By Dave Womach
When I first decided to become a parrot trainer I read up on all sorts of training techniques from supposedly good parrot trainers. These trainerâ€™s birds were amazing. Their Green Wing Macaws were capable of jumping off the top of hotel roofs, without any restraints and would willingly fly down from the roof and land on their trainers hand.
It was an amazing thing to watch, so amazing that I decided to follow all instructions he gave me to the core. I obeyed everything he said, including a method that I later realized was FAR from the best way to train a parrot not to bite.
The method that this trainer taught me was what is known in the animal training industry as flooding. Flooding is where you put an animal in a situation and force it to comply with whatever means is necessary. In my case I was trying to get my Blue and Gold Macaws to willingly come out of their cages without biting me. And I was instructed to take two wooden dowels, one in each hand, and proceed to forcibly pet my Blue and Gold Macaws with the wooden dowels.
Obviously my Macaws did not like this situation as they didnâ€™t like being touched. But I was instructed that they would soon realize that the touching was OK, and that I (the trainer) was the boss, and not the bird.
This technique was to be executed so as never to harm the bird, but scare it into submission. My blue and Golds would scream, flap their wings and bite at the sticks, and each time the did so I was to overwhelm them even more by touching them with the other stick in my other hand until they realized there was no hope and finally gave up.
Luckily for me this technique works on Macaws that like to attack their owners, but itâ€™s woefully ineffective on other species of parrots, especially certain species that are prone to running away in fear vs. holding their ground and putting up a fight like my blue and gold Macaws were.
In hind sight there are much more gentle approaches to training that not only work faster than the flooding method Iâ€™ve just described, but work for helping parrots of all temperaments learn to not bite. It involves putting a parrot in situations where he has to choose to do or not do something, and is rewarded for the correct choice, and ignored with the wrong choice.
The end result is a parrot who realizes that you are trying to communicate with him in a nice way because youâ€™ve never scared him or hurt him. Plus the parrot realizes that life with you is a puzzleâ€¦ and itâ€™s his job to figure out, because thereâ€™s always a nice treat in it for him if he can figure out the answer.
This type of training is extremely mentally stimulating and with just a few short practice sessions a week with a parrot can be the perfect preventative medicine for all sorts of behavior problems like feather plucking, screaming, and boredom.
To learn more about how I now teach positive reinforcement my Blue and Gold Macaws visit http://www.birdtricks.com/macaws.html and sign up for my free ezine jam packed with parrot training tips you can start using today.
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