I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to convince Mika to eat a bigger variety of food. I’ve put off training with her because she’s such a picky eater that it’s hard to remove treats from her regular diet to use for rewards.
Furthermore, she’s a very slooooow eater. So far there’s nothing she likes that doesn’t take her a few seconds to eat, so we’ve been very slow to get started with training — that’s because the training reward should be something that can be eaten quickly enough that it doesn’t stop the flow of training. The bird should not be given any opportunities to get distracted from the behavior being reinforced.
My first goal before I even started training was to change her diet: no more peanuts, fewer seeds, high-quality pellets instead of filler and, if possible, fresh foods. In addition to being better for her, it would be awfully convenient if Mika and Stewie ate the same foods – it would cut preparation time in half!
(In the past few weeks I have convinced her that Nutriberries — Stewie’s favorite treats — are yummy, but that’s a little like convincing a kid who only eats candy that oatmeal cookies are good! lol.)
The good news is that seeds are finally a much smaller part of her diet, with the majority of it consisting of a combination of Zupreem Avian Maintenance Natural pellets, the same type as Stewie’s but bigger, and Kaytee Exact Organic pellets, plus a mix of dehydrated vegetables. She still gets pumpkin seeds for snacks, but the sunflower seeds are only for rewards now.
Even though unshelled sunflower seeds still take a little longer for Mika to crack and eat than I’d like, it seems like the best training treat option for her. I might even try shelled sunflower seeds if it appears that it takes her too long to shell them herself.
So I think we’ve finally overcome the hurdle to the very first step of clicker training: finding an appropriate treat.
We’ve started on the second step of clicker training: charging the clicker. This is where we introduce the parrot to the concept that click –> treat.
Once that’s established we work on teaching that trick –> click –> treat (i.e. that specific behavior –> reward)
I actually never charged the clicker with Stewie — we just started on tricks right away; to tell the truth, I’m not sure he even gets the whole concept of the clicker — but he certainly “gets” training. For some reason it just seems like Mika requires more introduction to the concept and the clicker might be necessary for marking the desired behavior more precisely since she does react more slowly than he does.
Here’s a video of me charging the clicker with Mika and asking for step ups:
At the end of this session, right after this video ended, I tried introducing the target stick, but she just ran away from it, so I’m saving targeting for a separate training session.
Since I haven’t really done any training with Mika, there aren’t a lot of videos of her. So if you’re wondering why there are quite a few of the Stu-monster and so few movies of my pionus, that’s why. I promise it’s not one of those no-one-takes-photos-of-the-second child things 🙂 I’ll take more videos once she knows how to do some tricks, and I’ve asked my videographer friend who did the cute Introducing Stewie video to make one of Mika as well. With her looks, there’s no reason she can’t be a movie star too.
Update: July 31
Only our second training session ever and she already seems to get targeting. She’s even taking a few steps towards the target on her own. Hurray!