Target Training Your Bird

July 29, 2008 by  
Filed under Pet Birds

You might think its cool when your friend calls his bird over and it lands on his arm – but how do you get yours to follow suit? Your bird has been sitting in his cage so long that you’re not even sure he knows how to fly. Target training birds is not very difficult, but it helps to understand how to go about it in a way that benefits the bird and never causes it to become tired or uncomfortable.

To start with you will need to understand that flight requires energy, muscle and strength. If your bird has spent most of his life sitting around in a cage, he’s not going to have what it takes to fly straight off the bat. Just as it takes effort to get off the couch that has been your constant companion for months, it is going to take effort for your bird to get off his perch. You will need to condition him slowly and progressively so that he can successfully enjoy the sensation of flight. With that in mind you will need to think in terms of encouraging short flights and more activity initially than long flights and specific flight behavior.

To start with, you might want to make sure that your family has not set up any hidden cameras as you will need to start encouraging flapping behavior my imitating this activity yourself. Your goal is to persuade the bird that it wants to fly, and this means never pushing it past a level that is comfortable for the bird. If you hurt the bird in any way, it will become discouraged and your work up to that point could well be lost. Once his wings are a little more exercised, its time to get him moving. Choose a perch that is familiar to the bird and start encouraging it to move to the perch via a series of short hops. This can be done once or twice a day, and it usually helps to choose a time of day when the bird really wants to get back to that particular perch. Doing it just before feeding time is usually best. Your ultimate goal is a short flight to the perch, but for some birds it may take a long time to reach that goal. So be persistent and move slowly and when the time is right, your feathered friend will eventually get the idea. Once your bird is better at making little hops or short flights towards his perch, its time to increase the distance. If the bird looks uncomfortable at any time, you are pushing it too far. Take your time and help your bird build his confidence as he develops his athletic ability. If your bird is clinging to your arm and is reluctant to hop, you are probably pushing him too fast and should go back a step by shortening your distance, ensuring that he is motivated and helping him to continue to strengthen his muscles by making use of flapping exercises.

The turn-around point comes when your bird initiates the hops of his own choice. This is when you know he is getting comfortable with flying and you can start to cue the behavior and so reinforce it. Once he gets to his perch, praise him and give him a treat. Before long he’ll figure out that he gets rewarded for his efforts and that’s when you’ll have him eating out the palm of your hand. Once he has fully grasped the concept, you can start to point to the perch and ask him to fly to it, rewarding him once he reacts accordingly. Once you’ve got this right, all you need to do is continue to build on it slowly and you’ll soon have your bird flying exactly where you want, all the while getting healthy exercise and enjoying a change of environment.

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