Saturday, November 4, 2017


Mercedes Bijou Basin Surprise ("Sadie")
Many years ago, my husband and I came across a "dump dog" about 10 miles from our home as we were taking a Saturday afternoon drive. According to local ranchers, she had been sitting the entire day in the same spot by the side of the road, probably waiting for her owners to return. We tried to locate the owner of this pup for hours to no avail, and so we brought her home with us and tried to find an Australian Shepherd rescue. At the time, there were no Aussie rescues in Colorado and so....she was ours. Our love for Sadie has lasted almost 14 years.  Being an Aussie, her incredible intelligence was evident and her ability to learn new skills was amazing.   I immediately enrolled her in obedience classes and ended up taking her through advanced obedience and advanced agility.   One training method that worked amazingly well with Sadie was clicker training.   I could (and still can) teach her something new in just a few minutes.  And even though her sight and hearing are now failing, she still responds enthusiastically to the commands that she learned those many years ago. 

Clicker training.  It worked so well with my dogs.  But I could never coordinate my hands when I was trying to work with my feathered flock.  I decided I needed three hands: one to hold the target (the "bridge"), one to hold the reward, and one to hold the clicker!   I have to admit, as good as I was training my dogs with a clicker,  I gave myself an "F" for my efforts with my birds.   Until....

Two Saturdays ago I assisted with Barbara Heidenreich's Fear Free Animal Training workshop that she presented to the Minnesota Companion Bird Association.   At the presentation, she had available a handy little "tool" that she had invented (telescoping target stick with clicker)...and when I saw it, I knew I had to have one.  (And ohhhh, how I wish I had invented it!)  Here is Barbara showing how it works:

  There are so many reasons to train our birds using positive reinforcement.   Not to do "tricks," per say,  but to make them comfortable accomplishing actions that make their lives, our lives, and our long-term relationships enjoyable, with as little fear and stress as possible, ensuring our birds' comfort and safety.    Think of it: easily getting your bird to step up; staying in a stationary spot in the cage so you can change papers without their "help;" loading and unloading into a carrier for traveling; stepping onto a scale for a daily weigh-in; coming out of a crate at the vet's office.   The possibilities are endless.   Using clicker training is a great, positive method to utilize with parrots. 

I am inspired to spend more time with my birds working with my new FFAT clicker/target. I've just begun this clicker training journey anew with my flock, and I am not an expert trainer by any means, but I am determined to use this excellent tool, (THAT ONLY REQUIRES TWO HANDS!),  and try to guide my birds toward some great, positive behaviors.  Maybe I can get a video or two of my progress on a blog in the near future.

Yes, you can teach old dogs....and old birds new tricks!  Click!

Have you used clicker training with your birds? Have you had success? Please share your experiences in the comment section below.