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Teaching My Parrot to Wave

May 16, 2008

The latest trick we’re working on is waving. This is usually one of the earlier non-prop behaviors parrot trainers teach their birds, but I started with behaviors I could capture instead of ones I’d have to shape. I finally felt we were both ready to work on this trick, and once I knew my plan of attack, Stewie picked up on it quickly. At least half the energy of teaching Stewie new tricks is me simply mapping out what the steps are going to be (creating a lesson plan, so to speak).

The video below is of our 4th session working on wave. Below the jump I describe how we got to this point.

Here’s How I Shaped Waving
In session one, I offer him my finger as if asking him to step up. I click and treat when he lifts his foot onto my finger. In session two, I hold my finger higher, closer to his head, and point it down a little more so it no longer looks like I’m asking for a step up. He uses his beak to hold onto my finger while he lifts his foot high enough to grab it. I c/t all foot lifts, even if they don’t reach my finger.

In the third session I start moving my finger away when he reaches for it with his beak . This was probably the most difficult session since he really wanted to hold onto my finger with both his beak and his foot. I was surprised how determined he was to grab hold of it, even though I was rewarding him just for foot lifts.

About half the reps during the first half of the third training session had me trying to pull me finger out of his reach. During the second half I hold my finger further away and wave it at him while giving the verbal cue. This resulted in him offering several behaviors including the desired foot lift, but also “wings up” and “turn around.”

This video is of session four. I was surprised that he only did foot lifts during this session, completely forgoing attempts to grab my finger.

The first two sessions were probably 3-4 minutes each. The third session took maybe closer to 5 minutes. This particular clip, as you can see, lasts about one minute. The original recording was 3 minutes long, but he spends the last 2 minutes just screaming and being distracted so I cut it.

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