats or attention. For many parrots this can be in the morning after they wake up and before they get breakfast.

5.      Have fun! When you follow steps one through four you can expect to have a great time training your parrot. If you or your parrot is not in the mood for a training session, it is OK to stop the session and try again later. This helps make sure both of you are enjoying training. It is a very exciting moment when your parrot understands what you are trying to teach him do. This is what makes training so fun. Try these tips with your parrot at home and you will find your training sessions will be very successful.

Barbara Heidenreich has been a professional animal trainer since 1990. Her company Good Bird Inc provides parrot training DVDs, books and workshops. She has been a featured speaker in twenty countries and has been published in nine languages. Barbara also consults on animal training in zoos. 

Barbara Heidenreich
For more information on how to train your parrot visit Good Bird Inc  
Barbara's Force Free Animal Training www.BarbarasFFAT.com
Copyright 2014  First appeared in Fledglings Magazine by The Parrot Society of Australia


Friday, March 21, 2014

Life Saving Training: Scale Training Parrots



One of the easiest and most important behaviors to train your parrot to do is to step onto a scale. It is very helpful to your veterinarian to have a record of your bird’s weight throughout its lifetime. Ideally, you want to weigh your bird about once a week. This will give you a very good idea of what is normal for your parrot. If your bird loses or gains a lot of weight this can be a signal to you that something may be wrong with your parrot. 

The first thing you need to train your parrot to do this behavior is a gram scale. This is the type of scale that will measure your bird’s weight in grams. You want it to measure in increments of 1 gram. This will give a very precise indication of your bird’s weight. You can find this type of scale in stores that sell office supplies. In this type of store you will find the scale in the mailing supplies section. Some people use scales to weigh items that are going to be shipped. Another place you can find a gram scale is in a kitchen supply store. Some people use scales to weigh food when cooking or preparing a recipe. 

The scales you will find in these stores will usually have a flat top. This surface might be slippery. To make it more comfortable for your bird you want to attach something to the top like a piece of thin foam or fabric.  I use thin foam from a craft store and attach it with double-sided sticky tape. Also look for a scale that sits low on the table. This will make it less likely the scale will tip over when your bird is standing on it. 

Some birds may find it more comfortable to stand on a perch. You can also modify a flat top scale by adding a perch to it. Some companies make a perch that you can rest on top of the scale. You can also secure a perch to the scale with hardware. For a bit more money you can also find scales made specifically for birds that have perches already attached. Any of these types of scales can work to weigh your parrot.
When you are ready to train your parrot to get on a scale, be sure to place the scale on a very stable surface. If the scale moves or wobbles it may frighten your parrot. If you have a parrot with a long tail, such as a king parrot or conure I recommend placing your scale at a corner of the table. This way your parrot can stand on the scale and his tail can hang over the edge of the table. By making sure his tail is not touching anything you will get a more accurate weight.

In order to train your parrot to step onto the scale, it is helpful to train your parrot to target first. This means you want your parrot to orient his beak towards a chopstick or closed fist as a target. You can then use this to lure him towards the scale and eventually onto the scale. Remember to offer him a treats every time he moves closer to your target and scale. 

Some parrots may show a fear response to the scale. If you see this try placing treats all over and near the scale. Let your parrot explore the scale and get the treats on his own. Don't try to force him onto the scale because that will only increase his fear.

For scales that have a perch on top, this will be just like asking your parrot to step from your hand onto another perch. Look for body language that says your bird is interested in stepping on the perch. If he is leaning away, then he is afraid. Approach the scale slower and offer your bird treats for staying upright and interested.  Be sure to offer your bird lots of goodies when he steps onto the perch.

Pretty soon your bird will learn that he gets treats whenever he goes to the scale. As soon as the scale comes out, he might try to get to it as fast as he can. You veterinarian will be very pleased and impressed if you train this behavior. Most of all it makes it super easy for you to monitor your bird’s health and it is stress free for your parrot. Try this one at home with your parrots!

Barbara Heidenreich has been a professional animal trainer since 1990. Her company Good Bird Inc (www.GoodBirdInc.com) provides parrot training DVDs, books and workshops. She has been a featured speaker in twenty countries and has been published in nine languages. Barbara also consults on animal training in zoos. 

Barbara Heidenreich
For more information on how to train your parrot visit Good Bird Inc  
Barbara's Force Free Animal Training www.BarbarasFFAT.com
Copyright 2014  First appeared in Fledglings Magazine by The Parrot Society of Australia


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Get to Know the Wild Side of Your Pet Parrot




Having a parrot as a pet is pretty special. Because so many families have dogs and cats as companions, many people are very familiar with the behavior of these animals. But parrots are a bit different. Even though our companion parrots live in our homes, they still do things their wild cousins do. This means it is very important for people who live with birds to learn about the natural history of the parrots in their lives. For example if you share your home with a cockatiel you may have noticed he likes to spend time on the ground or that he prefers certain types of treats for training, like millet spray. If you were to look at wild cockatiels you would understand that foraging for grass seeds is a very normal behavior for them and it would help explain why your bird likes being on the ground and eating millet sprays so much.

