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Target Training Bird — A Comprehensive Guide to Stick Training

target training birds

Did you know that target training bird is one of the best ways to tame avian creatures and get accustomed to moving without coercion or touching them?

On top of that, it can help you modify your bird’s behavior! It was developed 50 years ago but only became popular in the last 15 to 20 years.

But how should you do it? And is it highly necessary?

In this article, we’ll dive deep into parrot clicker training and discuss the following:

  • What you need and how to perform target training for birds
  • When, where, and how often should you conduct a target training session
  • And 5 reasons why you should do a parrot clicker training today

If you want to utilize this method to make your bird more cooperative and gentle, join us to learn what it takes to train your pet bird right here!

Target Training Birds infographics

Target Training Birds: Here’s What You Need

Clicker and target training is based on B.F Skinner’s “operant conditioning,” which utilizes positive reinforcement to encourage birds to display desirable behaviors. It’s basically a reward-based training that uses the following tools:

1. Target

One of the most important tools in target training pet birds is the target. It should be something they don’t usually see outside their training so they could easily recognize it’s training time when you bring it out. 

You can use a chopstick, a colored or shaped toy, a lid from a margarine tub, or a 1-foot long piece of a 1/2 PVC pipe that contains an end cap on each end for safety purposes.

You can even paint the end cap blue on one side and red on the other so you can use it later in training your bird to distinguish colors.

2. Clicker

As the name suggests, clickers and tiny devices produce a clicking sound. It’s available on Amazon and local pet stores. 

SunGrow Dog Clickers with Black Wrist Bands, 2.4x1.8 Inches, Colorful, Effective Training Tools for Puppy or Cat, Humanized Scientific Professional Design, Perfect Size and Sound, 4 Pack
  • A must-have device for effective sound training --- The durable, and extremely portable SunGrow 4 Dog Training Clickers function perfectly as a useful sound training tool. Train your dog to fetch, roll over, shake, quiet down and more with the easy and efficient clickers. Consistency is crucial in training your dog and having these clickers help you be prepared and increase the success of the sound training. It is extremely useful in training visually impaired pets and even sound sensitive.
  • 4 clickers mean you’ll never be without one --- Keep one in your purse, and one in the kitchen, one in the car, and another one on the tabletop - it’s practical as well as economical. With 4 SunGrow Dog Clickers, you will never miss a chance to train your pet. Just click and train your pet in this positive, easy way with big button clickers. Our clickers come in handy even for training other pets like cats, parrots, and other small pets.
  • Convenient keychain and wrist attachment --- The ergonomic design of Sungrow Dog Clicker makes it comfortable and secure. It is attached to a standard keychain ring and elastic bracelet. Wear it on your wrist or hang it up or attach it to your handbag, so you don’t drop it and can access it easily and quickly. Wrist attachment makes it more comfortable and easier to hold onto, than box clickers when training your pet.
  • Variety of bright, playful colors --- Available in vibrant colors of red, white, black and blue, these lightweight SunGrow Dog Training Clickers are an effective and happy communication mode with the pet. Clickers are a great gift for training puppies and young adult dogs!
  • Small size avoids potential confusion --- Dogs and puppies that are being newly trained may get confused if they see what is making the noise. They might confuse the audible signal with a visual cue in that case. The discreet SunGrow Dog Clicker conveniently fits in the palm of your hand, without creating any unnecessary complications. The sound is more gentle and softer which makes it more suitable for the hearing frequency of pets, without scaring your noise-sensitive pets.

If your bird is afraid of loud clicker sounds, you can utilize a retractable ballpoint pen as an alternative for a much softer sound. 

A clicker’s purpose is to condition the bird’s mind that a treat or reward is imminent when they hear the clicking sound. It works similarly to word cues and complements like “Good!

Trainers call them a bridge because they connect the desired behavior with the reward.

3. Reward

Lastly, it would help if you found a reward your bird would consider valuable enough to work for. It should be something your pet bird likes. 

For other parrots, an excited exclamation of “Good” or “Great” is enough. But food is the primary motivator for many feathery creatures. 

How can you choose a good treat or reward for your bird?

If you have no idea what your bird’s favorite food is, here’s a tip: give him a variety of food in the morning and observe what type of grain or food he eats first.

Then, offer the same food the following day but this time, remove their first choice and note what he eats first.

Repeat this pattern for several days so you can have a list of their favorite food items. 

From then on, remove his special foods or favorite items in his bowl because if he doesn’t have to strive to earn them, they will lose their value. 

Other examples of food treats that your bird may like are sunflower seeds, cheese, biscuits, or grapes. However, you need to be careful not to overfeed them with these treats.

Otherwise, they may lose interest in their main food, which should be nutritionally balanced.

The right reward size

You also need to consider the reward’s size because if it’s too large, it will take a long time for the bird to eat, which can destroy the training’s rhythm. 

Furthermore, your feathery pet may lose motivation if they get satiated. And not all rewards are nutritious. So, you need to limit the size to avoid malnutrition.

For example, you can cut the sunflower seeds or any large treat into 2 to 3 pieces, so it’ll only take seconds for birds to eat.

target training parrot

The Frequency and Location of Target and Clicking Training For Birds

Aside from preparing the target, clicker, and rewards, it would help to consider when, where, and how often to train your bird. 

So, When and How Often Should You Target Train Birds?

Training sessions must be short and fun. The recommended length for each training session is 3 to 5 minutes.

For many trainers, the ideal time for training is in the morning before breakfast because the bird will be highly motivated to earn food treats. 

However, that doesn’t mean you should use food deprivation because you shouldn’t starve your bird just to learn a behavior. 

A few quick target training sessions spread out throughout the day can be beneficial if time permits. If time is an issue, once a day training session is fine.

