by Diane Burroughs August 22, 2020 3 min read

It works wonders for dogs, but does it work for birds? 

Clicker training uses the concept ofOperant Conditioning.In his experiments, B.F. Skinner, the famous Harvard psychology professor,  used birds--usually pigeons--and trained them to complete a series of complex tasks! Since then, there have been thousands of of studies enlightening us about the effectiveness of clicker training with animals.

So, let’s take a look at why clicker training is so fantastic for your parrot!

6 Awesome Reasons To Use Clicker Training For Birds

Why I Love Clicker Training for Birds

1. It's positive!

Clicker training combines the concept of positive reinforcement and a communicative "click" to modify your feathered friend’s behavior. It helps you reward wanted or desired behaviors and curtail unwanted behaviors.

Since it uses positive reinforcement, your bird is enthusiastic about learning new things. 

And, it’s a highly effective technique if you use it right. 

2. Creates a bonding experience.

We have a communication gap with our feathered friends! So, together, we need to learn a language that we can both understand. 

Since the clicker provides positive reinforcement, there’s a lot of positive interaction between you and your bird, creating a bonding experience and helping you understand each other better. 

Try to click and treat the desired behavior as quickly as possible.  Presto! Next thing you know your bird eagerly performs the newly learned behavior over and over again. 

Coupling the behavior to a specific cue allows you to prompt your bird to do the new behavior whenever you want.

3. Teaches safe, alternative behaviors.

One of the best ways to curb unwanted behavior is to teach an alternative behavior that serves the same function. So, if your bird screams for attention, shower it with attention when teaching it a new trick.

If your bird has been indulging in destructive behaviors, you can easily curb them using clicker training. By rewarding healthy, safe behaviors, you'll increase the likelihood of the behavior being repeated. 

Associating the new, safe behavior with a cue allows you to interrupt unwanted behavior by simply prompting the bird to perform the new behavior. Then, reward the desired behavior.

So, your bird learns healthy and safe alternative behaviors. 

4. Stimulates your smart bird’s intellect.

Birds are intelligent. 

That’s why Skinner performed some most of his elaborate experiments with them! 

Clicker training helps keep your bird’s brain sharp as it starts to associate new commands with actions. With clicker training, the sky is the limit when it comes to training. You can teach a successive flow of behaviors to perform one fancy trick!  Imagine the self-confidence your bird gains when it knows how to tickle your fancy.

Learning new behaviors helps keep your bird psychologically occupied, too!--And, it improves the mood!  When you cue an anxious bird to do a trick, it can calm the bird down by diverting its attention to something positive and fun. 

5. Makes you pay attention to the behavior you want to see more of! 

Did your bird do something you’d love to see more of? 

With clicker training, you can ensure that your bird repeats good behaviors by rewarding it quickly with a motivating treat. The more that your bird engages in behaviors that you love, the deeper you bond with your pet. 

Being a feather plucking specialist, I hear a lot of folks who are distressed and anxious about their birds' behavior.  While feather plucking is a complex behavior to turn around, the more that you can teach and cue desired, safe behaviors, the more that you can relax and enjoy your bird.

So, all you’ve got to do is to keep rewarding the behavior you want to see more of. We call that "positive reinforcement."

6. A more precise way to communicate with your bird.

As I mentioned earlier, many of us have got a language barrier to overcome with our feathered friends. I don't always know how to interpret chirps, squawks, or body language.

And, my bird doesn't always interpret me in the way I want it to.  I imagine that you have the same experience.

Through clicker training, you can communicate with your bird more effectively and teach it what certain keywords mean. So, your bird will learn precisely what you mean when you say, “Go Potty,”or when you say, “Come here.” 

Yes! You can (and should) teach your bird manners!

Photo by Hermes Rivera

All in All 

So, what are your thoughts on clicker training for parrots? 

Clicker training is an amazing way to communicate with your feathered friend using positive reinforcement. It helps reduce unwanted behavior and increases the likelihood of good behaviors and creates an everlasting bond between the two of you. 

Do you have any questions? Leave them in the comments. 

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