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Ekkie suddenly afraid of me?

Jessa Danice

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Hello, my husband bought a 4 year old female eclectus about half a year ago. The shop owner warned us she didn't like females, but I am willing to work with her, or just live comfortably with her. For a couple months, she seemed pretty calm as long as I wouldn't touch her. She adores my husband though. I was able to give her treats, and taught her some phrazes. She even spoke to me first when we bought her. Then out of no where, she started to attack me from anywhere in the room. I had to wear boots to protect my feet as we worked with her. I had researched some ways to get her to stop biting me. It worked, but now she seems very nurvous\affraid of me. If I am in the same room as her, she hardly does anything. I often am unable to feed her treats as well. She won't even stay on my husband while I'm around anymore. She just flies to the floor and runs under her cage. When I'm not in the room, she talks and is very animated. It makes me sad she can't enjoy herself very well. The technique I used was to push into her bite. Can anyone help me figure out the strange sudden fear?
 

Tiel Feathers

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I think pushing into her bite probably made her more fearful of you. The bites were her way of communicating with you, and to her way of thinking, even biting you didn't work. Now she feels helpless around you. A better approach would have been to try and figure out what was triggering the bite, and to avoid the bite at all costs. I know, easier said than done. Maybe you should try working with her when your husband is not home. Since she considers him her mate, you are a threat. I think you need to start over to win her trust. Sit by her cage and read aloud to her, drop treats in her food cup, etc. only sit as close as she is comfortable and over time move a little closer. Eventually you might be able sit by her cage in a nonthreatening manner and leave her door open. Play with some toys and maybe she will eventually come out to you to see what you are doing. It's important that she comes out in her own, and if she does, reward her.
 

Jessa Danice

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Thanks for the reply.
I am not sure what made her start biting. I just had my feet in the floor sitting in my chair when she started randomly biting them. She would be across the room, and when my feet touch, she charged. That is about the only time she bites that I am unsure of the reason. I never reach for her, I know she doesn't want that. I talk a lot to her while he is at work, and give several treats. Her mood with that varies at times. I was crouched in there floor the other day, and she came out seemingly aggressive. I quickly grabbed a bottle next to me and raked the rivets on the lid with my nails. It immediately grabbed here attention, and she actually started raking it with her beak in my hand. Now when a bottle hits the floor, she plays with it. I hope if I keep doing similar things, she finds out I'm not so bad. Even since then she runs at the site of me. :(

I had read about that technique in several forums. I had seen a video of a parrot that used to bite, and now loves all over the owner using that technique. Really shows you how different their personalities are.
 

metalstitcher

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It is going to take time for her to learn to trust you. Just take it slow with her and sit near her cage by reading to her. Once she gets use to you being there and dropping treats into her dish she will see you are not going to hurt her as @Tiel Feathers suggested. everything takes time with them. We have to earn their trust on their terms not when we want it. Baby steps and it will pay off even if it takes a few months. Just day by day one step at a time with her.
 

Tiel Feathers

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I like that you distracted her with playing with that lid. Distraction is a great tool. Maybe you can also try to train her to stay on a playstand, the top of her cage, hanging play gyms, etc. Give her yummy food and fun toys in a lot of fun, high places. Try to limit her time on the floor, so your feet aren't so noticeable. Did it start with new shoes, or going barefoot? Did anything happen out of the ordinary when she started running over to bite your feet? Do you think that she feels the floor is her space? @Monica any ideas?
 

Monica

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The best training approach for you would be to keep her in her cage when your husband isn't around.


Whenever you walk by the cage, try to do so in a calm, slow, non-threatening manner. When you walk by, drop a treat into the cage that she *loves* and only gets when you walk by the cage. This will help teach her to look forward to your presence. Perhaps after she comes to enjoy you being around (sitting and talking or reading near the cage may be counterproductive) then you can move onto target training through the cage bars. Then target training with the cage door open, then target training with her on the outside of the cage.


It's probably best that she's not on the floor, but if there are games that the two of you can play while she's on the floor, such as chasing a ball, and reinforce this behavior when your husband isn't around, it can help to strengthen your bond. You will need to play this game even with your husband around to reinforce the behavior and try to keep her from 'reverting' once your husband is around.


Contrary to popular belief, the best way to teach a parrot not to bite is to not get bitten in the first place. Biting in itself can be self rewarding. Ignoring bites can lead to increased aggression or learned helplessness, neither of which are good. I do believe that parrots *can* suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. Just because a bird has learned to stop biting a human and love them doesn't necessarily mean it's a "healthy" relationship.


