Want to attend a training workshop with Rebecca??

Morris Basketball Low ResRebecca offers four- hour parrot training workshops in her studio in Grand Terrace, CA and throughout the country. These workshops are a fantastic way to get one-on-one instruction from Rebecca in an affordable and intensive setting. All workshops include a Powerpoint presentation, video clips, handouts and training demos with parrots. They are also catered to attendee’s training concerns and challenges.

 

Training Basics: Beginning and Refresher Course
Learn the basics of using applied behavior analysis (or refresh your memory) to shape your parrot’s parrots behaviors.
Saturday, February 22, 2013
10 AM- 3PM  (Lunch Included)
22545 Barton Rd.,  Ste. 201
Grand Terrace, CA 92313-524
Cost: $59

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The Next Step: Training for Daily Living
After a quick refresher on training basics, jump into learning how to train behaviors which will help with cleaning, bathing, grooming, vet visits and encouraging good behavior. Bring your own challenges and have them addressed in class.
Saturday, March 29, 2014
10 AM- 3PM  (Lunch Included)
22545 Barton Rd.,  Ste. 201
Grand Terrace, CA 92313-5244
Cost: $59

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Training Plans for Managing Bad Behavior
After a quick refresher on training basics, jump into learning to work on aggression, screaming, feather plucking and other problem behaviors.
Saturday, April 19
10 AM- 3PM  (Lunch Included)
22545 Barton Rd.,  Ste. 201
Grand Terrace, CA 92313-5244
909-264-3602
Cost: $59

For More information contact Rebecca at rebecca@blueskywriting.com

SPACE IS LIMITED TO TEN ATTENDEES.  SIGN UP EARLY!! (Cancellation is non-refundable, but IS transferable to another workshop date.)
NOTE: The studio requires climbing a flight of stairs in order to get to the entrance. Unfortunately, it is not wheelchair accessible. 


Choose Your Workshop Date


 

Perfectly Trained Parrot

I am anxiously waiting the arrival of hard copies of my new parrot training book, The Perfectly Trained Parrot. I hear that they are in the warehouse and almost ready to ship. I hope this book is helpful to some people. I hope it is enjoyable to read. I hope I didn’t screw anything up in the text!!

Here is a sneak peak at the Table of Contents…

TOC copy

I know some folks pre-ordered from Amazon. Let me know when you get them!!

Parrot Boarding and Training Opportunities

tyThe other day a parrot-training friend who I admire and adore asked me why we didn’t board parrots in our homes in order to give them focused training sessions and allow their owners the opportunity to maintain behaviors rather than build them from scratch. I scoffed at this idea. In fact, I think I puffed out my chest and said, “ANYONE CAN LEARN TO TRAIN!”

Of course, anyone CAN learn to train, but as my friend pointed out — not everyone wants to learn to train new behaviors. Doing things you’re not good at is frustrating. Sometimes people just want to do right by their pets and enjoy them. Why does everyone have to be an expert? Dog owners send their dogs off to be trained all the time.

“I’d never send my dog off to be trained!” I said. Except that even as I said it I realized it was a lie. I’ve happily sent a dog off to “bird dog” school to learn to point upland game and have every intention of sending my puppy off to do the same this summer. Who am I kidding? There is nothing wrong with boarding/training situations in the hands of the right trainer.

Then I started thinking about the opportunity to build a relationship with a parrot on a daily basis and build behavior on our own time, rather than in the afternoon allotted to an in-home consult. The whole idea of it got me kind of excited about the possibilities.

I have always been frustrated by my limited ability to shape behavior in a single consultation and the pressure of knowing a parrot might have to be re-homed if you can’t help the household learn to train can be immense. I realize that behaviors are easy to reshape and sometimes aren’t transferable, but I do find myself wondering if I couldn’t do a better job of helping loving, dedicated and frustrated parrot owners succeed in building or renewing a relationship with their parrots that works for everyone. Why not set them up to succeed with a bird that already had the basics? I want to try!

So here we are… I’m officially offering a very select number of train and board opportunities in my home that include:

  • Flexible training plans based on your needs.
  • Ongoing and consistent daily training.
  • Multiple daily training sessions and ongoing household interactions.
  • Opportunities for socialization, short trips and new experiences.
  • Personalized behavior maintenance plans.

