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Train Your Parrot To Hop To Music

If your pet bird likes to hop, train it to hop on cue to music with these bird trick training tips.

By Tani Robar

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The spin around and the head bob are bird tricks that you can put to music so it seems like your parrot is dancing. Now comes the real fun: moves your pet bird already does naturally (maybe to music, maybe not), that you can teach it to do on cue. This is not always so easy, but these tricks are usually the cutest because they can be quite unique with each parrot. The hop is the first that comes to mind. It is quite species specific and cannot be taught; the bird has to have the ability to hop on its own. All you can do is teach him to hop on cue. Caiques hop and some cockatiels do. I had two cockatiels that hopped, but I’ve had other owners say their cockatiels never do. Many cockatoos hop, mainly sulphur-crested cockatoos, some Moluccans and probably others I don’t know. But, as I said, hopping is species specific. For instance, you would never see an African grey parrot, a conure, an Amazon parrot or a macaw hop, and it would be near impossible to teach one to do so. On the other hand, African greys and macaws have some fantastic head weaving and bobbing tricks that only they can do that you could never teach a caique for instance, so take what your parrot can do and proceed from there.

Caique Hopping

Whatever your parrot does to music that you want it to repeat, observe what kind of music it likes best: fast, slow, loud, with a definite beat, etc. When you have determined that, give a visual cue (whatever cue you find convenient), and use a verbal cue, such as the word “Dance.” When your parrot complies, turn the music off and offer praise and reward, and make a fuss. Your bird won’t understand at first, of course, but do it again, tuning the music back on. Your bird might not make the movement again for some time, but be patient. Reward your pet bird only when it starts its dance movements again, even if you have to wait for until another training session. You might also have to wait until you can catch your pet bird doing it on its own, but then offer heavy praise and reward.

When your bird seems to be catching on, which could be many lessons later, start shifting your emphasis of P&R to only when it performs on cue. Ignore your bird if it starts to do its trick just to get your attention. Put the music on, cue the bird, and see if it will repeat the actions. If the bird even just barely seems to comply as though just testing to see if this is what you really want, offer heavy P&R to help it understand. With patience, it will!

Teaching your pet bird to hop on cue is just a little different. If your parrot is hopping only to “its” music but doesn’t hop otherwise, then proceed as above. A parrot that hops only to music will usually hop sideways, as well as in place. But birds that seem to have no interest in music, like my caique, usually hop only forward or, if mad enough, strictly in place up and down. She illustrates the saying “Hopping mad.” Again, the trick for you is to observe what causes your bird to hop. Caiques hop when they are mad or feel threatened. So when my caique got mad and started to hop up and down, I put my fist on the table in front of her and lightly tapped it up and down timing my taps to her hops. She thus felt threatened and kept on hopping. I then stopped, and offered praise and a rward, which, of course, must have really confused her. But when I put my fist in front of her and tapped it up and down, she got mad again and started hopping. I stopped and offered praise and a reward. She soon got the idea that it was her hopping that was getting the praise and a reward and had nothing to do with her being mad. Eventually, I could hold my fist a little ways away and coax her to hop to it to get her praise and a reward. When I was sure she was no longer mad, I could then pick her up for praise and reward which I would never have tried to do in the beginning. Hopping became disassociated with her mood and became a cued trick.

Teaching my cockatiel to hop on command wasn’t the same because what caused the hop was different. My cockatiel would hop up and down in front of a mirror: I assume he was trying to impress that “other” cockatiel he saw, or maybe he was showing aggression, too. I would show him the mirror and, when he started to hop, I used the verbal cue “Hop,” and then I took away the mirror and offered praise and a reward. Next, I added the music when I showed him the mirror and gave praise and a reward when he hopped. Finally, after many repetitions, I could leave out the mirror and just let the music be the cue.

This is a hard trick to teach and put to cue so be patient. Mainly observe what causes your bird to hop, and capitalize on that. 

Innovative Bird Trick Training
The skill to putting an innovative trick to a verbal or visual cue is the same for any of the pet bird’s movements. Closely observe what your parrot does, what it does most often, what it seems to like to do most often and what the stimulus is that causes your bird to do so. Be patient and observant! With some birds, the music alone seems enough to stimulate them. Some weave their heads in a figure-8 pattern, some bob their heads up and down to a beat, some lean side to side; some hop up and down and even sideways.


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Train Your Parrot To Hop To Music

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