And thus, Vi begins her singing career…

Twenty-four years young. XD

Somehow, Vi’s former owners taught her to say ‘Goodbye!’ or ‘Buh-bye!’ and shake her head whenever you wave at her.

suspect the way they did this was, whenever she said ‘Buh-Bye!’ they would wave at her, then rewarded her with LOTS of verbal praise, maybe some head-scritches, and possibly some treats. In this way, they trained her to associate them waving with the phrase ‘Buh-Bye!’

Here is the result:

Positive Reinforcement with Parrots: Every Experience a Positive One

“Spare the rod and then spoil the child!”

Take that saying as the opposite what is meant by most folks, and you’ve got seriously the best advice you can take if you ever want to win the trust of a rehomed parrot… She needs to be a bit spoiled for a bit. 🙂

Spare that rod–no negative reinforcement; praise for what you want, don’t scold for what you don’t. Spoil the child–shower her with treats whenever you need her to associate wonderful things with a person or place!

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Check it–when Vi waddled over to see what we were eating, I decided to take her upstairs to the big bird stand again and keep her there longer while I graded to see how she’d tolerate it.

She LOVED it.

Once again, she didn’t want to step up to go home (one hour later…) but I wouldn’t let her bully me into it and insisted she step up (with a closed fist turned towards her so she’d have less to grip if she DID bite hard). Success!

Going on two months without a single chomp. Will wonders never cease?

Positive reinforcement works well with parrots – wait for them to show interest and capitalize on opportunities as they present themselves.

Go Slow to Go Fast in Step Up Training: No Negative Experiences

In the “a stitch in time saves nine” quotes category, there’s a popular saying in education:

“Go slow to go fast.”

Essentially, if you don’t want to re-teach a skill multiple times over, it’s worth teaching it well  and thoroughly the first time. Which takes patience.

So, so much patience.

Shockingly, this is also true for bird training! Vi and I have been going agonizingly slowly in our developing relationship… But here we are–new successes!

Every day that I hang out in the basement, Vi now climbs down to come visit with me.

One week later, I’d guess this behavior is 60% food motivated rather than 95%. =) She’s starting to enjoy our company. Progress!

She still won’t step up from her cage (although she frequently says the phrase “Step up!” as if she wants to–contrary snot!) but we made another positive step forward today:

I brought her upstairs when she went after my flavored-bad-for-birdy popcorn, set her on our “big bird” stand as I made her some bird-safe popcorn, and she enjoyed herself in her new-found play area–so much so that she didn’t want to step up.

We were either going to break new ground in our training, or she was going to break skin (she postured to bite!)

I gently insisted she stepped up, promising her popcorn, which she didn’t actually want, anyway…

My hand remains intact. Up she went!

This is the longest I’ve gone without getting maimed by any parrot we’ve owned. =) Fingers crossed that I continue to have fingers to cross rather than losing a digit or two to her big, bad Amazon beak!

Just keep swimming, what do we do, we swim, swim, swim…

Step Up Training: Find a Treat They Love

Sometimes, just hanging out around your parrots and eating things will tell you all you need to know about what really matters to them.

“I got pizza love… (I got pizza love!) / I can’t stop / I just have to chew / when I see that cheesy goo-oo-oo / I can’t stop! And I think I’ll cry-aye-aye / if I find some onions on my pizza / pizza pie-aye-aye…”

Obnoxious fifth grade concert songs aside,  it looks like pizza crust is the key to Vi’s heart. And Louie’s, which is why he is my featured image–I hope to, through pizza, someday win Vi’s ultimate trust so I can do with her as I do with Lou. ❤

I decided to enjoy my dinner in the basement with Viola, and as I watched Nurse Jackie (our latest addiction), Vi crawled down from her perch, stared at me long and hard from the bottom of her cage for about ten minutes as I dined, then climbed down onto the floor, waddled over to me, and stepped up in order to eat her pizza crust.

She nommed it contentedly while sitting upon my hand, garbling in parrot-speak to me.

And here I thought we’d stopped making progress. So glad I didn’t push her!

I should take bets on how long it’ll be before she’ll step up without bribery and solely because she wants to be with me. I give it until Mid-July, personally.

If I’m right, I’m taking myself out to my favorite restaurant. =)

Grooming Helps Parrot Training: If at first you don’t succeed, redefine “success”!