Details on services and pricing for training and boarding are here.

I know everyone can’t afford this luxury (and I hope to get to a place where I have slots for pro bono birds every year). Still, I hope a few people are interested and I’m curious what parrot folks will think of this opportunity. I suspect it will be a bit controversial. I bet you all will let me know! 🙂

An Invitation

Galah

Galah

Sometimes folks shoot me emails and ask me questions about behavior or a specific problem they are having with their parrots. I always ask if I might save the question and answer it on my blog. I haven’t always been very good about it, but I try.

Honestly, my time is very limited. I have a full time + job that is extremely important to me (fundraising to conserve waterfowl and wetlands), writing projects on the side and then there is all the parrot and falconry fun.

I wish I had time to write lengthy responses to everyone who shoots me an email or spend an hour on the phone with a parrot friend looking for a few thoughts.  I just don’t, but I love getting emails. I can’t promise I’ll always answer them at length, but I would rather spend my time writing behavior and training posts that I think people would find valuable. Maybe one of my articles in Bird Talk left you with a few questions or your read a Parrot for Life and there was something you wanted to know that was missing. So send my your questions. Please.  🙂

You Get What You Reward

Attention Please

Attention Please

I do hope everyone is enjoying my more fanciful “Tuesdays with Ty” posts, but I realize I have been neglecting what was initially the core of this blog–   training and behavior advice. I need to get back at that as well.

I love writing the little essays for Tuesday, pondering what it is that the parrots remind me every week about what it means to be human. I’m lucky to be so easily inspired by my avian friends. Just don’t think for a minute that I think my parrots are little people or a magical mystery. What the birds do in my home, they do because I asked for it.  Every behavior my parrots repeat is a product of the consequences of that action.

Speculate, imagine, engage and have fun with your parrots! Just don’t ever forget the every behavior that repeats itself has been rewarded (likely by you). If you enjoy something your parrot does–  stop a minute and pay attention, give him a treat or a scratch on the head. If your parrot does something you don’t like, ignore it and do your best not to reward it. (ie– asking for a peanut while you’re working like Ty has been doing for the last ten minutes. Don’t turn and look at him, don’t talk to him and for goodness sake, don’t give in and get him a peanut. He’ll never never never stop asking for one. And you’ll never get to finish the article your writing.)

Behavior is simple and you are always shaping it. This is the key to animal training. If you ask me, it’s the crux of every rewarding relationship. What are you rewarding?

Feelings…oh…oh…oh…Feelings

Angry Dil by Windelbo on Flickr

Angry Dil by Windelbo on Flickr

Someone asked me the other day, “Do parrots have feelings?” She apologized in case it was a dumb question, but she was curious to know. This makes a difference doesn’t it? Or does it?

Of course parrots have feelings. I imagine that all animals have feelings. I simply don’t know what those feelings are at any given time. Think you can tell what a parrot is feeling? You are going to have a hard time convincing me of that. We like to think we know, but really, we’re guessing. Hell, we don’t even know what our spouses are feeling most of the time. How many times have you told your husband that you’re not upset even though if it were legal you would likely be strangling him. And he believed you when you said you were fine, didn’t he?  How many times has a colleague not even noticed that what she said just infuriated you? Lot of good feelings do us in managing behavior.

Happy, sad, glad, mad, jealous, angry and grumpy. You parrot may be any or several of these things at any given time, but you’ll never know for sure. He won’t tell you. Even if he did tell you, how would you know he was telling the truth? If you want to have a bird who is well-behaved, lives nicely within the expectations of your household and never takes a chunk out of you, then you cannot depend or even lean on the “feelings” guessing game.

When you interact with a parrot you should base what you do on what is quantifiable — behavior. What a parrot does tells a story that can be changed and shaped. What he’s thinking is not for you to know or manage. Not unlike the people around you. Don’t guess if your parrot is “grumpy”. Instead break down the behavior that you can see. If when you approach the cage he steps to the back, he probably does not want to be picked up. That is quantifiable. If you go to pick him up, he may bite you. You can’t do a whole lot about what he’s feeling, but you can certainly avoid the behavior of biting.

