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Old 12-26-2018, 08:39 AM
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IRN screaming behavior help

I have an approximately 5yo IRN named angel. I’ve had him for about four years and I’m his third home. His first home was a breeder and his second home couldn’t keep him after several months due to a disabled child. I say this because I don’t know if this is partly why he is so attached to me.

Basically my problem is we’lol be in the same room together and within sight and he’ll scream (piercingly) when I’m not always paying him attention or when I’m about to leave the room (ie back turned/ heading to the door). I don’t expect him to always be quiet but the screams are very annoying and consistent whenever I’m not around. I spend a lot of time with him hanging out and we’ve started having training sessions to increase his mental stimulation. He knows how to speak (kisses, “I love you angel”, “come here”...). Sometimes he says “come here” to get my attention and while it’s less annoying for sure he says it just as constantly when I’m not around and I’m not sure if it’s a solution since I can’t always give him the attention when he says it and then he just screams.

Whenever he screams I’ve not akbowledges him, kept my back turnednor continued to do what I am doing or walk out of the room. But often he just flies over to me from his cage and I feel like that makes it hard to discipline him. I’ve trimmed his wings once to help with this but he will still just fly to my shoulder.

I love my bird and I’m really just struggling on how to best reinforce his behavior to benefit us both.

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Old 12-27-2018, 11:16 AM
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Re: IRN screaming behavior help

Welcome to the community! It sounds like you have a very good relationship with your bird, and a strong bond with him, but it sounds like somewhere along the way you have reinforced his unwanted-behaviors when you're not paying direct-attention to him. You probably didn't knowingly do this, but somewhere along the way he's learned that constantly screaming for you to come back or to pay direct-attention to him works, and it either gets you to come back, or it gets you to talk to him while you're out of the room. So you need to start to put him in his cage whenever you don't want to take him into the room with you, just as you do when you leave the house, and then reinforce that his cage is a good place to be and the place he always goes when you are not with him by using a special "training treat" whenever you put him inside of it.

Something that often helps is actually telling your bird where you are going/what you are doing, and how long you'll be gone. You mentioned "disciplining" your bird, but that is totally the wrong attitude to have and approach to take, because punishment/discipline (Negative-Reinforcement) does not usually EVER work with parrots, they do not work like dogs and cats do. They use logic and reason, and if you try to discipline/punish them it usually backfires and makes the issue worse. Instead, you want to use Positive-Reinforcement (training treat) to get him to do the behavior you desire...Also very, very important is that you never want to use his cage as "punishment" or "discipline", as his cage is his territory in your home, it's his "safe-space" and he needs to always think of it that way and not as a place he's put when he does something wrong, but the place he goes when you aren't with him. So just like you put him in his cage when you leave the house, whenever you want to leave the room that he's in and you don't want him to follow, you simply have him step-up, tell him what you are doing, where you are going, and put him inside of his cage, GIVE HIM A TRAINING TREAT, and shut the door That way he knows that he's not being "punished", but rather it's just time for him to go in his cage and entertain himself for a while)...Then you specifically tell him how long you are going to be gone, and you leave the room. And you don't EVER come back into the room he's in while he's screaming for you.

It's okay to have a "Contact Call" that you use from another room to let him know where you're at and that you're okay, but not screaming...For example, if he's out of his cage and you're in the room with him, and you want to go into another room and get on the computer for a while, you have him step-up, you tell him "I'm going to go and get on the computer for a little while in the other room, so it's "cage-time" or "play-time", and then you put him inside of his cage. Then you give him a special training-treat, shut the door, and then say "I'll be back in one hour", and you then walk out of the room. They very quickly understand how long an hour is, or how long you're usually gone if you're "getting on the computer", and this brings them a sense of comfort after the figure it out, because they know what you're doing and how long you're going to be gone, instead of just thinking that you're leaving them and they don't know when you're coming back, or if you're coming back...After they figure out that being put in their cage is not a bad thing, and they figure out about how long you'll be gone, and they get that treat and know that they're being a good bird, then they will feel more and more secure and comforted, and as long as you have plenty of different toys and things for him to do inside his cage, he'll gradually start to entertain himself happily while you're somewhere else and out of sight.