I recently was lucky enough to work with a very unusual parrot named Sirocco. Sirocco is a kakapo. This is a very rare parrot found in New Zealand. Even though kakapo are parrots, they are very different from other species of parrots. Learning about kakapo natural history became very important when it came time to train Sirocco. Here are some things I learned about kakapo and how they affected Sirocco’s training.

Kakapo are nocturnal. This means they are active at night. Because of this our training sessions with Sirocco did not happen until the sun went down.

Kakapo are very solitary birds and do not preen each other in the wild. This meant we would not be able to use head scratches to reward Sirocco for good behavior. To him this would not be a fun experience. So instead we focused on using his favorite treats.

Kakapo are flightless. Even though kakapo have very big beautiful wings, they do not fly. Instead of training for flight we focused on things like targeting, step up and walking alongside us.

Kakapo can eat very large amounts of food. Just before breeding season the males put on a lot of weight so they can focus on calling for females instead of spending time on eating. When I was working with Sirocco it was at the time of year when the males are gaining weight. Sirocco was very interested in treats and our training sessions could go on for a long time. This meant I needed to have lots of treats with me and also have lots of ideas for behavior to train during a session.

Kakapo are excellent climbers. They like to roost in trees in the daytime. Remember kakapo can’t fly, so they have to climb up there. This means they have very powerful legs and a strong grip. For some of our training we wanted Sirocco to stand on a platform or station. This meant we had to build something that was easy for a kakapo to climb.

All the facts I learned about kakapo were very helpful to know when it came time to train Sirocco. Pick up a book about wild parrots and study the species you have in your home. If you can, go outside and watch parrots in the wild. There is so much information you can learn about wild parrots that will help you be a better caregiver and trainer to the feathered companion in your home.

Barbara Heidenreich has been a professional animal trainer since 1990. Her company Good Bird Inc (www.GoodBirdInc.com) provides parrot training DVDs, books and workshops. She has been a featured speaker in twenty countries and has been published in nine languages. Barbara also consults on animal training in zoos. 

Barbara Heidenreich
For more information on how to train your parrot visit Good Bird Inc  
Barbara's Force Free Animal Training www.BarbarasFFAT.com
Copyright 2014  First appears in Fledglings Magazine by The Parrot Society of Australia

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Easy Parrot Training. Capture a Behavior!



One of the very cool things Palm Cockatoos have been observed doing is holding a stick in their foot and tapping it against a hollowed out log. It is believed they do this to announce this area is their territory. As an animal trainer I think this is a very interesting behavior. And if I had the chance I would love to train a Palm Cockatoo to present this behavior on cue. To train a behavior like this we use a process called capturing. And it is very much like it sounds. We try to catch the animal in the act of doing what it is we want and reward in that exact moment.

To capture a behavior we try to create an environment in which the bird is very likely to present the behavior. For example, if I were training a Palm Cockatoo I would want to have a hollowed log set up and lots of sticks. I might ask the bird to perch on the log and offer him a stick. And then I would wait and see if maybe he would be inspired to drum. The moment he hits the log with the stick, I would give him a treat, head scratch or something else I know he enjoys. This teaches the cockatoo that drumming is very worthwhile. It causes humans to dispense goodies. If the bird really likes what I have been giving him, he will keep drumming. When this starts to happens I can an insert a cue just before I think he is about to whack the log with the stick. Pretty soon my cockatoo will learn to drum whenever I give the cue.

This process is a little different from other ways that we train behaviors. Instead of teaching a bird how to do something by breaking it down into tiny steps, we just set up the right environment and wait for the behavior to be presented.

While not everyone has the chance to work with a Palm Cockatoo, capturing behavior is something you can do with any parrot in your life. There are many behaviors our parrots just “do” throughout the day that are very pleasant to put on cue. For example maybe you have a cockatiel that whistles a pretty song over and over. You could easily capture the song by offering a bite of millet spray whenever he whistles the tune. This is the same strategy you would use if you parrots talks or sings.

Some people really like it when their cockatoo raises his crest feathers or their parrot stretches their wing out over a leg while balancing on the other. These moves can also be captured. One of the challenges with capturing behavior is you may not get a lot of repetition of the behavior at first. You might have to wait a few minutes, hour or days for your next opportunity to catch your bird in the act of doing what behavior you want. That’s OK. Your bird can still learn what it is you want him to do. It just may take a few days for him to catch on to the idea.

Spend some time watching your bird and makes notes of all the different things your parrot does that you could capture and put on cue. Pick one behavior to capture first. Once that behavior is on cue, move onto the next behavior. You will find once your parrot learns one behavior via capturing, he will quickly figure out how this game works. Pretty soon your bird will know an impressive list of behaviors.

Barbara Heidenreich has been a professional animal trainer since 1990. Her company Good Bird Inc (www.GoodBirdInc.com) provides parrot training DVDs, books and workshops. She has been a featured speaker in twenty countries and has been published in nine languages. Barbara also consults on animal training in zoos.

Barbara Heidenreich
For more information on how to train your parrot visit Good Bird Inc
Barbara's Force Free Animal Training www.BarbarasFFAT.com
Copyright 2014 First appeared in Fledglings Magazine by The Parrot Society of Australia