So it was a great question! Sure, parrots have feelings, but if you don’t want your own feelings and fingers to get hurt, keep them out of your training!

Birds USA

Check out Rebeccas article!

Check out Rebecca's article!

Every year Bowtie comes out with a BirdsUSA annual. There’s always good stuff in it! Including the occasional contribution by yours truly. This year I had an article in about what you should think about training a new bird and a few things your really ought to avoid training a new bird.

From the opening of the article:

There are hundreds of things you might teach a parrot to prepare him for the future and you have many years to help him with the tools and the skills that he needs. You can train specific things such as to go into a crate or to wave on cue. There are several specific behaviors that you should work on right away. Overall however, training is every interaction you have with your parrot.

Your most important task as a parrot owner is to learn to be mindful when you interact with your parrot. Every time you give your parrot attention or a treat you are saying to your bird, “I like it when you do that. When you do that I will come pay attention to you or give you something you like.” This is probably what gets parrot owners into the most trouble. Who hasn’t walked up to a screaming parrot and said, “hush”? It’s natural. However, all your parrot has to go on is your actions. Your actions are far clearer than your words to a parrot. When you say, “hush” all you parrot understands is that the screaming got you to come pay attention to him.

Shaping good behavior is just as easy as shaping bad behavior and an incredibly important skill to learn. It is not about controlling your parrot, but rather, giving your parrot clear communication about the behavior you do or not appreciate. If you can clearly communicate to your bird what you appreciate the most, he has an opportunity to control his world with behaviors you like. Everybody wins and your relationship stays positive. So what should you start by encouraging?

Next time you’re in PetSmart, PetCo or your favorite local bird store. (Mine is this one. I just saw BirdsUSA there last week) Be sure to grab a copy. It’ll be worth the read!

Stationing

Got a bird that hits the floor and goes for feet? Teach him to station.

An easy thing to train your bird which can keep him out of all kinds of mischief is “stationing.” Training animals to station is a common husbandry technique in zoos. If you need to work with an animal that is dangerous or uncomfortable being touched, teaching him to go to a particular place for a reward can help you get close enough to examine him or move him to a secure place away from the zookeeper. You can use this same technique to send your lory someplace safe if there is trouble, or if you just want to keep him out of mischief.

Uploaded on November 17, 2005 by Vanessa Pike-Russell Courtesy of Creatives Commons Licensing

Uploaded on November 17, 2005 by Vanessa Pike-Russell Courtesy of Creatives Commons Licensing

Stationing can be very helpful to keep parrots off the floor and stop them from attacking feet. First you have to choose a spot for your bird to station and stay for a reward. The top of a play stand or cage can be great for this. Mark the spot with a nontoxic marker or a piece of nontoxic tape. Choose a word for the cue to this behavior like “station” or something else short and easy. Then begin training.

Place your parrot next to the spot, first making sure he is not nervous of the modifications you’ve made. If he is comfortable say, “station” and hold a treat just far enough away from the spot that he has to step on it in order to get the treat. As soon as he steps on it say, “good” and let him have the reward. He will likely move away from it again to finish he treat. Once he’s finished try to get him to station again. After you’ve done this a few times, you’ll see him “get” it.

When he starts deliberately stepping on the station, you can ask him to step up, move him a little further away from it and then ask him to “station” again. Make sure you train in small increments to ensure that he understands and does not get frustrated. Once you have him trained to station though, you should be able to get him to climb up the cage and walk over to his spot when you give him the cue. You will also find that he spontaneously stations, hoping for treat. As long as you often reward him with attention or treats when you see him on his station spot, he will continue to offer this behavior. Training your parrot to find his way to safe spot to get what he wants can save you a lot of headaches and maybe even your parrot’s life.

Singing in the Rain

Riamfadas first shower by Shan Lung courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing on Flickr

Riamfada's first shower by Shan Lung courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing on Flicker

Several days of thunderstorms have caused my bird’s waterbowls to be suspiciously empty the last few days. I suspect there’s been massive bathing parties while I’m at work, so I’ve left bathpans at the bottoms of their cages…not that they’re being used…  Apparently, there’s something irresistable about bathing in the drinking water.