This is also the same way to deal with the screaming when he can't see you. You do the exact same thing, and if he starts screaming for you after you put him in his cage, you simply cannot return to the room he's in until he stops screaming. Period. And actually being proactive about this and rewarding him by coming back into the room and with a training-treat when he does stop screaming will gradually teach him that "Hey, he comes back and I get a treat when I stop screaming"...But the minute you either come back into the room or start talking to him, or acknowledging him in any way at all while he's screaming for you, then you're inadvertently reinforcing the screaming. So it's all about using positive-reinforcement to get him to do what you want him to do, and never accidentally reinforcing the behavior you don't want.

As far as the "training-treat", it needs to be something special that he loves but that he only gets as a "training-treat" and never any other time. It might be a nut in the shell, like an Almond, or it might be a small piece of some kind of people-food that he likes. Either way you need to make it special for him to get.

That's basically it. You have to train yourself to just handle the screaming for the first week or two of training him this way and using "his territory" to be the place he goes and entertains himself whenever you're not in the room with him, or whenever you're not at home. Also, telling him where you are going and how long you are gone ANYTIME HE IS PUT INSIDE OF HIS CAGE, including whenever you leave the house, will further reinforce using his territory to achieve a wanted behavior and to eliminate any unwanted behavior. So in the morning you say "I'm going to work now, I'll be back later on this afternoon", then give him his training-treat and leave. And he'll soon know that when you go to work you won't be back until later in the afternoon, and he'll have a very good sense of when that is. So he'll learn to entertain himself for that amount of time...And whenever you get home you open up his cage, tell him he's a good boy, give him a training-treat, and then spend time with him...It's all about being very consistent with using his cage and telling him where you're going and when you'll be back, and reinforcing wanted behavior with the special training-treat.
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Old 01-26-2019, 05:22 AM
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Re: IRN screaming behavior help

Hi. I like your approach. Unfortunately, it does not work for me. I have a rescue baby, and now she is so attached to me. She doesn't stop screaming. I don't know what else to do.
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Old 01-26-2019, 07:07 AM
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Re: IRN screaming behavior help

At some random point in the day (when he is quiet etc), politely put him in his cage and do stuff in that room (turning your back at times) or around the house in general. He will inevitably scream to be let out and/or get your attention. When he does, let him scream and don't turn back around until he has been quiet for a solid 10 seconds...Alternately, if you are in the room when he starts screaming, walk out of the room and don't return until he is quiet for 10 seconds (the 2nd is my preference, because sitting with your back turned to a screaming bird is annoying). When the bird is quiet for a solid 10 seconds (minimum), walk up to it and say "thanks for getting quiet" (using a quiet voice/whisper yourself )--then attend to the bird all you want/give a treat etc unless screaming occurs, then leave again. Once he masters 10 seconds without difficulty, then extend the time to 15 or 20, then 1 minute etc etc.

I would put him in his cage before he screams so that you don't gratify the screaming by walking over to place him into his cage after it occurs. There are plenty of times in life where he will need to be in his cage (even if you are home)---just for safety etc. I normally have my bird out all day when I am around, but she has to accept the fact that I am not going to allow her to be out and about if something like a visiting dog poses a threat to her safety...or if I have to go take a shower and she is in a place where she could get into things, I am not going to trust that she won't so I will put her in her cage.

When you say he doesn't stop....how long have you waited? My cockatoo (I'm her 4th home) has screamed for upwards of 2 hours without a 10 second break...I didn't give in, and she tried that 3 times or so (much to my ears' dismay) before deciding it wasn't working. Then she would do it for 30 minutes non-stop, but with a 10 minute break, and over time, she did it less and less. She never screams at my house anymore----and if she does, it is out of excitement, not attention seeking. She does seem to revert back to screaming briefly in new environments when she wants my attention, but again, I do not indulge it (and it is a pain, but with enough consistency, you will be happier if you can be more stubborn than your bird). If I am going to be walking away and she isn't screaming, I tell her where I am going and what I am doing and I will sometimes talk to her from the other room so that she knows I am near, but the second she starts screaming or yelling (BACK BACK BACK, in her case), I stop responding and wait. I also tell everyone else in the house to avoid that room, avoid eye contact, and avoid mentioning her name, or "bird" lol! She knows when we are talking about her because she will listen.

