Step Up, Step Down When Training Your Pet Parrot

Pet parrot on human hand

The benefits of training go well beyond the entertainment value of having a parrot that can communicate and do tricks. Training sessions can deepen your friendship with your parrot, who will look forward to the one-on-one attention that comes with them, especially when success means plenty of praise and attention, as well as favorite goodies. It will also be simpler to handle your parrot if you teach him some simple commands.

Keep It Positive 

The key to training your parrot is to keep the interaction positive. Three concepts provide the basis for parrot training:

  1. Parrot does something good, give it a reward
  2. Parrot does something undesirable, ignore it
  3. Never punish your parrot

This is oversimplified, but the idea is to modify your bird's behavior into what you want by rewarding good conduct and ignoring negative behavior (no reward, no response). A favorite food item can be used as a motivator, but simple praise or a play session with a prized toy might also work for certain birds. If your bird is doing anything you don't like, simply ignore it (your bird will not respond to punishment). If your bird is asking for attention, a negative reaction might become a reward (bad attention is better than no attention), so be careful not to accidentally promote certain undesired behaviors as a result of your reaction. Ignoring unwanted behavior may cause it to worsen at first, but it will most likely end soon. You can keep training positive by changing how you approach it:

  • Train only when you are relaxed. Positive training does take patience!
  • Pick a time when your bird is attentive and not distracted by eating, preening, or household activity.
  • Frequent, but short, training sessions are generally more effective. A few minutes at a time, several times a day works well.
  • Pick a favorite reward (but don't overdo it if it is food).
  • Once your bird catches on to something, don't give a treat every time (switch to praise part of the time) or your bird may only do the behavior if it knows you have a treat handy.
  • End each session on a positive note. Wait for a successful attempt or at least a good try at whatever you are , give a treat, and move on to something else.
  • Keep training sessions upbeat and fun for your bird.

Very Basic Training: Step up and Step Down

These are the two things you should teach your if you just have two minutes. This entails teaching your to step up onto your finger or wrist (or a hand-held perch) and then back down. Teaching these abilities is quite simple but incredibly crucial. Because stepping up is a natural movement for birds, it's usually simple to teach them to perform it on demand (stepping down is a bit trickier to teach).

Getting your bird to step up and down on command simplifies handling and allows you to establish some boundaries for your bird (for example, you can more easily remove your bird from areas of your home that are not bird-proofed, return a bird to its play gym or cage, etc.). Although a newborn bird is likely to be obedient, beginning with the step up and step down directions at a young age is still a smart idea. Not only does training a cooperative baby allow you to offer your bird a lot of positive reinforcement, but it also lays the groundwork for future skill training.

More Parrot Training and Behavior Advice:

Petting is not a natural activity for certain birds, hence they don't like it. However, if you endeavor to learn your bird's personality and body language, you may use parrot training concepts to boost your bird's acceptance of touch.