Friday, September 3, 2010

Parrot Training Mistakes…and a New Parrot Training DVD!

I have just returned from Finland where I was fortunate to present a two day seminar on parrot training. This was my second time with these folks and it was just as much as fun as the first time. I wanted to share one of my moments of learning from the weekend.

We had a nice big group….around 60 people. Almost every person brought a parrot too. In Finland it is common practice to keep parrots fully flighted. This has helped many parrot enthusiasts in Finland already get acquainted with training with positive reinforcement. We definitely had some great trainers in the room. However all those birds flying around at the same time could get a bit chaotic. Fortunately we were able to split the group into separate rooms for training and made some progress.

One of the challenges with bringing parrots to a new location for training is that sometimes the behaviors they present so well at home fall apart in a new environment. This can be due to a number of factors such as environmental distractions or perhaps the behavior was not generalized to new locales. One such behavior for several of the parrots was going back into the travel cage. Whenever the parrots were to be left unsupervised (for example during the lunch break) we wanted the birds to be safe in their cages. While most cooperated we had a few who probably needed more practice going back into their travel cages for positive reinforcement.

One such bird was Wilma, an Amazon parrot. On the first day when Wilma decided out on a perch was better than in the cage, we got a little sneaky. We basically took parts of her travel cage off so that we could lower it over her while she sat on the perch. The process was pretty uneventful and Wilma was secure. However it was not ideal since Wilma did not voluntarily climb into her travel cage.

The next day I forgot to mention to Wilma’s caregiver that it might be better to work with Wilma in her less distracting hotel room until the crate training was solid. Come lunchtime Wilma was already out and about in the big room. Although what Wilma really needed was a few training sessions, the schedule was tight and we decided to try our sneaky technique from the day before. Here is where we made our mistakes. We all were hungry and anxious to go to our patience was limited. Wilma had also learned from the day before that lowering the cage over her would mean she would be in the travel cage and not by her choice. She very quickly started choosing to move away from us. Despite this we tried a few more times……more bad choices on our part. Finally we got smart! We decided Wilma could stay out in the room and someone would remain with her to supervise. We could take turns grabbing lunch.

After lunch, workshop organizer, and parrot trainer extraordinaire Milla volunteered to train Wilma to go into her cage. However because of her trust depleting experience with the cage Milla needed to find a high value reinforcer to get Wilma interested. A lovely pastry did the trick. Another great idea Milla had was to rearrange the cage so that it was easy for her to position her hands so that Wilma might enter the crate. You can see the arrangement in the photos. She also placed Wilma’s perch close to the cage so she could climb from the perch onto the cage and into it on her own. In about 20 minutes Wilma was going in the crate on her own. After so many pastry nibbles we thought she might be ready for a drink of water. We added her water cup to the cage and Wilma took the last few steps she needed in order to get a drink. Success! Wilma still needed more reps on the behavior before it would be solid, but we were happy she made it this far. Everyone felt much better about the process….especially Wilma.

I must admit one of my favorite parts of the live parrot workshops is the interesting training scenarios that occur. Each bird and behavior presents different challenges. And the feedback I often hear is that the parrot training demos are extremely educational. Reading about it from a book just doesn’t present the whole picture. This leads to my mention of the new DVD. A while back we filmed one of my live parrot training workshops. It is finally available. It includes 3 discs and 4 hours of information. You will learn how to train your parrot, read his body language, solve parrot behavior problems and watch me demonstrate these techniques with parrots I am meeting for the first time. Most of all you will learn how to have a great relationship with your bird based on trust. I hope you will check it out and discover how these training methods can help you have a fun, well behaved and interactive companion parrot. To order the Basics of Parrot Training: A Live Workshop DVD just click this link.

At the seminar in Finland we also taught parrots to drop things on cue, get comfy with a towel, allow us to bring nail clippers to their toes, get used to a harness, turn around on cue and more. I also hear there is some embarrassing video of me jumping up and down to encourage a very sweet umbrella cockatoo to put her crest up. My fingers are crossed that clip does not make it to the internet : ) In any case the workshop was great fun. I hope to meet those of you who read this blog at a parrot training workshop in the future.

PS. I also learned that sitting naked with strangers in a sauna and then jumping into a lake is a typical Finnish tradition. But making eye contact with a girl or boy you like in a bar is totally embarrassing!

Barbara Heidenreich
Copyright Good Bird Inc 2010


Erkku Kottonen said...

Don't worry, the embarrasing clip won't end up in the internet! When I get it out of the camera and edit it, I will send it to you for approval and the audience will be strictly pupils learning about the operant conditioning. It's a marvellous example of learning by imitating behavior :-).

Thanks for coming again!
Erkku Kottonen, mrs.
Animal Training Center of Finland

Dog beds said...

My mistakes would be used to give too easily and frustrated. or join a training session on a bad experience instead of leaving it on a good note.