As most of you know by now, parrots of ALL species (including lovebirds) are highly intelligent, and because of this, need a lot of mental stimulation from us in many forms. This could come in the way of shredding toys, playing with your bird, letting your bird listen to music and dance, talking to the bird, or teaching them new tricks.
Taming a lovebird can be challenging for some bird owners depending on the bird’s background, or easier if you are experienced with bird ownership and have the time and patience dedicated to the art of taming/training.
Having said that, let’s focus on a few different aspects of training. If your bird is already “people friendly” then your task will be lighter. If you have a wild, untamed and/or timid bird things could get a bit more challenging.
I believe EVERY parrot has the ability to learn new things from their human owners, whether it’s talking, doing small tasks in the form of tricks or just listening and obeying commands.
So Let’s Do this!
Now don’t forget, some birds are not even TAMED, let alone trained, so let’s discuss what can happen if your bird does not trust you and the possibilities of these circumstances.
My lovebird is not tamed, meaning that when I got her, she came from a bird mill and was grabbed at, thrown into cages with other birds, sold and shuffled around with no patience, love or care for her handling situation. As a result, she became scared of people.
Sadly, she is very skittish of human hands as they posed nothing but a threat to her well-being. Now depending on the bird’s age, this can be very difficult to correct.
I still believe EVERY bird has the ability to trust and love again with enough patience and time. PATIENCE is a huge factor in this equation and with the proper training techniques and a loving approach, your bird will react in the same positive way.
Getting to know your bird and establishing trust is a work in progress. They remember everything and if you continue to perpetrate that same hostile or aggressive way of handling or approaching of your bird you will get nowhere.
Birds do not respond to negative reinforcement so it’s very important to ignore negative actions and praise positive actions with things like saying “good bird'” and displaying positive vibes.
I know it sounds weird but honestly, it works. I taught my lovebird (who was afraid of everything) to love music because I started playing the music and giving her praise as she flipped around on her disco ball.
I established a positive vibe and said nice things to her all the while the music was playing. She associated the music with fun, happy and good times and now she demands that I play the music for her.
Her memory is reinforced that music is a fun, non-threatening time and a way to bond with me. Trust me it works! It’s also a known fact that birds love music. Please see my SONGBIRDS article for further reference as it gets into birds and their love of song.
Food is also a great way to reinforce a positive bond with your bird. In the wild, birds live in flocks and feed each other daily. They will only trust the quality of the food if they see another flock member eating it.
The same goes for your influence on the “FLOCK” so to speak. Offer food to your bird by the way of a slow and gentle hand motion or talk softly to your bird while you are offering the food.
Another way to get them interested and trusting of food that you offer is to eat it yourself and make sure that they SEE YOU EATING IT.
Obviously, you would only do this with treats like apple slices or cooked carrots etc., but you get the picture. The more you can convince your bird that you are a member of the flock and not a predator the better off you will be.
YOU NEED TO THINK AND ACT LIKE YOUR BIRD AND /OR A MEMBER OF IT’S FLOCK! This is very important in establishing trust.
Birds are wild animals so don’t expect them to think like a civilized human being, it’s not going to happen. You have to meet them halfway and establish a trusting bond by trying to duplicate the natural instincts of the species. Be a FLOCK MEMBER not a human superior or potential predator- type of threat.
MONKEY SEE MONKEY DO
You have heard this expression before as I am sure. Well Birdie see Birdie Do applies here as well. Birds as I have mentioned before, live in flocks and tend to copy each other in a sense of safety.
They are attracted to a strong leader, which will be YOU and that’s where you will establish the trust and RESPECT that you will attain with your relationship. You ideally want to bond with your bird, but you also want them to respect you and therefore listen to you. Don’t forge that you are the boss.
Once you have established the trust of your bird, you can begin to command the respect you deserve and get them to listen to you and do tricks for you. Do not feel that this is cruel because truly, especially with lovebirds, they really enjoy it.
This is a way of bonding with your bird and if you can make it fun, they will love it as much as you do. Just remember to make it fun! Birds will remember and associate certain things with the memory that they have.
Dr. Irene Pepperberg knew this and used the Monkey See Monkey Do technique with training Alex. She used a third party that Alex competed with to prompt him to step up and compete with this third party and do the tasks that were required of him.
It’s all part of the flock mentality. The third party was a member of Dr. Pepperberg’s staff who would answer Dr. Pepperberg’s questions and Alex would answer the questions in the Monkey See Monkey Do fashion as he was competing for her attention and admiration/respect.
PLAY THE GAME
Don’t forget to think like a bird in it’s flock but be the strong leader. The game is to earn the birds trust but at the same time, it’s respect. Once you establish this relationship, you can start to train you bird to do many things. Ring a bell, push a cart, run though a toilet roll tunnel, you name it. YouTube.com has plenty of videos on tricks that lovebirds are capable of, and although their talking ability is limited, some DO talk.
Establish positive reinforcement only as birds do not react well to scolding or any other type of negative reinforcement. Keep it fun for the bird and most of all BE PATIENT. This is not a dog or cat, this is a wild animal and needs to feel safe within a flock mentality and not until then, will it be willing and able to listen and learn from you.
GOOD LUCK and Happy Parroting!