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Teaching my conure to retrieve

October 14, 2007

After a couple of failed approaches, we’re back on track with learning to retrieve. I was having trouble getting Stewie to hold on to a toy I handed him (he was just beaking it) and then we’d both get frustrated when it didn’t result in treats.

What ended up working for us is for me to put him on his play stand and drop his wiffle ball into the attached food cup. Because the toy was on top of his pellets, he was motivated to grab it and move it out of the way. Every time he took hold of the wiffle ball he got a c/t. Then he got c/t’s for picking it up and lifting it.

And yesterday he picked it up from the bottom of his playstand and carried it all the way to the top and put it in his cup!

The trick for us really is for me to figure out how to make him want to do something independently and then capturing that, instead of making him do things that seem completely arbitrary to him. (Maybe in the future we’ll work on some games where he learns to be more creative, but for now I think being predictable is better for our relationship).

I think we’re well on our way to learning to retrieve!

Tip: make sure the toys you’re using are the appropriate size for your bird. Generally, anything described as “small foot toys” for conures or medium-sized parrots will work. I like the Drs. Foster and Smith website for these types of toys, but obviously each bird will have its own preferences. You’ll want to experiment to see what toys your bird likes.

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