Is Polly Ignoring Your Parrot Training Efforts?

Is Polly Ignoring Your Parrot Training Efforts?

So, you adopted a pet parrot and things were going swell with the parrot training and getting your parrot used to the home. Now, all of a sudden your parrot is ignoring your training techniques and methods. You are losing your cool and you may not know what to do. You may even be to the point where you are thinking about getting rid of your bird. However, this would be cruel and it is important to realize that as a pet bird owner, you may be teaching your parrot to ignore you.

Is Your Parrot Training Reinforcing Desired Behaviors in a Positive Way ?

Its very simple.  When a bird gets what it wants after performing a certain behavior, it'll repeat it over and over.

Parrot training can take on many forms, but research shows that promoting prosocial behaviors with positive methods makes for the best pet.It is easy to promote unwanted behaviors, especially with such an intelligent pet.  There are many ways in which a bird owner can reinforce the most wanted behaviors . As a parrot owner we must know the difference between the two of these behavior change strategies and be really attentive to "accidental training."


Clicker Training Your Bird
Photo by Clicker Training


1.  The First Step to Positive Parrot Training is to Create a Plan

The first step to any parrot training effort is to sit down with yourself and decide what behaviors that you want to reinforce.  Common prosocial behaviors that make for a fun parrot include:

  • Stepping Up On Your Hand To Get In Or Out Of Cage
  • Staying in the expected place, such as on the play stand during out of cage time
  • Chirp, whistle and talk
  • Having a safe beak
  • Coming when called

Try to think about any assimilation of these behaviors.  For instance, when you're teaching your parrot to come when called, the first step is that your bird looks at you when you call its name.  You'll want to be very in tune with your pet to prove positive attention for assimilations of wanted behaviors and ignore other behaviors. 

Without intentional planning, during parrot training and in day to day activities, it is easy to accidentally provide attention when your bird is misbehaving, even if you are unaware of it or not doing it on purpose.  Have you ever found yourself talking or even yelling at your bird when it screams or having a really animated response to a nip?  Hmmm.  Polly got the attention she wanted!  Birds love any form of attention and they especially love animated responses.  They're not so good at interpreting the emotion behind your spirited responses, though.  So, if you jerk back your hand and yell "OUCH" with a nip, Polly gets a real charge!

So, sit down right now and decide which behaviors you want to "reward" and which ones you want to redirect by teaching an alternative behavior. Literally make a list of them.  Next, make a list how you want to intentionally reinforce those behaviors and how you'll insure that you are NOT reinforcing the unwanted behaviors.  Your list might look something like this:


Pro-social Behaviors

Ask Yourself,

"What do I want my bird to do instead?"

  • Whistling and talking
  • Stepping up / stepping down
  • Staying on bird stand
  • Attending to you  when name is called
  • Playing with toys
  • Screaming
  • Getting nippy when asked to step up
  • Posturing for aggression
  • Crawling off play stand and onto floor

Positive Rewards

Planned Elimination

  • Food Reinforcers
  • Calling it’s name and whistling to it
  • Creating a special whistle call that let’s bird know you’re communicating with it
  • Scratching it’s head 
  • Total ignoring when screaming
  • Walking away from the bird
  • Redirect the birds focus to on something desired, eg. A toy or treat


Keep in mind that, in training, your goal is to build your pet's trust with you.  The more your pet trusts you the more it is willing to cooperate with training efforts rather than disengage.  Think of trust with your pet as a "trust bank account." Positive reinforcers are like deposits in that account.  They build upon each other over time.  Anything that the animal sees as negative or aversive is like a withdrawal.  Negativity makes your pet want to escape.  It leaves your bird confused and frustrated.  You can tell if you've somehow frustrated your parrot by observing it's body language.  Whenever your pet is disengaging from a training session, ask yourself, "What did I do to invite that behavior."

Parrot training should be positive

Parrot Training should focus on making positive trust deposits, not trust withdrawals

Consistently Focusing on Why You're Parrot Training

 Consistency is the key here. You are in the middle of training your bird and all of a sudden you realize that your bird is displaying unexpected behaviors. Where do you go from here? First ask yourself, have I been reinforcing the wrong behavior?"  You know that you're reinforcing the wrong behavior when your bird keeps doing an undesired behavior.

When your parrot is displaying behaviors that you are not alright with, it is important to totally ignore the inappropriate behavior and lavish attention on the "right" behavior, as soon as your bird does it or something very close to it.  So, say you're training for "Step Up."

  1.  Polly acts like she's going to nip you.
  2. IMMEDIATELY STOP talking and looking at the bird.
  3. As soon as the bird calms down, try again.
  4. Repeat stopping as needed - maybe even take a short break to give Polly time to chill.
  5. The very first time your bird steps up as expected, click & treat immediately, and excitedly let Polly know what a good girl she is.

See, the whole trick to parrot training is training yourself to not respond to unwanted behavior but IMMEDIATELY respond to wanted behavior.  How would you craft this technique with screaming?


Choosing Training Techniques YOUR Bird Will Respond To

Training a bird can get confusing at times and choosing the right training techniques that your bird will respond to may be difficult. So how can you choose proven training methods that will work? You can take recommendations from experts such as these ones:

All of these training methods have been proven to work time and time again for parrots all over the world. Give them a try for your parrot right away especially if your parrot is ignoring your training methods.

Slow & Steady: Tracking Your Progress

Bird training is not the easiest thing in the world however it does not have to be the hardest either. If you just train slowly and steadily you will be able to get your parrot back on track or on track in the first place. By training your parrot slow and steadily you will be able to do multiple things including but not limited to:

  • Seeing and Measuring Growth on a Chart
  • Knowing that Your Bird is Responding to Your Hard Work
  • Get Your Parrot to Quit Ignoring Your Training Methods
  • Correct Unwanted Behaviors Faster
  • Improve the frequency of  Wanted Behaviors

Training your parrot should be fun and stress free. If your parrot is ignoring your training methods then trying something new seems like it should be the right choice and it often is. Sometimes parrots just get stubborn and other times the parrot owners are teaching their pet parrot to ignore their training techniques. If you are unsure try the training techniques tips above and see what you can do to bring your parrot up to speed. Bird training varies from bird to bird and owner to owner so choose the training method that works for not only your bird but yourself as well.


Join Facebook Group for Feather Plucking Parrots

Diane Burroughs, LCSW

Located in Denver, I'm a Mile High author and parrot feather plucking expert. I've always been a devoted animal lover with a special passion for parrots, Diane is also a behavior specialist. Make sure to join my Facebook group, UnRuffledRx Parrot Feather Plucking Help now!

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  • Diane Burroughs, LCSW
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