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Training a Parrot to Step Down by Barbara Heidenreich

Parrots magazine 159

Training a Parrot to Step Down by Barbara Heidenreich

Successfully training a parrot to step up with positive reinforcement can be very rewarding. This is especially true if you are training a bird that has a history of aggressive behavior or fear responses towards hands. In some cases, parrots learn to find stepping up on people so reinforcing, they don’t ever want to leave your hand. In this situation, people typically resort to strategies that involve coercion to get a parrot to step down. This may include ‘scraping’ the bird off the hand or rolling the hand until the bird is uncomfortable enough to step off onto another perch. In some cases birds may learn to bite the hand to avoid stepping down, for example when being put back in the cage. Rather than using force, you can focus on training your parrot to step off of your hand by using positive reinforcement. The end result will be a very cooperative parrot.

Where to Begin

A target can be a very useful tool when training a parrot to step down. Because of this I often teach a bird to target as my first step. When you train a parrot to target, you train it to orient a body part towards something. Usually the body part is the beak or head. I often use my closed fist as a target. Targeting can be trained very quickly. Start by offering your parrot a few food treats from the closed fist. Birds can quickly learn to orient their heads towards the fist. This in turn can be used to direct the bird where to go. If it then follows the fist with its head, it will be positively reinforced.

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