Introduction: How to Train Birds 101
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Birds are fascinating, beautiful, incredible creatures that are much more intelligent than our other commonly kept pets and they also are very long lived.
All bird lovers want the world to know how smart and special their feathered friends are, and a great way to show off your bird's talents is to teach your bird some cool tricks that will impress anyone who sees them.
It can seem difficult to train your pet bird at first, but if you start with the fun and easy tricks outlined in this instructables, you'll be surprised at how simple it can be to teach your bird cute tricks that will delight audiences of all ages.
Just remember that time, practice, and patience are the keys to your bird's success!
Training your bird is an essential part of your relationship with him. Not only can it be used to curb bad behaviors and make your bird easier to deal with, but it can be a fun way to interact with him and spend time together. Training can be used for a variety of purposes, from house training your bird to teaching him tricks. The following steps will help you with the more basic and essential aspects for bird training.
Step 1: The Basics
Once you start a training program with your bird, you might also find yourself noticing the nuances of your bird’s body language and understanding more of your bird’s moods.
Training with birds is fun. Here are some things which you need to keep in mind while doing this.
1) Keep your sessions short about 2 or 3 10-minute sessions every day works best to retain your bird’s attention.
2) Let your pet bird get used to props by leaving them near the bird for a few days. Try playing with the items to grab your bird’s interest.
3) Find a quiet place free of distractions to work together.
4) Find a special reward that you only give to your pet bird during training. A food reward should be something small and easily consumed within a few seconds. Or, if your bird enjoys praise or a head scratch, offer these instead of food.
5) Train at the same time every day, so your pet bird can look forward to your new routine together.
6) Keep it positive and offer lots of praise if your pet bird gets even part of the trick or training correct.
Watch your bird for signs of sleepiness, inattentiveness due to hunger, etc., fear, or aggression. Signs of fear and aggression include the bird standing upright with wings held slightly away from his body, with or without his beak open; vocalizations; flapping of the wings; the bird holding very tightly onto your finger; or biting. If it appears you will need to end the session, end on a positive note, and without the bird thinking he is the "winner" of any confrontation.
If the bird is not used to you, for several sessions you may want to just slowly and quietly place your hand in the bird's cage, away from the bird.
When you approach the cage, and work with the bird, you should always be slightly higher than the bird's eye level. Too far above, and the bird may be more afraid. Too low, and the bird may start to interpret it as submission on your part.
With each session, move your hand closer to the bird, and allow the bird to perch on it of his own accord (you may want to tempt him with a treat).
Once your bird is comfortable with your hand close to him in the cage, the real training can start.
If the bird is large and already a biter, you may wish to use a dowel or other stick in place of your finger during initial training. If so, get the bird used to the dowel by placing it in the cage and allowing him to investigate it.
Set a Schedule for Training:
Set aside a specific time each day to practice with your bird. Incorporating training into your bird's daily routine will encourage him to look forward to and anticipate training sessions, while helping him retain the information he has been taught.
Keep in mind that your bird is a sensitive and emotional creature, and needs to be rewarded for his efforts to understand your lessons. As long as you remember to keep a positive attitude and practice often, training is an activity that will bring both you and your pet great satisfaction.
Step 2: Teaching Your Bird the "Step Up Command"
The most important behavior you can teach your bird is the Step-up command, in which your bird reliably steps onto your finger or wrist.
Your bird should automatically offer a foot when you say "Step up” (or whatever cue you use) while you simultaneously offer the hand.
A reliable step up makes it easier to retrieve your bird in an inconvenient or even dangerous situation. It also ensures that other people can work with or retrieve the bird without either party feeling nervous or threatened.
The "Step-Up" command is the most valuable and fundamental command that you can teach your pet, and is something that all pet birds should know.
Many bird tricks are built upon a parrot's knowledge of the "step-up" command, so it is important to begin any training regimen by teaching your bird this trick first.
Not only will it help you teach your bird more impressive maneuvers, teaching your bird to step-up can come in extremely handy during vet visits, cage cleaning time, and many other aspects of bird ownership. If you haven't done so already, set aside time to start working on this important command as soon as possible.