Some people can practice only on the weekends but still see fantastic results, though the whole training process will naturally take longer.

It’s worth noting that you and the bird should be in good spirits during the training. Therefore, having a session after a long and exhausting day at work may not provide good results because your parrot will mirror your mood. 

Where Is the Best Place for Target Training Birds?

For highly aggressive or shy birds, you can start training them inside the cage. But if they’re comfortable outside of it, you can use your dining room table to have more space available. 

Should you decide to use an unfamiliar space for your bird as a training ground, you need to get him to get used to it first and make him feel comfortable.

Rules To Follow When Target Training Birds 

Birds sometimes feel insecure and hesitate to approach your target, so you must help them establish trust. And take note of the following rules to ensure your target training clicker training in birds will be effective.

  1. Keep the distractions away and ensure the target stick training sessions aren’t too long. If your pet bird is not in the mood or doesn’t want to work with you, try again later and let him cooperate when he’s ready.
  2. Work with one pet at a time or give each animal a distinct clicker sound. Simply teach your bird that the clicker means a reward is on its way during the first week because he did something good.
  3. Train your timing skills. Click during the desired action, not once it has been finished. Once the click has been heard, your pet should stop the undesirable activity. After that, provide the treat.
  4. After a week, check the animal’s response to the clicker to see if they are anticipating a reward. Don’t jump to conclusions too early because it could not be an evident answer in some cases with pets.
  5. To utilize the clicker when you see the desired behavior, keep it nearby or carry it with you at all times. When you observe the necessary activity, give a prompt.
  6. Set your criteria as high or low as necessary. You may be asking too much too soon if your animal appears bewildered, exhausted, or just not getting it. Try moving up a level if the bird looks robotic or bored.
  7. Ordering the bird about is not a part of clicker training. Don’t scold or spank your bird because negative reinforcement can waste the target and clicker training.

How to Target Train Birds

Now, let’s move on to the training process:

Clicker Conditioning

Before you start target training your pet bird, you need to clicker condition its mind first, so he’ll know that a reward is coming if he does something that pleases you. 

  1. You can start by setting your bird on its perch and then click reward. 
  2. Play with your bird; click the clicker and give him a treat. Repeat this step several times until your bird looks forward to receiving a reward as soon as it hears a clicking sound.
  3. Try asking your bird to step onto your hand; if your bird does so, click and reward him generously.

Keep practicing these routines until your bird realizes that performing specific tasks will earn him a click and tasty rewards.

After mastering these routines, your bird is now ready for target training.

Target Training

  1. Place your bird on your tabletop, then hold the target considerably. Click and reward your bird if it looks at the target. 
  2. If your pet bird walks toward the target, click, and reward again. 
  3. If your bird musters the courage to touch the target using its beak or foot, click and reward your pet again.
  4. Then, change the criteria and position the stick to the side of the bird’s face to encourage him to turn its head and face the stick or target. If your feathery companion does turn its head and touches the target stick, click and reward.
  1. At this point, you must work on a perch and make your bird walk from one side of the perch to the other by encouraging him to touch the target stick. 
  2. If you successfully applied the fifth procedure, your bird is now ready for an upgrade. Encourage your bird to walk across the table to reach the tip of the target stick. This technique will help you encourage your bird to go wherever the target is held.

parrot clicker training

Why is Target Training Birds Beneficial?

You may be wondering why stick training or target and clicker training is crucial for birds. Well, here are some ways you can benefit from using this method.

  1. Once mastered, targeting is a beneficial habit since it enables you to transport the animal to other locations without handling or coercing it.
  2. You can use it to help your feathery companion learn what the clicker implies.
  3. Targeting is an excellent technique to introduce the “cause and effect” concept to the bird. It is crucial for the bird’s mental health to allow it to experience some degree of control over its existence. The bird discovers that it may choose its behavior to persuade you to give it rewards. 
  4. Target training pet birds is a good foundation for training your bird with more complex tasks and managing their behavior. For example, you can use it to train your bird to step up or step down onto its perch. 
  5. It can also help you move your bird without holding it. And if you’re cleaning the cage, you can urge the bird to move to other areas of the cage or go outside effortlessly.

Common Question About Target Training Birds

What is a target stick for bird training?

A target stick is a tiny tool that can be used to lure a bird to move into a location such as in or outside the cage.

For example, you can utilize a chopstick or a 1/2 PVC pipe with an end cap or stick that poses no threat to your bird. 

What bird is the easiest to train?

Budgerigars or Parakeets are among the easiest birds to train, and they’re also low-maintenance, intelligent, and excellent talkers.

Stick or target training can be a breeze for them, but since each bird’s personality varies, the result may also vary. 

How long does it take to target train a bird?

The recommended length for target training sessions in birds is 3 to 5 minutes. Your bird may lose interest if you’d push him too fast to achieve your desired result. 

What do you use for target training?

Like target training in dogs, cats, and other animals, birds require a target, clicker, and reward to make the training session effective.

You can buy these materials on Amazon or local pet stores near you, but you can also use alternatives you can find at home.

What is target training a parrot?

Target training is a fun and easy method to encourage a bird to perform desired behaviors using a target, clicker, and rewards.

It can be used in feathery creatures like birds and furry animals like cats and dogs.

target training for birds

Final Thoughts About Target Training Birds

Target training bird is a fast and efficient way to modify an avian’s behavior and teach him some tasks. You can use it to encourage him to move back to his cage voluntarily.

In addition to that, you can utilize it to move a food-territorial bird away from its bowl to avoid altercation during feeding time.

However, it may not be easy for everyone. Your bird may become resistant at first, and it might bite you. But with repetition, good timing, and a lot of patience, you can succeed.

READ NEXT: How to Tame a Bird — A Taming Guide for Scared Avians

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