Target Training – Teaching your Parrot how to Learn

Target Stick Image

Target Training, now that we understand how to use our “Bridge” to mark the moment our parrot performs a behaviour that we want to see increase, the next step is to start training our first “prop” behaviour! Now I strongly recommend that the first behaviour you teach is a “prop” behaviour or you may run into problems when you are first starting out as a trainer.

The reason I say this, is that, if for example you teach a “wave” or a “turn around” first and then when you start to train new more complicated behaviours your bird may start just offering this behaviour all the time as it learned to earn a reward for doing it. Then when it does not get the reward it used to it will get very frustrated.

By teaching a “prop” behaviour first, like “Target Training”, your parrot will not be able to do this behaviour unless you present the target stick, a subtle but powerful difference!

So to teach target training, we begin by presenting the target stick to the bird. At first you may have to shape the behaviour (we will cover shaping in more detail in its own blog soon) eg bridging with “GOOD” for the bird looking at the target stick as it is presented and then for the bird touching the target stick with its beak which is the idea we are after.

After a few short repetitions the bird will soon get the idea that it has to touch the end of the target stick with its beak to earn the reward i.e. “if” the bird touches the target stick with its beak (Behaviour) THEN it earns the treat (Consequence)

I believe Target Training is the most important behaviour for you to teach your bird, it is the start of the process of “Teaching your Parrot how to LEARN”

When the bird learns to follow the target stick to earn its treat reward we can very clearly see that you have opened up a line of communication.

I always start every training session I do with Target Training, regardless of the experience of the bird, as it says to both the bird and myself that Parrot Training School is now in session, time to get to work!

I also use Target Training as my fall back or default technique. What I mean by this is that with Positive Reinforcement Training our goal is to deliver as many treat rewards in a session as possible as this means we are getting the desired behaviour. However should we be training a new or complex behaviour, our bird may become frustrated at some point if they can’t quite figure out what we are asking of them. In this situation I can bring out the target stick and do a bit of Target Training and immediately get back into positive mode by getting the bird to target and then earn a treat. By doing this Target Training we are able to keep the session very positive and then try the more complex behaviour again.

Target Traing is also a great technique to use to get your parrot to move around their cage or room for that matter, as they have learnt that by following the target stick they will earn a treat.

Target Training is therefore the perfect way to start training and taming a completely wild bird or one that can’t be handled as you can do it all with the bird still in its cage!

Have a watch of the video on this link where I show you how I use my target stick and also how I make them!  Enjoy!


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