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Training Conure "Jaw Control"

Discussion in 'Behavior Byway' started by Ender Pixel, 7/8/18.

  1. Ender Pixel

    Ender Pixel Moving in

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    I want to start off with the fact that I am new to birds and that both of my conures are about a year and a half old, so I will take all the advice I can get :D

    We bought my turquoise green cheek conure Kazooie from Petco when she (? just a guess) was just a couple of months old. She was very afraid of hands and they used a net to get her into the carrier :unsure1: she had 0 training whatsoever.

    It took a few weeks for her to acclimate with lots of talking to her and going near her cage, but never forcing touch. We would slowly work with her until she got comfortable and trained "step up" and "step down". She tries to say "Hi there!" "Hi Kazoo!" and even "water" as she LOVES baths.
    Screenshot_20180708-223949.jpg

    She loves to lay down on her back in your hand and if she's especially relaxed, she will let go of your finger and fall asleep! She will fluff up when you scritch the back of her head and in general likes to be handled and cuddled.

    The one problem is that she bites VERY hard, enough to break skin and bruise. Usually it's without warning (I think). I don't think she realizes just how hard she is biting as she's not being particularly aggressive.

    Our sun conure Fawkes came from a local pet store and I believe he was bread locally. He was a bit older when we got him. About 8 months old or so and was handled daily by the staff and some customers at the pet store. He was actually there for quite a while considering how social and outgoing he is, not to mention his beautiful colors. Someone there must have taught him bite strength control, similar to how you can teach puppies to put things in their mouths without biting down hard. He "bites" constantly, if he is interested in something he will gently nibble to figure out what it is. I have never been bitten hard by him even when he is angry about something. Usually, if you have to grab him when he is being stubborn, he will make a hissing/screeching noise while "biting" but he doesn't ever hurt you. He tears up new toys within a matter of minutes so I know he could do a lot of damage if he wanted to.

    Is it possible to teach my green cheek conure bite strength control? I really feel like she doesn't understand how much it hurts. Please help!
     
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  2. Shezbug

    Shezbug ASK ME FOR PICTURES OF MY MACAW! Avenue Spotlight Award

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    I am posting so I can keep an eye on this and hopefully learn something new. :)
    I do not have an issue with my bird biting hard, he does constantly beak everything and has pinched a few times when he has been off balance or startled.
    When he squeezes or starts to pinch too firm I say in a flat tone without any excitement or happiness "ouch, no, too hard" one of those or something along those lines and so far I have found he moves on to doing something else.
     
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  3. Shezbug

    Shezbug ASK ME FOR PICTURES OF MY MACAW! Avenue Spotlight Award

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    Very cute baby you have in your hands :heart:
     
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  4. Ender Pixel

    Ender Pixel Moving in

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    Thanks! My boyfriend had her on his shoulder while cleaning her water bowl one day and she decided to go check it out. He decided to keep saying "water" anytime the faucet was running or when he was putting the water dish back in her cage. Now whenever she hears water running she will be trying to say "water" over and over until either you bring her over or the water stops :roflmao:

    Fawkes beaks, as you put it, anything in reach. He will put his beak around my entire finger, where he could easily hurt me, but never actually bites down. If he is using his beak to climb skin he will use it more as a hook until he gets his feet up. Kazooie will just full on bite fingers before stepping up. I think she's just checking for a stable surface and doesn't realize how much it huts. I really want to teach her not to bite as hard but don't care if she "bites" as long as she's not being aggressive.
     
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  5. hrafn

    hrafn Rollerblading along the road Avenue Spotlight Award

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    I've never tried to teach my birds bite inhibition, only my dogs. Buuuut maybe the theory is similar?
    Animals are typically taught bite inhibition by their parents, but when we have to do it, we try to teach them that what they're doing is ruining their own fun. When they bite, they don't get what they want (food, attention, playtime, etc.) Get up, turn your back, and walk away. Ignore them completely for a bit, then return and try again.
    When they're being polite and behaving appropriately, they get their reward. In that way, they learn positive associations with being nice, and not biting.

    Can't guarantee it's a method that works for parrots, but it might be worth a try? :shrug:
     
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  6. Ark

    Ark Sprinting down the street Avenue Veteran

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    I'm curious about this as well. I have two aratingas who use their voices to communicate displeasure rather than their beaks. Like you mentioned with your sun, both of mine have the ability to do major damage if they want to, and they aren't shy about putting their beaks on my flesh. But even when upset, they only mock bite to the point where I get that they're upset even though they don't do any damage to me at all. They treat each other the same way. I haven't spent much time with GCCs, but I wonder how they react when another GCC lunges or bites at them?

    A lot of advice on forums says to "not react" to a bird biting, but to me that's teaching a bird that you are ignoring their most primal form of communication. A bird would never tolerate another bird hurting them with zero response... by not responding, human companions likely send the message that they "don't get it" and deserve a harder bite for their indifference. Communication is a two way street... I see how my birds respond to each other and myself, and mimic that. They don't need to resort to bites to convey an "I'm annoyed" response. My rescued Nanday was (and is, to strangers) a biter, and he has made me bleed when I deserved it for not paying attention to his body language. He preens my eyelashes now and lets me preen his head with my fingers. I think birds are different from other animals because they're so intelligent and so emotional. You can train them to do tricks like a dog, but you'll meet a brick wall if you don't learn to communicate with them as your equals--and they're such social animals that they can adapt and learn, but they expect their flock to be consistent in reactions and work with them.

