Clicker Training a Red-Fan Parrot, An Update

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As some of you know, I recently added a four-month-old hawk-headed (red-fan) parrot, Deroptyus a. accipitrinus, to my household. I plan to learn how to clicker-train this bird (I already have the necessary tools and books). Below the fold is an example of another young Hawk-headed parrot, named Scooter (owned by Jeannie), who was approximately seven months old in this video. This training session reinforces earlier training where he learned how to place a small ball into a bowl. You can even see him improving throughout this training session. [6:57]

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I really enjoy these videos of Scooter's training, Grrl. The clearest instructions I ever got was from a man named John Lyons who is a sort of celebrity on the horse training circuit. He used the analogy of a telephone in calling your horse. First, you dial the right number, and when the horse answers, you say his name first. Then you give your message (command or signal). At the first sign that the horse understands or approximates the desired response, you give praise (click and a treat). With horses and dogs, you try to break the end desired response into smaller increments so that the animal gets rewarded all along the path to the desired response.

I worked with a lot of untrained, sometimes even feral, unwanted older and special needs animals. This kind of incremental reward/signal training worked with every single one.

Personally, I wouldn't sweat about trying it out. You could even begin with simply click and treating for having him/her eat out of your hand, then eat out of a desired receptacle, perching facing you, moving away from you, moving toward you, etc.

Oh - in my experience, other animals who were in the area also learned by observation, so often the training sessions had a more generalized effect. It was amazing to have one cat learn how to do something, and then find that all of the cats were doing it within days - many never having even been in the same building at the time. That may hold true for your bird denizens, as well.

Have fun!

I forgot: With all of the dogs, I taught them to love to get in the car and ride, because I would give tiny tidbit treats for getting close to the car, putting a paw on the car door, allowing me to "hug" them", allowing me to boost them into the back, allowing me to drive unhindered, allowing me to help them out of the car, and then back in, and the ultimate reward: the drive-through where I ordered mystery nuggets and fed them each a whole or half-order, depending on their size.

Within just a couple of trips (usually to the vet's office or an adoption event - but sometimes on very long road trips to other shelters to evaluate and/or rescue animals), all of them were fantastic riders - no vomiting, no barking, no crying, no frantic pawing, no escapees. Except for those who physically couldn't get into the car unaided, they all very willingly did so, and there was usually competition for rides.

With the horses, I taught all of them to allow anything to be placed around their necks and to be led with things such as baling twine, a dog lead, a length of garden hose, etc. in the event that they ever got loose or were in an emergency situation where I didn't have a halter handy.

I also taught them all to go into their own stalls for feeding, to stand patiently for the vet and farrier and to allow me to deworm them (with an oral paste medication which I think is the equivalent to our cod liver oil - you can try to mask the taste, but you know exactly what it is - yuck!) without the need to halter or tie them in their stalls.

And I am a very poor trainer!