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How Do I Teach my Parrot to Step Up?

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Question: How Do I Teach my Parrot to Step Up?
Answer: General Tips
  • Practice in short, frequent sessions
  • Use lots of positive reinforcement; never hit or scream at your bird.
  • Always end your training session on a positive note -- if your bird is struggling wait for a successful try, reward your bird lavishly, and move on to something else.
  • Once your bird has some practice, have all members of the family practice "step up" with your bird.
  • Once your bird has mastered the step up skill, practicing the step up in a relaxed and fun way is an excellent way to give lots of positive attention to your bird.

Teaching your Bird to Step Up

  1. Choose the command you will use. It doesn’t matter what word or phrase you use, but you must be consistent. Many owners just use “step up” or “up,” but you might prefer “come here,” “let’s go,” or something else.
  2. If your bird is not receptive, start training in a room out of sight of your bird’s cage. Less familiar surroundings are likely to improve cooperation.
  3. Pick a relaxed time with no distractions – a bird that is preening or eating is not going to be very receptive to training.
  4. Hold your finger (or wrist or handheld perch, whichever you are using) in front of the bird, level with the bird’s abdomen directly above the feet. Make sure you are close enough that it will be an easy step for your bird.
  5. Give the step up command.
  6. When your bird steps up, give him or her lots of praise (if your bird is reluctant, see the tips below). At the beginning, you can offer a favorite treat, but as your bird gets better at stepping up, decrease the frequency of treats so that eventually your bird will happily step up just for your praise.
  7. You can try repeating with the other hand, and many birds will keep on going finger to finger.
  8. Always end a training session on a positive note. If things aren’t going well, try to get one good success, give lots of praise, then stop for that session.
  9. Once your bird is doing well, you can move closer to the cage, eventually training the bird to step up from the top of the cage and then from inside the cage.

Potential Problems

  • Biting: your bird may put his/her beak on your finger, so don’t be startled. Birds naturally check the stability of new perches by testing them with their beaks and if you don’t allow this they may not be willing to step onto your finger. If your bird does bite, though, don’t shout or pull back; in a firm, deep voice say “no” and push your finger toward your bird. If your bird persists in trying to bite, use a hand held perch at first (don’t use gloves).
  • Not Stepping Up: if your bird is reluctant to step up, be patient at first as your bird may just be very unsure if you are a safe perch. After a while, very gently nudging the birds abdomen with your finger (or the handheld perch) may help get the bird to make that first step.
  • Running for Your Shoulder: try not to let you bird run up your arm once he or she has stepped onto your hand. If your bird does this, block him/her but putting your free hand in the way, and give the step up command again to get the bird onto your hand instead. Repeat as necessary, and if your bird is persistent, end the session with a good step up and try again later.
Related Video
Train a Bird to Step Up
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