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Clicker training and treats?

birdmamaaa

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Hi there! I live with my 2 year old feathered baby, a Congo African Grey. He has such personality, but I have a difficult time getting him to step up. I want to teach him how to step up on a stick before my hand like my GCC. I’ve bought a clicker already and I have a few questions:

Do I need to use the same treats every time I click? Or can I mix it up?


Which method should I use:
Show, treat, hide or Show, hide, treat?
 

Shezbug

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The treats you will get the best success with will be your birds favorite foods which is usually something like pine nuts, safflower or sunflower seed, something nice and small so as not to fill your bird up or take it too long to eat but something that will keep them motivated and interested in working for the food bits you have. A bigger portion every now and then or a few instead of just one of the small treats every now and then for certain tricks/behaviors keeps their interest up too.
I know my boy loves any kind of nut so he never really gets them without working for them somehow- sometimes it may just be a simple lifting of feet or spreading of the wings and sometimes it will be asking him to go back into the cage when he would rather stay out a bit longer. The only other times he gets these foods is once every now and then in foraging toys (has to work to get at them) so the foods he loves the most have a massive value to him and he will do nearly anything for them.
You will want the treat to be something that is very yummy but healthy for your bird too.

I can not really help with the second question I am sorry as I am not quite sure what the hide part is.

Welcome to the Avenue :hiya:
We would love to see pics of your baby ;)
 

scott199

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im just dong this with ours, i found for him the best routine was to show treat and then half it near the stick and slowly work backwards.

So when ready, show treat, hide, give stick then treat, now as soon as i pick the stick up he gets all hypo, we don't even need to show treats anymore, just the stick and then treat after he touches it.

oh and for ours the clicker is a NO NO, my first few attempts training this got me a bite or two, i thought it was just normal and then realised the "click" was freaking him out, so we went with stick and hypo praise, we had to just use " good boy", even now i can move him almost anywhere with the stick, but if i use the clicker he freaks at the sound.
 

Ulis_Beast

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Welcome to AA!

I also have a CAG, but he isn't very food driven:bored:.. To me each and every day is a guessing game as to what is the thing that makes him tick..
This is my list of rewards: almonds, sunflower seeds, coconut chips, goji berries, pear, banana (fresh and chips), sweet potato cubes..

I'd go with a combination of what your bird likes and keep his favourites for the times when extra persuasion is needed.

I hold the stick, clicker and treat in one hand, when teaching new things ( works out best for me), and play a mix and match game for the already learned behaviours.

Good luck!
 

tka

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You don't have to use the same treat. Some trainers like to use a "jackpot" treat sometimes, so the parrot is never sure whether they will get the ordinary but delicious and worth working for treat, or the super amazing jackpot treat. Just make sure that it's something that your bird doesn't get routinely and that they will work for.

This is a great post by @Fuzzy on shaping behaviours: Will my bird ever be hand tame?

Basically, you want to break down the behaviour into tiny steps, or approximations. These can be as tiny as the bird simply looking at the perch, or taking one step towards it. Make sure you go at the bird's pace and don't be tempted to push the bird futher than they are happy with. You will need time and patience.
 

Imogena

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I also change treats for Edgar. He is curious all the time what he will get this time and I think this keeps him excited about training. Of course when he wants to train. If he doesn't, well... we don't train at all because his Majesty has other things to do.
 

Snowghost

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I tried to start with training with Paco yesterday. He was in a mood. I hand feed him his goodies in the morning and night and for the first time he grabbed a finger, not hard, I told him no, don't bite. He went back to nibbling his food off my fingers.

I cannot find salt less sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds, so I thought I would try the training with an organic Cheerio, the stinker went for my finger twice. He also nailed me on top of the head while cleaning his cage, he had stopped doing that months ago.

Sigh...back to the drawing board.
 

Imogena

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I think set back is pretty normal in this situation.
As for biting, I tought Edgar to touch instead of bite. Most of the times it works, but sometimes it doesn't. When he is superexcited or angry he bites. If I can stop him on time, he is capable of slowing down his beak and touching instead of biting. If I'm too slow, sometimes he bites, but I can tell he is controlling his beak. He doesn't bite with full force. But it took a lot of time to teach him this kind of control. I thing in this case a bond with your bird is what works and that takes time. At the beginnig I was teaching Edgar how strong he can nibble my fingers. Now I'm teaching him that the only way to touch my fingers is with his beak closed. Again it works, but sometimes it doesn't.
As for attacking me when I'm cleaning his cage... well Edgar is very territorial. I just have to be carefull. I talk to him all the time with monotonous tone of voice. I say: Edgar, I have to clean your cage, you like it clean, please don't bite my head of, don't cut my fingers of... this kind of nonsense. I talk like this all the time I'm cleaning his cage or changing his toys. The tone of voice is important. Those monotonously repeated words are soothing him. Edgar is watching me like a hawk, but he doesn't bite. If I stop talking, he gets angry and quite often attacks.
 