Prepare the training area:
When training your bird, always make sure to close any doors and cover any windows that may be present.
This will help you hold your bird's attention while at the same time protecting your bird in case he becomes bored with his lessons and attempts to fly off.
If you have just recently acquired your bird, the first few training sessions may be very frightening for him.
Choosing a training location that will be comfortable for the bird will not only make it much easier for you to communicate with your pet, but will go a long way in easing the bird's concerns.
Talk to your bird:
We all know that birds are very vocal, but they are also often soothed by the sound of their owner's voice.
When beginning a training session with your pet, take a few minutes at the beginning to talk and play with your bird so that he understands that he is participating in a fun and desirable activity.
Slowly extend your hand to the bird:
Some birds can be frightened by sudden movements and may not be used to being handled. Make sure that at first you move very slowly and maintain a calm demeanor to avoid scaring your pet.
Gently press your index finger to the bird's lower abdomen:
If you have a large bird, use your forearm. Most birds will automatically step-up when they sense pressure on their bellies.
Using a calm, pleasant voice, say "Step-Up": With regular training, your bird will soon recognize this command as his cue to step onto your hand.
While all birds are individuals and learn at different rates, this simple yet important command is generally mastered by most birds within the first few training sessions. You may be amazed to find that your pet is quite the little scholar!
Birds, like other pets, need to be rewarded when they successfully complete a task. This is what allows the bird to realize that he has done what you wanted him to do.
You should always remember to lavish praise on your bird whenever he achieves even the smallest of victories.
Provide Plenty of Yummy Treats: Birds can and often do think with their stomachs. Offer your bird a tasty fruit, veggie, or other treat to reward him for a job well done.
Make sure to avoid any treats that could be toxic or poisonous to your pet.
Step 3: Train Your Bird to Wave Hello
Training your pet bird to wave hello is an amazing way to provide mental stimulation. On top of that, having a bird that can do tricks is fun! This trick is for those of you who have already managed to teach your bird the Step up command. Birds that can already reliably step up are sure to pick up waving quickly and easily.
Start by placing your bird on his perch in front of you.
Spend a few moments petting him and speaking to him softly.
Once your bird seems comfortable in the training space, you can begin teaching him the trick.
Step 1: Give the Wave command. Face your bird and say "wave" in a pleasant voice. This usually works best if you try to say the word as you would in normal conversation.
Step 2: Extend a finger toward your bird. This is where knowing the Step Up command comes in handy. If your bird already steps up for you, he will recognize your finger coming toward him and lift a foot to step onto it. When the bird lifts his foot, do not allow him to step onto your finger. Instead, slowly pull the finger away.
Step 3: Praise your bird. If your bird has lifted his foot in the air, he has essentially completed the wave command. Give the bird a treat and praise him lavishly.
Step 4: Repeat, repeat, repeat! Repeat steps 1-3 for about 15 minutes or until your bird loses interest. This concludes your training session!
If you keep working at it, eventually your bird will automatically raise his foot when you ask him to wave, resulting in one of the cutest and easiest bird tricks that you can teach your feathered friend. Keep up daily training sessions until your parrot is a waving pro!
Many parrots will learn how to wave hello in only a few training sessions; some take a little longer. Don't give up on your pet if he or she doesn't pick up the trick in the first few tries! Parrots are highly intelligent and will respond to training in time. Keep working at it and your bird will eventually reward you with a stellar performance!
Step 4: How to Teach Your Bird Its Name
Once you have selected a proper name, it is preferable to stick with it.
Although it is possible to change a bird's name once you have chosen one, it will be much easier for both you and your feathered friend if you choose a good name that you like -- one that will grow with the bird and you both can stick to throughout the bird's lifetime.
Using a tasty treat such as small pieces of cut up fruit or even sunflower seeds, Calmly say your bird's name to him and immediately reward him. Repeat this process over and over for up to 15 minutes.
You'll notice that very quickly your bird will begin to look toward you in anticipation of a treat every time you say his name.
