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What’s on your list?

By Laura Doering

After reading “Tame, Trained, Trick-Trained ... " I sat down to write up the behaviors my birds do, and then I tried to fit them into one of these three categories. It was trickier than I thought, because when I really thought about it, I couldn’t tell if I actually trained some of their behaviors or if the behaviors are ones they’ve simply decided to do.

For example, my conure Ollie is quite tame. He loves attention, and snuggle time sits on top of his daily to-do list. He is trained to step up onto my hand upon request. But when he doesn’t want to step up, he politely pushes my hand away with his beak. I didn’t train him to do this, so I thought his tameness was overlapping with the trained part. Ollie is also fully flighted. I let him fly around the room for exercise, and he’ll always make a U-turn to fly back to me. I wasn’t sure if I could take credit for training him to do this, because flying back to me was something Ollie just always did. 

As I tried to put behaviors in their appropriate categories, I realized that I overlooked two important factors — positive reinforcement and respect. Ollie doesn’t bite me when he doesn’t want to be picked up because he knows that pushing my hand away with his beak is enough; it stops me from pushing interaction on him. He flies back to me because when he does, my natural reaction is to give him a head scratch and a cuddle before returning him to his cage.

As I went down my tamed and trained behavior list, I realized that positive reinforcement was something that many of us do without even knowing it. On the flip side, I am probably reinforcing some negative behaviors. So I added an “un-train” category to my list. With Ollie, that has mostly to do with his contact calling. The trick-trained part of my list stood out because it was empty. Ollie doesn’t have a trick in his repertoire; unless you count fitting six safflower seeds in his lower beak so he can crack them open one after another. At least I’ve identified the treat for his trick reward. How’s your list going? 

 **For the full magazine, pick up the July 2011 issue of BIRD TALK at your local retailer or by purchasing a PDF download here.**

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