Even the grey, shunner of unwanted water loves to get down in his water bowl. He also enjoys sitting in the shower and getting the occasional spritz, but mostly he likes to choose his own bathing moments. The Senegal and red-bellied are more likely to go for a good soaking, but Ty has his doubts about the necessity of bathing.

Every parrot is different though. Take for example this little guy here, with his head upright, neck stretches, eyes not quite completely round, he looks pretty okay about his shower. I’ve heard many grey owners, however complain that this is never the case with their own birds.

So should you make a bird who won’t bathe wash off the dust? Do birds need baths or not?

There’s no doubt that the bathing is a healthy habit. Feathers have a lot of detritus lurking in their layers and a good bathing washes the unwanted and unhealthy away. Rainforest parrots, who would be subject to frequent soakings in the wild whether they were willing or not, seem to be the most amenable and even joyful about a bath. Perhaps greys, who frequent a dryer habitat just don’t embrace a cloudburst in quite the same way. And on top of this, every parrot is an individual and the sum of their experiences. Some birds don’t find bathing a joyful experience and it only takes one bad experience with a misting or in the shower to shift this attitude toward pure hatred. All the same, baths are good. Should you make your bird bathe though? Absolutely NOT. The good news is that you CAN train you bird to happily take a shower.

How to Train Bathing

Start with a spray bottle set on a fine mist and introduce bathing slowly. Mist away from your bird, if he sits calmly and unconcerned, say “good” and reward with a treat. Mist a little closer and do the same. Continue until you are gradually rewarding your bird to sit calmly as the spray get closer. If at any time your bird looks uncomfortable or leans away from the water, back off and start from the last position he was comfortable in. You want your bird to learn that water is a positive and that sitting calmly gets him a reward.

Once you are right next to your bird with the sprayer, continue spraying and hold a treat where he can only get to it by getting into the mist just a tiny bit. When he leans in say “good” and let him have the treat. Make sure the “good” coincides with leaning into the water. This is the behavior you are rewarding. Then gradually ask him to go a bit further every time. Once he seems comfortable stepping into the spray and then getting a treat, stop holding the treat out. You want him to understand that the cue for stepping into the water is you spraying. You can show him the treat, but see if he will step in without being led. (You can always go back a few steps and lead him in if he doesn’t get it or forgets.) When he does step into the spray on his own, praise and reward.

From here you can approximate by lengthening the time in the spray and the number of times you spray in similar small steps until you’ve trained your bird to bathe. This may take one session or several months, but it’s worth the effort. Because he has made the decision on his own to walk into the spray for treats and because bathing has been paired with positives, a treat, or even just your praise and excitement if he isn’t interested in food, bathing itself will be a positive and welcome experience.

Good luck with your bathing beauty!

A Great Reason to Towel Train

I have gotten so many great responses from this month’s issue of Bird Talk (May 2009) and my article How to be a Better Trainer with three important things to train your parrots. This is perhaps the seventh or so full length article I’ve written for the magazine, but mostly I figure no one reads them or at least no one notices the author’s name.  So I’m beyond thrilled to get a bit of kudos and affirmation here and there.  This by far was my favorite note and Maggie gave me permission to share it with you:

Sky Blue King is only the second bird I have loved, but remembering how stressed veterinarian visits used to be for my first bird, I was determined to make this a better experience for my next one.

I haven’t tried to teach him to talk or do tricks; but I have taught him to lie, on his back, on a towel.  The ONLY time he gets one grain of Whole Foods granola is when he lies on his back and lets me count to 10. Every other day we practice it twice – first, in my hand and the second time in a towel.
Today was his first vet visit since being adopted last November and the veterinarian said she couldn’t believe how calm he was
in the towel.  I was so proud of his good behavior.
He may never speak – and thats okay with me. Being nagged for pizza by a verbal and “insistent” bird isn’t a priority for me. But knowing he feels safe in a towel, where it could be a matter of his health, gives me great peace of mind.
Thank you for stressing to people the importance of towel training.
Sincerely,
Maggie

I wish Maggie and her little feathered King all the best! I’ll admit, I actually enjoy the demands for pizza in my home, this is, after all Heckled By Parrots! All the same, I am so thrilled to see folks using their training skills to make the world a better place for companion parrots. Keep at it you guys!