Once your bird begins to do this reliably every time you say whatever name you've chosen for him, then you can be assured that he has learned to respond to the name.
The best way to get your bird to learn his name quickly is to repeat your 15 minute training sessions 3 or 4 times per day until you are getting a proper response out of your pet.
Be sure to give your bird a proper break between your training sessions, so that he doesn't get too full of treats and so he doesn't begin to get bored with your little "class."
Keeping training sessions short and fun for your pet will give you the fastest and easiest results, no matter what you are trying to teach your pet.
Step 5: Teach Your Bird to Talk
Not all bird species can talk, and even those that have the ability sometimes choose not to use it.
To determine if your bird is a good candidate for speech training, do a bit of research on your pet's species. Some birds are known to be better talkers than others, so you shouldn't expect your pet to say more than he or she is capable of.
Choose Your Words Wisely
If you pay attention, you will probably find that your bird seems to respond better to some words than others.
The best way to encourage birds to speak is to choose a few short words for them to start off with. Examples of good starter words include "hello", "bye-bye", "nite nite", or even your bird's own name.
Simple words, when said with enthusiasm, seem to become more interesting to most parrots. Make sure that when you speak to your bird, you do so in a happy, positive tone.
Watch your bird as you repeat the words you've chosen. If you pay close attention, you will probably see that some words catch his attention more than others. Use the word that your bird responds to the most for your first "training word".
Repeat the Word or Phrase as Often as Possible
Once you have locked onto a word that your feathered friend is interested in, repeat the word to him as often as you possibly can.
Parrots learn to mimic through repetition -- so saying the word over and over again is the only way to encourage your bird to say it back.
While it's always best for owners to teach their pets directly, some owners opt to use extra learning tools such as tape recorders and CD's to help teach their birds to talk.
Using these tools can be effective, and certainly won't hinder the training process, but owners should know that they are no substitute for one on one interaction, and should be used only as supplemental training aids.
Have Patience, and Don't Get Discouraged
Even if your bird never talks, the time you spend training will help strengthen the bond that you have with your pet.
The fastest way to encourage a bird to talk is to set up a training routine and work with it every day.
Even this method, however, is not entirely guaranteed to work. While some birds pick up on human speech quite readily, some birds take months or even years to say their first word.
Some will never talk at all -- even owners that work with their pets diligently sometimes end up with a bird that won't say a word.
If you feel like your bird is taking too long with his speech training, try teaching something a little bit easier, such as whistling. Many birds find whistling much easier than mimicking speech, and some may be more willing to give it a try for this reason.
With love, patience, and plenty of practice and training time, most birds that are members of the parrot family will learn to mimic something.
Pay attention to the vocalizations that your bird makes during the day. You may be surprised to find that you recognize some of them as environmental sounds that you hear every day in your home, like telephones, microwave buzzers, and doorbells.Even if your bird never speaks a human word, you shouldn't feel slighted.
Speech training, interaction, and socialization all help to strengthen the bond between you and your pet, so if your bird remains silent, you can still be assured that you'll get a lovable, intelligent, and interesting companion out of the deal -- and as far as owning a bird goes, that's the best part!
Step 6: How to Potty Train Your Pet Bird
There are in fact ways to teach your pet the proper places to relieve himself. While it won't happen overnight, and can be a bit more complicated than teaching a cat or dog, many owners find that the benefits of such training are well worth the effort.
The first step in potty training your bird is to train yourself. Each day when you interact with your pet, pay close attention to any "signals" the bird may give you before relieving himself. These can be as subtle as a change in posture, a certain "look" in the bird's eyes, or a ruffling of tail feathers. Every bird is different, and will thus use different body language, but if you know your bird and learn to "read" him, it won't take you long to catch on.
Another thing to pay attention to is the frequency of your bird's droppings.
Many birds will use the bathroom as often as every 5 or 10 minutes, but again, this is highly individual. If you watch your bird, you may begin to see a pattern in his restroom habits, and if you take note of the amount of time he or she takes between poops, you will be better at judging when your bird is ready for a potty break.