…And then keep going until you match your initial definition!

Hit a bit of a road block with Vi (extremely limited progress…) until today. I was headed to my local bird shop (Busy Beaks Bird Shop if you’re interested–I volunteer for them by maintaining their website) and decided to see if I could coax her into her travel cage for a trim, as her nails and beak were getting quite long. Toast didn’t work to entice her, but she stepped up for me onto her pink towel after a bit! Woo! So… success? Sort of?

One way to strengthen a bond with a parrot (and get her to step up willingly without bribery!) is to “rescue” her after getting groomed… Oh grooming, you necessary evil you–still, there can be some good that comes from it if you do it correctly!

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At Busy Beaks Bird Store

Make sure you’re out of sight during the grooming–from capture with a towel to release, you don’t want your parrot to associate anything negative with you.

Be ready to “save” her as soon as she is released–she’ll look for the safest thing possible, and that’ll be you! Vi stepped right up for me; not only that, but she was comfortable stepping from hand to hand, and while I worked on the aforementioned website, she hung out on top of her travel cage… and she stepped up again!

It was a lovely bonding experience for the two of us; I hate the actual grooming process, but hey, progress is progress. She continued to step up like a good girl from her travel cage at home–now that she’s safely back in her cage, she is refusing (she bows down when I try, begging for scritches, the brat!), but I have my next game plan: give her a few preliminary scritches so she knows I still like her, then ask her to step up. If she bows down, I’ll back away, then try again later–if she steps up, she’ll get scritches.

Good luck to me. Watch me finally get bit. =) I’m sure I’ll deserve it!

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Vi and Mom in the living room for the first time. Mark it!

Step Up Training: One Full Step Up (The First Time!)

A leap of faith takes at LEAST the Holy Grail… of toast!

More progress today! …But at what cost?

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Behold: The Holy Grail of Toast

I think this is a mistake that a lot of novice bird trainers (i.e. me) make–we don’t provide a reluctant feathered friend with enough incentive to take a biiiiiig leap of faith. Sure, Wa-Wa-Waddles adores toast… but even Indiana Jones wouldn’t make that leap of faith for a measly sack full of gold.

It’s gotta be big. A relic of epic proportions. Something so tempting that it is worth the risk to closer her eyes, take a deep breath, and LEAP into the unknown with both talons forward.

Thus, I give you: Behemoth Toast.

It’s at least as big as her face. xD

After another five days of feeling like we’d hit a stall, I decided to up the pay-out.

Every day she wouldn’t dare lift a toe of her second foot, my toast offerings got bigger and bigger as I moved the toast farther and farther up my arm.

Finally, today, it proved too big a temptation. I WON!

Tomorrow, hopefully, it will require less, especially since some sound or another upstairs startled her and she took another flight around the basement. Once she’s off her cage, she’s more than happy to step onto more familiar ground–my wrist. She stepped right up for me, and I held her and cooed to her, making sure she wasn’t too nervous or uncomfortable.

Several beak-grinds later, and she’d had yet another positive experience with Mom. ❤

Every experience a positive one!

Achievement Unlocked: Full Step-Up

Step Up Training, Consistent Foot/Wrist Contact: Slow and steady wins the race

We have foot-wrist contact! Consistently! Woohoo!

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Vi holding the remnants of her toast; she has two white toenails and two black ones!

Vi now knows exactly what she needs to do to get her tasty toast, and she did it several times–and she reminded me very clearly that it’s so important to continue going slowly with her.

I tried to entice her with a big piece when she repeated the gesture five times in a row, attempting to persuade her to put two feet on my wrist, but that was too much. She leaned far out, realized just what she was doing, and lowered her beak to my wrist in an attempted bite.

Not sure if it was a warning nibble, if she doesn’t know quite how to bite hard (I’m sure I’ll find the answer to this one out soon) or was unsteady on my wrist, but message received, miss Amazon: slow and steady.

She steadied herself, I backed off for a bit and continued to eat toast–when she looked longingly at it again, I offered my wrist again, but didn’t push her. Renewed that positive contact. =)

New Goal: Two more days of wrist-hand, maybe three depending on where she is, then go for full wrist contact. I’ll set her down immediately after (or let her hang out on my wrist up top on the cage if she’s comfortable, but will not move her)–by next Sunday.