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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

I'm having a little problem I don't know how to approach, and I hope I'll be able to hear from members who are experienced with training.

I have 2 budgies since they were very young, they're tamed and trained and can do all kind of tricks, none of which has any fetching. They don't understand the concept of picking up something and dropping it on purpose. All they can do is barely picking an object and dropping it right away or throwing it haphazardly. They don't keep an object in beak for more than a split-second. I try to catch the object when they drop it or throw it and when I do, I give treats and no treats when the object doesn't land in my hand. Sometimes I simulate the process in front of them by both hands, one hand acting like a beak and the object lands in the other, then I give treats after each time I do that.

Generally they pick up pretty quickly on whatever trick they need to do in order to get treats, they even perfected some tricks in one single session, except for this fetching concept, I don't seem to be making any progress with it, and as you know they have little patience when they don't get their treats
:D
I don't try to push them to do it, but whenever I try with different ideas as a part of any session to make them understand what fetching is, they get frustrated even if I reward the slightest progress with fetching.

I would be grateful for your tips or your sharing of similar experiences.

Thank you
 

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One thing that's important to remember is that training animals, when done correctly, builds on the skills the animal naturally has or uses in the wild. Psittacines (parrots) have high beak dexterity, are excellent climbers and fliers, and know how to solve puzzles and memorize colors and locations to find food, and are in general very smart. It's hard to teach parrots to fetch because they don't have any innate resonance with that skill, unlike dogs. That's not to say it's impossible, but it's not as easily learned as other tricks. If you want to teach fetching, I think you should approach it from a different angle. Parrots are great at associative learning. The action of "fetching" could be a bit too vague of a concept to teach since they will not naturally know to bring back an object and, and as you have seen they will become frustrated and distracted easily, especially since you are also frustrated.

What I would try is this: build on the "fetch" action by breaking it into target training exercises. Parrots are great at target training or "clicker" training, and if you break down the action of "fetching" into separate clicker exercises I think it's the best bet for training.

For example:

Teach step 1 of "fetch" by teaching the bird to tap a target (in this example, let's say a little plastic lid or container, make sure the bird can comfortably reach in and out). Tap the target and when the bird taps the target, click and then offer a treat. Once that step is learned, move onto step 2.

Teach step 2 of "fetch" by now teaching the bird to place the stick in the target container. Offer the stick while next to the "target" and teach them to put it in the container. Once this is accomplished, offer the stick from increased distances.

Teach step 3 of "fetch": Now introduce the command word "fetch". Teach the bird to remove the stick from the bucket when you say "fetch" with a click and a treat after retrieval. This builds on instinctual behaviors that birds already use (i.e removing something from somewhere). As the behavior and command is learned, gradually increase the distance between the target and the bird until they can reliably run over and take it out of the bucket when you say "fetch". When this behavior is learned, remove the bin or container and keep the familiar stick or other small toy and move to step 4.

Teach step 4 of "fetch" by removing the bin and having them pick up the stick when you say "fetch". Since this will be unfamiliar without the action of "taking out", this may take some time to learn. Following pick up of the stick, very slightly delay reward until after you have encouraged them to take a few steps forward toward your hand. This part will probably go very slowly. By gradually increasing the time between stick retrieval and reward, you should be able to coax them to come to you with the stick before getting a reward.

There are a few variations on this method you can use, and of course it depends on the individual bird how well they learn certain things, but this is just an approach I would try. Do you currently use clicker training to teach them new tricks?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you StarlingWings for you insight.

That's exactly what I was trying to do, breaking the process into small simple tasks, but the target container method you suggested never crossed my mind, it sounds logical and worth trying, I'll start doing that slowly with them and see how it goes. Thank you for your detailed tips.

Do you currently use clicker training to teach them new tricks?
I used a clicker when I first started training them, only to find out shortly after that they don't need it, they seemed to rely more on my voice tone, the words I say when they do something right, and the amount of treats I give them. They have about 12 tricks under their belt now, and learned only 2 of them or so with a clicker. I'll see if I should use a clicker again with this more complex task.
 
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