Once you've gotten a good idea of your bird's natural bathroom schedule, you can begin to work with your bird on learning the right places to go potty.
The first thing to do is decide where you want your bird to relieve himself. This can be any number of places, such as the bird's cage, a garbage can, or a piece of newspaper or cage liner. Whatever you decide on, it's important to stick with it as much as possible.
Many bird owners train their pets to potty on a piece of waste paper, as this is the most portable and easily disposed of.When you've chosen the proper place, the only thing you must do is take your bird to it (or if it's a piece of paper, hold it under the bird) when it's time to go potty -- sounds simple, right? The trick is anticipating the bird's need to use the bathroom, which is where knowing your bird's potty habits comes into play. If, for example, you noticed that your bird relieves himself about every 7 minutes, then you should place your bird over his designated poop space every 7 minutes.
There may be times when your bird does not need to poop as often as normal, and that's okay -- if you notice that your bird hasn't pooped after being held over the potty space for a minute or two, let him resume playing, and just try again after 1-3 minutes have passed.
When your bird uses the bathroom in the correct area, be sure to praise him with kind words and tasty treats. As time passes, he will begin to understand that pooping in the right place yields great rewards! This can take many months of training, however, so don't be surprised if your bird has a few accidents, and don't be angry with your pet if he "misses the spot".
Remember, it's your responsibility to pay attention to your bird's body language and schedule, and get the bird to the proper place to go potty.
With persistence and plenty of positive reinforcement, many birds take to potty training quite readily, and quickly learn that pooping on humans (or furniture) is not encouraged.
While it does require effort on the part of the owner to make sure that accidents don't occur, most claim that it's much easier than tending to the laundry and messes that un-trained birds create. Have fun with your bird and make potty training a learning experience for both of you -- and never again worry about losing your favorite shirt to a "bird bomb"!
Step 7: Teach Your Bird How to Dance
Select some upbeat music.
By nature, birds are geared to respond to sound, so it's no wonder that so many seem to enjoy hearing various types of music.
When teaching your bird how to dance, try to choose a fun, upbeat tune to train your bird with. Rhythmic songs with medium to fast tempos tend to encourage most parrots to get moving quickly.
Don't be discouraged if you bird doesn't seem to appreciate your musical choices -- just keep trying different types of music until you find something that your bird seems to respond to.
Set an example for your bird.
It sounds like a silly idea, but sometimes birds learn best when they are given an example. If your bird doesn't seem to be getting the hang of dancing on his or her own, it may be necessary for you to step in and give your pet a demonstration. Turn the music up and dance around to show your bird how fun it can be. Many time this will excite parrots to the point that they will start dancing along with you before they even realize what they're doing.
Try using visual aids.
If your bird still doesn't dance despite your best demonstrations and other efforts, then you may consider showing your pet some videos of other birds "cutting a rug."
Search online and make a playlist of your favorite dancing bird videos to share with your pet. Birds generally love watching other birds, and usually they will emulate what they see. This can be one of the quickest ways of encouraging your bird to dance or perform an array of other tricks and behaviors.
Reward your bird's progress.
As with all training exercises, it's important to reward your pet for any progress he or she makes toward learning the behavior that you're trying to teach. Even if your bird isn't a full-blown dancing machine after the first few training sessions, rewarding progress in increments is key to helping your pet understand the behavior that you want them to learn. Keep some tasty bird treats on hand while training to make sure that your bird stays engaged and interested in what you are doing. Using treats to keep training sessions fun will help your bird learn more quickly and easily over time.
Step 8: Finishing Off
Remember, bird training requires a lot of patience and dedication to training. The trick is to make the bird your best friend and it will feel comfortable around you. Do not hurry into training as birds require time to get accustomed to changes in its level of mental stimulation. Nevertheless, its truly amazing how you can teach such amazing things to birds.
Thank you for your cooperation and all the best with you training sessions with your bird.
This instructable is part of the Animals in the wild contest, so please feel free to go and vote for me.
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