First let me say that behavior and training are my weakest skills when it comes to parrot care, so if I can figure this out, I know anyone can.
I know there are a few true behaviorists and trainers who follow this blog, so if I make any major mistakes, I hope they will chime in and correct me (ok, Lara and Emily?)
I do have information from a Teaching Husbandry Skills class to use as my guide, so I’ll pull from that to begin.
How to Start? Write a Training Plan
• Choose your Goal Behavior.
• Visualize that behavior and write out a description in observable terms.
• List the steps, or approximations, needed to get your bird from where they are now to the goal behavior. Keep in mind that the smaller the steps, the easier this will be for you and your bird to accomplish.
• Determine what type of reinforcer you’ll be using and any supplies needed.
• Keep a written log.
Ok, the ultimate goal behavior is for “Winnie to step onto a handheld perch offered to her and stay there calmly, even when moved from room to room, until asked to step off onto another perch.”
But that may be too big for now, so let’s start simpler, with “Winnie to step onto a handheld perch and stand there calmly for 30 seconds,” this will be our part one.
Starting with where she is now, which is she backs away from any handheld perch presented to her, BUT she does know how to target (touch the end of a target stick) so I think I will use that as a skill to help her, these are my planned steps.
• Touch target stick with perch within eyesight (put not being held)
• Touch target stick with perch being held far away from her
• Touch target stick with handheld perch moving closer to her (backing up to a previously comfortable distance if she shows any signs of being uncomfortable)
• Touch target stick with handheld perch touching whatever she is currently standing on.
• Take a step towards the handheld perch in order to touch the target stick.
• Take more steps toward handheld perch in order to touch target stick (again backing up as needed to maintain her comfort level)
• Step one foot onto the handheld perch in order to touch the target stick
• Step both feet onto the handheld perch in order to touch the target stick
• Stand on handheld perch for any length of time she chooses
• Stand on handheld perch for an increasing length of time until 30 seconds is reached
Please note that during this time the handheld perch will continue to rest on what whatever surface she is standing on, no movement of the handheld perch is yet involved.
Winnie loves peanuts and sunflower seeds, and as these are not part of her diet, I believe they will hold the greatest value, but she also greatly enjoys walnuts and almonds, so I may add some of those into the reinforcer mix too.
The supplies I will need are a handheld perch, I will probably choose a nice natural branch as she has many perches in her cage and playstand that are made of natural branch. I will also need the target stick she has already learned to touch, and the clicker I use as a bridge.
That’s my plan. I will take short videos of our progress and keep you all updated.
To see the presentation “Teaching Husbandry Skills”