If you haven't yet, watch the video, then read on to see some of my thoughts that were happening while I was training and why I made some of the decisions I did!
Starting my session with flight
I start many of my training sessions with some basic flight and recall work for a couple of reasons. Firstly, its gets out some of that initial energy and helps with focus later on, meaning a more successful training session (your birds may be different, they may thrive with flight at the end of a session). Secondly, it gives me an idea on how motivated my birds are to work at that time, I find if they’re not enthusiastic about flying they generally aren’t enthusiastic about other training, though again this can be dependent on the bird.
0:55-1:04 - Sprout has recently regressed in his recall, he isn’t willing to recall from a distance so we are going back to basics and starting with very short distances, not much more than a hop, and showing him the treat he is working for.
At 1:29 I mention that training 3 birds at once requires a lot of focus, this is true for the recall training but ESPECIALLY important to note when I get to the trick training. I do not recommend training multiple animals at once on your own unless you are experienced in training and know how to read their body language and understand the dynamic between the animals you are training. My three birds have gotten to a place where they can tolerate each other but it requires constant supervision in case I need to step in and stop a fight from happening. It took around 18 months of dedicated training to be at the stage I am now where I can trust Pistachio and Monkey to share a large perch and not start a fight and I plan on doing this training with Sprout as well but as you can see in the video Sprout is on a separate perch, further away from the other two.
Moving on to some trick work
At 1:54, when I transition from flight work to trick training I ask each bird to target. This again lets me know if they are all in the headspace to do this type of training and indicates to them that we are changing modes.
Throughout the video you can see Monkey offer a lot of “spins” and “waves” as well as chatting a bit when I am interacting with the other birds. However, I make sure that the birds get rewarded for asked behaviours and stand in front of each bird to let them know who I am asking for. However, at 3:21 I ask Pistachio to spin but hadn’t stepped over clearly, both birds spun when I gave the command so both got rewarded (they also look so good spinning in unison but opposite directions).
At 3:29 I started asking for some “step up” from all the birds as step up is a trick that still needs to be reinforced. Pistachio steps up with his beak which is a habit I would like to break but that is something I would prefer to dedicate some one on one time to and because it wasn’t a bite I still accepted this “step up”.
At 3:37 I give Monkey a treat after putting Pistachio back down, seemingly for free. What I am rewarding here is actually Monkey giving no response to me picking up or putting down Pistachio as he has a tendency to lunge when Pistachio is picked up or put down so I’ve been working on teaching him that good things happen when I’m interacting with Pistachio. This is one thing that I believe has really helped the dynamic between these two, instead of jealousy and frustration that the other bird is getting my attention they are learning that the other bird getting my attention actually brings yummy treats for them!
Sprout has regressed to biting when asked to “step up”, right now its about 50/50 whether or not he will bite and is something that I have been working on with him. At 3:41 you can see he bit down, I calmly moved my hand so he would let go of my finger and gave him some time to cool down before going back and asking another behaviour of him. If I had pushed the “step up” I likely would have been bit again, and most likely harder than the first time (which did leave a mark).
At 4:30, instead of trying for a “step up” I ask for a very short recall, basically a hop, as he doesn’t typically bite with recall. The idea is to start with these short recalls and eventually get closer and closer until it transitions to a “step up”.
The whole time I am doing this training session I am keeping an eye on the two birds not currently working in case I need to step in. This is a great practice in multitasking!
At 5:50 when I am trying to get Pistachio to target Monkey starts getting too close to his space to earn more treats, I know this could escalate into a fight so I target Monkey to the other side of the perch to give Pistachio the time to then target himself.
I always make sure to end my sessions on a positive, before a bird becomes bored or frustrated, ask for one more trick. I then show my empty hands and say “all done” so the birds know there are no more treats to be earned. As you can see, Monkey has picked up on this and has added “all done” to his vocabulary and actually says it quite a bit outside of training when he’s finished playing with a toy or eating food!
I hope this breakdown give you some insight into what is going on in my head when I’m training with my birds!