Snowghost

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@Imogena I was expecting a set back. I can't complain, Paco has come a long way in just a year, his diet is healthy, he has gained weight, and his feathers are growing in. I usually watch him when I clean his cage, like you I keep a routine and say the same things. Man that hurts when he nails the top of my ead.

How did you teach him to touch your beak? I really need to find a healthy treat for training.
 

Imogena

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@Snowghost first I tought Edgar targeting. He was gently touching a chopstick with his beak. So I changed a target from the chopstick to my finger. The verbal cue was "touch" to both excercises. Then every time Edgar was moving his beak towards my hand, I would say "touch". And he was touching. Even when he was angry with me or very excited, I tried to tell him "touch" before he bit me and usually it worked. He actually slowed down enough to touch instead of biting.

Now I changed the targeting. I tought Edgar that "touch" now means to touch without taking a chopstick into his beak. I just took a chopstick and touched it to Edgar's beak, I said "touch" and rewarded him. Then I asked him to touch the chopstick without taking it to his beak. It took only a few lessons for him to understand. Now he is targeting without taking a chopstick to his beak, he just touches a target with a side of his beak or with this upper part of his beak (sorry, not native English speaker and I don't know how to call this part of beak).

As for healthy treats, I use sunflower seeds (but I break them in half), safflower seeds and homemade cookies with a little bit of honey instead of sugar and oil instead of butter (and Edgar gets only crumbs and only on very special occasion - like doing an excercise correctly for the first time)

I think you are doing great with Paco. I've had Edgar for a year and a half. He was only 6 months when I got him and I started the training from the very beginnig. It still took a lot of time and patience to establish some boundaries and some rules. I was learning from him, he was learning from me.
 

Snowghost

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@Imogena I could try a chopstick in the future, not sure. Paco is 20 and I know somewhat of his background. He was bought from a breeder as a baby, he does talk and knows to step up so first owner must have trained him. After new boyfriend arrived and Paco did not like the new bf, jealousy? I dunno, he wore black and Paco does not like this color. At the age of 13 he went to a woman for 6 years, he touched her lips in a kiss, and stepped up. She started working two jobs, he was cage bound, they had a cat, and he started to pluck and she gave him to me. She said when she got him he was plucked and would not go into detail, just said the previous owners were not nice to him. He has been with me now since March 2019. I'm tickled that he has made such progress. I just felt that some training would help us both to communicate. He doesn't know when I praise him or when I am trying sooth him, I dunno maybe he does.
 

Imogena

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@Imogena I could try a chopstick in the future, not sure. Paco is 20 and I know somewhat of his background. He was bought from a breeder as a baby, he does talk and knows to step up so first owner must have trained him. After new boyfriend arrived and Paco did not like the new bf, jealousy? I dunno, he wore black and Paco does not like this color. At the age of 13 he went to a woman for 6 years, he touched her lips in a kiss, and stepped up. She started working two jobs, he was cage bound, they had a cat, and he started to pluck and she gave him to me. She said when she got him he was plucked and would not go into detail, just said the previous owners were not nice to him. He has been with me now since March 2019. I'm tickled that he has made such progress. I just felt that some training would help us both to communicate. He doesn't know when I praise him or when I am trying sooth him, I dunno maybe he does.
Oh, so he has quite history. I'm even more amazed with the progress you made with him. I'm not experienced enough to advice how to eleminate existing problems. I only know how to train Edgar who is two years old and I'm his first (and I hope last) owner.
I think Paco does know when you praise him. They are so intelligent and quickly learn how to read us. I can see how Edgar reacts. He knows perfectly well when I'm not happy with him and when I'm praising him. And he knows when I'm soothing him because I can see he calms down.
 

Snowghost

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@Imogena I know it's sad how people treat a parrot. My first large parrot was a Wild Caught White Front Amazon. Together 25 years, she would fly to my shoulder and that was it, but I loved her.

