Training Tidbit- How to Bond with your bird using clicker training
If you have a bird you would like to bond with, how do you do it? Perhaps this is a bird that is new in your home. Perhaps this bird loves someone else in the house (and not you!). Perhaps you are looking to deepen the bond you have with a bird you have had for years.
Where do you start? After providing your bird with everything they need, a large cage, good food, clean water, lots of fun toys, they should love you. Right? Or is there more to this “bonding” thing?
What about spending time together? The recommendation to read quietly near your bird and let them get used to you might be good advice, or it might send your bird into a fearful state. And the advice to hold the bird against your body is not recommended at all anymore, as it more often leads to fear than not. So now what do you do?
The best way to bond with your bird is in a way that benefits THEM. The bird should have a positive association with you. That means “You approaching” must mean something awesome for the bird. Perhaps you drop a treat in their cage and leave. Perhaps you whistle to them and they whistle back. Your bird gets to decide if what you are doing is awesome, and if they like it and want it again.
LET ME BE CLEAR: your bird is self-serving. If you bring him yummy food, and he loves yummy food, you will be the bringer of yummy food. You have value. You are useful to them.
If you bring a cute toy and they hate toys, they won’t care. Or if you have impeccable taste in music, they really don’t care. The bird decides. The bird is the one who needs to be convinced that hanging out with you is wonderful, and good things happen.
We can use clicker training and positive reinforcement to help our birds understand that this good stuff is coming. If every time you approach, you bring a treat, and they eat it, there is predictability. Next time you better bring a treat! If you click, and then provide a treat, then the click means a treat is coming! Predictability leads to communication.
If I really want a bird to bond with me, I can use this principle to create positive associations in many aspects of our lives together. A click and treat can be used to communicate ‘good job’ staying on your perch! A click and treat can communicate ‘I really liked that you did that’. A click and treat can even help your bird seek you out for attention, “hey lady, if I do that again, do you have any more of that click and treat?”.
By building up your value, associating yourself with things the bird wants, and being predictable in bringing those good things, you will create a strong bond with your bird!
Need more help? Send an email to [email protected] and we will assist any way we can.
Happy Training And Bonding!
- Robin Horemans KPA CTP IAABC Parrot Div Chair