Please, look through these links and read them. Also watch the free webinar video from Barbara Heidenreich!

Free Training Resources | Avian Avenue Parrot Forum
 

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Jessa Danice

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@Tiel Feathers I was barefooted when she started biting. I believe everything was pretty normal, and I would definitely guess she has claimed dominance over the floor. Toys has been a task in finding for her. The only type of toys she seems interested in are squeak toys. I have tried several chew toys, a ladder, and a rope thing. I am thinking she likes noisy things only. I will be buying more of those to try and get her a variety.

@Monica Thank you for the advice and the links. I had tried talking to her near the cage, but I noticed it would make her more nervous, so I usually do it from a distance, which sometimes gets her to talk to me. I have never really thought about parrots experiencing Stockholms. Would make sense that it is possible though. Really sad. I hope to be able to create a bond with her. Even if it is just enough to where she is comfortable with me, but she would receive way more attention if both of us could give it to her. Hopefully I can get a good bond with her before the baby is born. I have read that eclectus' get along with little ones, as long as the child isn't rough of course. We definitely plan on keeping her separated from the baby for a while though.

Again, thank you both for the replies. :)
 

Jessa Danice

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@expressmailtome The other thread had been deleted. If it wasn't for email notifications, I wouldn't have known you commented. I noticed there was a section more related to this after I posted that one. It happens with or without him in the room. I had pushed into her biting, which I know now not to do. :)
 

Monica

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It may help to remove "dominance" out of your vocabulary when speaking about animals. When it comes to our pets, "dominance" doesn't exist. I feel like the word "dominance" is used as a scapegoat for undesired behaviors. If an animal hasn't been trained otherwise, how would they know to act differently?

"Dominance" and "alpha" aka "boss" type training techniques are used to teach animals what *NOT* to do. This is where learned helplessness and extreme aggressive behaviors come from.

Positive Reinforcement, Force Free Animal Training, Applied Behavior Analytics, Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence Training, all of these are about changing behavior by changing the environment, changing our behavior, redirecting undesired behavior and teaching new behaviors. The more that desired behaviors are rewarded, the more likely a bird is willing to perform that behavior. If this new behavior is incompatible to an undesired behavior, that undesired behavior may eventually just fade away because it doesn't get any rewards.


If every time you walk by the cage, the bird lunges, this reinforces the lunging behavior. This, in turn, can result in a bird that is defensive about their cage. You offer your hand? Bird bites. This then leads to cage aggression.

If you were to change your approach to the cage, such as walking slower and maybe talking softly or at least announcing your presence, or perhaps moving the cage to another location so that you are in plain view prior to passing the cage, this may result in less lunging. Pair this with a high valued treat, bird learns to expect your presence with good things. Over time, the bird may become eager enough to see you that they'll readily accept treats by hand. You approach the situation right, no lunging, no biting, no cage aggression!


Simple! And non-intrusive! Understanding and using these techniques *IS* a different way of thinking. A lot of people *think* they are using positive reinforcement training techniques when in reality, they aren't.




What positive reinforcement training is *NOT*: Shoving your hand against a bird's stomach, forcing the bird to step up, then rewarding the bird for stepping up.


What positive reinforcement training *IS*: Teaching the bird to look towards you and rewarding the behavior. Moving their heads towards you and rewarding the behavior. Taking steps (even if it's one!) towards you and rewarding the behavior. Putting a nail or a toe on your hand and rewarding the behavior. Putting their foot on your hand and rewarding the behavior. Putting both feet on your hand and rewarding the behavior.



What is the difference? The key difference is the bird's willingness. Is the bird eager and willing to step up? Or are they stepping up because they have to? Because they can't get away?



I have no doubt that you can form a relationship with your ekkie by changing your approach and figuring out what makes her tick! ;) (i.e. desired rewards!)
 

Jessa Danice

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I see. Thank you. There are so many things I am doing wrong. I am not used to birds, and I really appreciate the help. I am way more familiar with dogs. My husband is a naturalist with birds. He had owned several growing up, just not parrots. He had wanted one for so long. She truly adores him. It is adorable the way she acts around him.

It seems getting new toys peeks her interest a lot. I tried it last night. She slowly walked towards me and started playing with it. She is already excepting treats eagerly again. I know getting her to fully trust me will take time, but I am happy to already see some progress.
 

Monica

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My recommendation on working with birds also applies to dogs! :)
 
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