I think with time, patience and persistence, he will be a great companion, Grey's are intelligent, he has learned two new whistles. I do here him muttering to himself and hear new words. He has now felt save enough to climb down his cage and explore the floor, his last owner let him walk around the house. I will keep the notes about the chop stick though. I think its a good size for him to feel comfortable around. When I first got him and was biting when I asked to step up, people suggested to ask him to step up on a dowel (great advice) except Paco was terrified of it, he does not not my belt or black leather coat. I hope that he was never struck by anything. I enjoy chatting here and meeting bird people. I love Edgar's name! Any more pics?
 

Imogena

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@Snowghost It is nice to hear that you like Edgar's name. My daughter named him like this. It is after Edgar Allan Poe. She loves his writing.
Actually I don't have any current pictures of Edgar but I do have a video from his training session. I've put it on the forum in the behaviour seccion. I made it recently.
I also love it here. Talking with people who understand each other is really great.
I'm sure that with patience and time you will make a great progress with Paco. You already did and that is only the beginning. I wish both of you all the best and will happily observe any progress you both make.
 

Snowghost

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@Imogena I''ll look for the vid. Back to square one. I have been to many stores trying to find salt less sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds, he loves pumpkin. This year I'm going to buy as many pumpkins I can and make my own salt less seeds. I found the sunflower seeds, not in a shell. I offered him two, either they are two small or he is still in a mood. He went for my finger, I said no bite and pulled back to save my finger. I hate to pay the high prices on the internet plus s & h for online food prices. I'll have to find something bigger and healthy as a training tool. Nuts are out Mr. Picky throws them to the floor.
 

Imogena

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@Snowghost how exactly did you offer sunflower seeds to Paco? In your fingers? If so, maybe you could offer it on the open palm or even put it on the table. Edgar can take a hemp seed from my hand. It is very small, so I don't think size matters.
Here in Poland we have saltless sunflower seeds in a bag. It is very cheap, but I think transportation fee to Virginia would be quite expensive.
I think making your own pumpkin seeds is a great idea. Edgar hates pumpkin seeds. He hates nuts as well. In fact he likes only sunflower, safflower, hemp and homemade cookies I bake for him. And banana. He likes banana but he will not work for it.
 

Snowghost

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@Imogena Yes I did offer him the seed in my fingers. He went for the fingers. I think I know where I went wrong. I have been trying to encourage him to play with his toys. He growls and fluffs at the new colored ones, I have thin balsa ones strung together with a string. I have a balsa flat perch, and a rope toy with colored balsa objects tied together. Nope he just growls and fluffs up. So I gave him a bright plastic colored lid to a jar of old bird seed. I laid it on the top of his cage and encouraged him to knock it off and I would laugh when it fell. So yesterday when he was on the floor, I was sitting with him. I gave him a small plastic water bottle, even though he was scared he stuck his beak in it and would fling it. So when I put him on top of his cage, I encouraged him to flip the bottle on the floor. Now that I think about it, I think he was going after my hand and not the bottle. So I went back and fed him his favorite goodie, frozen carrots and broccoli warmed up and fed him with my fingers. No biting. So, I'm stumped on what I can use as a training treat. I don't know how I can encourage him to play and chew on his wooden toys.

I'm opened to suggestions follow feathered friends.
 

Imogena

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If he likes frozen carrots and broccoli maybe those could be treats? Why not?
When I try to encurage Edgar to play with new toy, I just put the toy on my desk and wait. Edgar usually is scared of anytning wiht colors. He doesn't like this so I generally don't give him colorful toys. He prefers natural wood, pine cones, rope and so on. But I just recently introduced him to a colorful toy. It was on my desk for several days before Edgar touched it. Sometimes I was playing with it so Edgar could see, but I didn't offer it to him directly. I was waiting untlil he decided by himself that he wants it. And he did eventually.
I do like this with every new toy. I just put it somewhere so Edgar can see, sometimes I play with it and just wait. Sometimes it takes few days for Edgar to touch a toy, sometimes few minutes. I know that in Edgar's case it is better to give him time and let him decide when he will play with new toy and if he will play with it.
The day before yesterday I made him (in my opinion) three great toys. I used paper rope with natural color. Nothing to be scared. I just weaved this rope into some kind of bracelets and thought Edgar will be immediately happy. I imagined he will take them and happily destroy. No such luck. He doesn't like them. They stay on my desk and for now Edgar is ignoring them.
 

Snowghost

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I habe had these toys sitting out near him for over a year. I will try some natural colored ones. I guess I could try broccoli and carrots, tbey are warm so they are a little mushy. I just feel we are ready to step our game and if I could communicate with him it would increase our bond. Help build more trust.
 
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