    If your bird loves your attention and isn't just biting because she thinks it is amusing, then I think responding by withdrawing affection and attention immediately would help. Again, I'd see what bonded GCC do when they get in a spat to inform my decision. Some birds can just be placed down and ignored to communicate "biting means no attention"... some birds require you to "squawk" because that's what they would do when in pain (again, in my experience!). My suggestion would be to see the way your bird reacts when you overstep a boundary (how does she show she's MAD?) and imitate that (obviously in a non-violent way... no biting our birds back, haha).

    That's just my take and I'm interested to see how others respond.
     
  7. Icey

    Icey Rollerblading along the road

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    Very good post @Ark .
    For myself, when Frankie and Bebe start squabbling I notice whoever got the "attack" done will put up their claw as if to say no more, and squawk.
    The other one will immediately stop.
    If they are preening each other and say Frankie accidently touches a pin feather on Bebe the wrong way, she will squawk and he will stop.
    So really, voicing discomfort isn't such a bad thing and is common amongst them. (at least my 2 macaws).
    I will follow this thread to see where it goes as I am very curious to hear what others have to say :)
     
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  8. Ender Pixel

    Ender Pixel Moving in

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    I will try vocalizing that it hurts. I just don't want to scare her and make it worse. She usually bites hard if she is pulling herself up or before "step up". I don't want to completely discourage biting since it seems to be her way of checking to make sure a surface is stable, or her means of getting around/climbing.

    Thanks for the suggestions, I will try these out and see if we can make some progress!
     
  9. Donna turner

    Donna turner Jogging around the block

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    When cheeky bites too hard, especially if she's being aggressive, I immediately say don't bite and put her in her cage for awhile. She seems to know what don't bite means now and will often quit biting if I tell her to. If she's persistent and gets put up for awhile she's a doll when I get her black out. You can tell she's thinking about it when she goes to mouth me and is gentle.
     
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  10. M_Riddly

    M_Riddly Strolling the yard

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    So I am lucky to have a cockatiel who is super gentle, or more just beak buts and makes angry cockatiel noises. I was not, however, as lucky with my parrotlets. They are all very capable biters. The way I trained my babies is by letting them nibble on my fingers. When they were just mouthing me, I would praise them and stay with them, but if they applied too much pressure, then I would say "ouch" really high and loud and walk away. They really didn't like me going away so they would cry and try and follow me. Eventually they got the message not to bite hard so I don't run off on them. I got the idea from this video: The guy describes why we humans get bit hard while wild parrots don't appear to be needing stitches on a daily basis. Essentially you have to speak bird language. When a wild parrot bites another bird too hard, the bitten bird screams "ouch" and flies away. If you mimic parrot behavior it tends to help you communicate better with your bird. Of course, this only works if you bird is bonded to you. The separation should be the equivalent of "punishment" and should only last a moment or so. It only works if you bird wants to be with you. If it doesn't care about you, then it "wins" the battle. I assume since you have had your birds for a while and you have worked with them quite a bit, that they are indeed bonded with you. Hope this helps!
     
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  11. Ender Pixel

    Ender Pixel Moving in

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    So it has been a few months, but I figured I would do a sort of "progress update."

    I started out by opening her cage door and having her step up into my shoulder, since that is a bigger surface and she couldn't hurt me as bad. I figured this would be a good start since she was really hurting me and my flinching didn't help the situation. Once she was on me I would walk away from her cage (just far enough so I could put her back quickly) and tell her to "step up" onto my finger. If she bit hard and didn't step up, I put her back on her cage door and walked away. If she bit and stepped up in one motion I would say "good step up" and give her lots of scritches. I would have her out for a few minutes and put her back in her cage for a break or if she started biting. Every time she bit hard enough for me to put her back I said "ouch" and put her back. That way she knew it was the biting that caused her to go back and not me just putting her in the cage like normal.

    After several weeks of successful "step up/down" with no biting, I would have her step up on my finger instead of my shoulder. She didn't bite! She got used to not being able to bite my shoulder to step up and realized she was safe? Again, she was out for many short spans of time instead of a couple long spans and she was a lot better. This seems to be working the best since she can have a break and reorient herself before coming back out. She will also step up on my boyfriend and other people without biting them. She will sometimes nibble/beak my hand but I have been booping her beak and she doesn't try to bite my finger. I really don't think she was trying to hurt me, I just think that she had zero confidence.

    In Hindsight, her biting got worse right after we got her nails and wings clipped. She used to bite with equal force every time, but started to bite more often. We clipped her wings because she got scared and flew into a window (luckily after slowing down a bit so she wasn't hurt). It was really scary and it could have been A LOT worse. She was clipped when we got her from Petco, and that must have been her first flight. We were going out of the country, and my mom agreed to watch the animals for us. We decided that the safest thing for Kazooie was to clip her wings, especially since she was already going to be on edge from us being gone for more than a day. She is due for another nail trimming, but we won't be clipping her wings. She is still missing a flight feather from each wing, which has allowed us to work on her flight without her flying full speed into something. She is also starting to gain more confidence now that she can be more in control of what is going on. Fawkes is flighted and had some recall training from the pet store while he was there.

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    Last edited: 11/20/18
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