8 Steps for Bird Collar Training

TAGS: #BirdCollarTraining #ParrotCollar #BirdCollars #ParrotCollars #ParrotFeatherPluckingCollar 


 Needed Supplies:

  • Clicker
  • Favorite treats
  • TrainingsStand
  • Target stick

Bird collar training is a simple step-by-step process to help familiarize your pet to its new bird collar. You're going to use Clicker Training for Birds, a proven behavior modification technique that will teach you bird to accept the collar.  By carefully introducing the bird e-collar (or any other feather plucking apparel), you can rest assured that the bird collar is NOT doing more harm than good. Keep in mind that you must repeatedly "click and treat" each small behavioral success to for optimum bird e-collar acceptance.

Training your bird to wear a bird collars should take between 5-10 days of 1-2 five minute training sessions a day. Always keep training positive.

feather clip art pico
Remember that the bird collar is unfamiliar and scary.
ALWAYS carefully observe your bird's body language for signs of fear.  If your bird feels unsafe at any time, quickly re-establish a sense of safety.


What is Clicker Training?:

Clicker Training a Bird With Treats

Clicker training shapes a series of training steps to a final desired behavior. In other words, behavior is broken down into a series of steps that build upon each other. The first step in clicker training is teaching your bird to associate the clicker sound with a favorite treat. Every time the click sounds, a treat is immediately offered. Your bird will pick up on this concept very quickly.

Once the bird has associated the click sound with a reward, Associate it with the desired behavior. Some approaches are:

  • Capturing: catching the bird in the act of doing something that is desired, for example looking at the collar. Eventually the bird learns to repeat the behavior for a treat.
  • Shaping: gradually building a new behavior by rewarding each small step toward it.
  • Luring: using the treat like a magnet to get the bird to move toward the desired position.
  • Cueing: once the behavior is learned, the last step is to add a cue for the bird to perform the behavior, such as a word or a hand signal. The bird will have learned that a treat is on the way after completing the desired behavior.

The basis of effective clicker training is precise timing to deliver the treat at the same moment as the desired behavior is offered. The clicker is used as a 'bridge' between the marking of the behavior and the highly desired reward. The behavior can be elicited by 'luring' where a hand gesture or a treat is used to coax the bird to remain calm at the sight of the collar, for example; or by 'shaping' where increasingly closer approximations to the desired behavior are reinforced; and by 'capturing' where the dog's spontaneous offering of the behavior is rewarded. Once a behavior is learnt and is on cue (command), the clicker and the treats are faded out.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clicker_training)


Beaker proudly modeling his new bird collar

1. Let her see you hold the collar.

Hold the collar in your hand and let your bird see you holding it. You’ll spark her curiosity when she sees you with a new “toy” that she's not allowed to play with yet. Try to imagine the last time you petted an animal affectionately and do the exact same thing with the bird collar while your bird is watching. Show your bird that you adore this new bird safe collar! The fear response should lessen as you "click and reward" the bird each time it shows the slightest sign of curiosity over fear.  Ignore all fear responses and reward interest in the collar!  NOTE FOR SAF-T SHIELD COLLARS:  The shiny surface of the Saf-T Shield bird cone collars is reflective and sometimes  scary for a bird. If your bird is unduly frighted of the reflection simply use a very fine grade of sandpaper to remove the shine.

2.  Reward the bird for showing curiosity and calm behavior.

When was the last time you saw a bird in the wild wearing any apparel? Probably never. So, it's safe to say your bird isn't going to take kindly to you sticking a parrot collar around its neck straight out of the box. Place the bird collar at a reasonable distance from the bird, rewarding all calm and curious behaviors.  Ignore frightened behavior.  Inch the collar closer and closer to the bird as it tolerates it.  Always reward calm, curious behavior.

African Grey in a Tube Collar

3. Place the bird safe collar close to your pet. 

Now that your parrot has finally started to show some curiosity towards the bird collar, shift the focus to actual bird collar training.  Move the collar closer and closer to the bird, always observing its body language to insure that your bird isn't frightened. Click and reward calm, curious behaviors and as the collar gets closer and closer to the pet. Eventually, you should increase the length of time between "clicking and treating" so that your bird learns to maintain composure for longer periods of time. Keep time increases to about 30 seconds to a minute.

4. Reward the bird for touching the collar.

Congratulations, we're now at the stage where your bird will come into initial contact with the bird collar. At this point you're only interested in letting it mouth the collar. Looking at something and touching it are two completely different things, so you're really doing exceptionally well if your bird is happy to mouth the fabric. A bird that is plucking enough to warrant a collar must already be stressed, so now that the bird is physically accepting the collar be careful to take conditioning slow so as to not undo the work you’ve accomplished so far.


5. Let the fabric rest on the bird.

After your bird has mouthed the fabric its fear levels should be lower than ever before. Nobody is afraid of something they've stuck in their mouth because they now have a 'feel' for it. It's now time to rest the fabric on the bird. Once again, be very attentive to your birds body language as you gauge how quickly to proceed and attentively click and treat every little accomplishment.

The collar only needs to rest on your bird for a brief period of time to get a "click and treat".  Keep things as positive as possible and always end training sessions on a positive note.  At this stage, you’ll want to gradually increase the length of time that the bird tolerates the collar in contact with its body, up to a few minutes or more.

Toweling a parrot

6. Practice holding your bird and placing collar on it.

This might be the scariest step of all for your bird, especially if it is not used to close handling or it is afraid of toweling.  If your bird isn’t used to close handling, please break down being held and having head and beak touched into short, reachable steps.  Remember to condition acceptance of each tiny accomplishment similar to how we've described bird collar familiarization; i.e. stepping up, coming into contact with your body, manipulating it’s wings and head, etc.  

A great primer to learn these steps is Good Bird Inc., Conditioning Your Bird For the Veterinary Exam

  • Sound: Allow your bird to become accustomed to the sound of the opening and closing of the Velcro strips.  "Click and treat" tolerating the sound. 
  • Wearing: Next", "click and treat" as your bird allows you to put collar around its neck. 
  • Acceptance: Finally, you’ll want to "click and reward" your bird for wearing the collar while doing something other than chewing the collar, such as eating or playing. However, keep in mind that the bird collar is designed to be preened.  Chewing and preening are calming activities for a bird.

7. Don't forget to click and treat all along the way.

Generously using the Clicker Training for Birds will actually supercharge your training results. But, by paying close attention to your birds body language and training for acceptance in slow, short steps, you are highly like to experience success.

8. Always Combine Bird Collars with A Variety of Anti-plucking Strategies...

By now, your avian veterinarian has coached you on creating the optimum diet for your bird and advised for supplements.  We recommend that you read our eBook on The Parrot Feather Plucking Workbook and explore what other adjustments may need to be made to manage or eliminate the feather picking cycle.  Collars and barriers have a useful place in eliminating the problem but they don’t address the underlying cause.

With proper attention to each step, bird collar training should be successful. 

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