Here is something that has worked for me in desperate times (and you cannot do it every time....only use occasionally):
***IF you are in a situation where you need your bird to get quiet right away but he hasn't stopped screaming (e.g., you left your glasses in the room and can't read without the), try standing behind a door frame and WITHOUT LETTING HIM SEE YOU AT ALL, silently toss something into the bird room (NOT AT HIM, but approximately 10 feet in front of his cage, within eye-shot of our bird-e.g., a small ball, a lego, a small toy etc)...DO NOT do this if it truly terrifies your bird, as that is not the goal. With mine, it startles/distracts her enough that it causes a natural pause in the screaming...If it lasts 10 seconds, then you can come back in and praise without ruining all of your progress.

I know that sounds harsh, but unless your bird is tearing out feathers etc, the screaming in and of itself isn't hurting the bird....so waiting it out is the only way to prove that it doesn't work...and it has to be ineffective every time. It is a slow process to undo a behavior that has been reinforced for so long.
In my opinion, this isn't contact calling if you are in his line of sight ---sounds more like attention seeking, and while there is a bit of an overlap, birds can be taught to do less of this.

Last edited by noodles123; 01-26-2019 at 07:48 AM.
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Old 01-27-2019, 10:23 AM
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Re: IRN screaming behavior help

Max does the same thing! If I’m not paying attention to him or leave the hall and go to my room (he can still see me there), he starts screaming. It’s gentle at first and if I continue to not respond, the louder shrieking starts. The shunning method never works with him.

What works for me (and I’m lucky) is just a response of “Maaax” in a hush hush way and he stops screaming immediately and will not repeat it. It’s like a contact call for him.

Does he have a playgym area? If he is busy playing, he won’t be screaming as much. If you’re gone for longer periods (20 - 30mins) from him, you could build a portable perch thing so you can take him with you?

My other bird, Honey, can be distracted for quite some time with toys. However, if no one is in the room for sometime, he chooses to fly over to whoever he sees closest rather than playing. Birds are flock creatures and constantly want attention.
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Old 01-27-2019, 11:02 AM
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Re: IRN screaming behavior help

The problem here is very simple and common...You immediately said "I like your approach but it doesn't work for me, because I have a rescue baby that is attached to me and he won't ever stop screaming"...The answer to this is exactly what Noodles asked you already..."How long have you waited for him to stop screaming"? An hour? Two hours? 6 hours?

Yes, I'm being serious...This approach WILL WORK FOR YOU, but at first it's going to be tough...This is a battle of wills, and so-far you've lost and your bird has won. He even has you thinking that he will NEVER stop screaming! This isn't true. The very first time that you are able to out-will him, where you just suck it up, put in some ear plugs,
and you wait for the screaming to stop, and when it does you go in and reward him,
you've won the battle-of-wills. But until you do this, your bird has won.


This is not anything uncommon, what you're going through...I've been doing behavioral-training and modification at an Avian Rescue for 8 years, so we're talking Umbrella and Moluccan Cockatoos that can break glass with their screaming...And yes, there have been birds who have spent their first day at the Rescue screaming from the moment they woke-up in the morning at sunrise, around 6:00 a.m. or so, until sunset around 8:00 p.m. And when the sun set and the bird stopped screaming, I went right in, got them out of their cage, verbally praised them, gave them a treat, and put them to bed. And the next day they did the same thing, but not until sunset, only until 4:00 p.m., when I immediately went in and again got them out, verbally praised them, and gave the a treat...And by the end of the first week the continual hours and hours of screaming has stopped...They are intelligent and they know what's going on. So it really is a battle of wills...

All i can say to you is that if nothing else you have tried has worked, then you're going to have to eventually suck it up and just outlast your bird...It's not fun, trust me I know (I don't get paid to work at the Rescue, lol)...But it works. And it's worth it, because it really doesn't take long for them to figure it out, and once they do then everything changes...But you have to be the stronger one that doesn't crack under the hours and hours of screaming...Battle of wills...
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Old 02-03-2019, 02:30 PM
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Re: IRN screaming behavior help

I have a 6-7 year old, he screams and I ignore him, is it working? Don't know yet, its just our second day together.

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Old 02-03-2019, 02:44 PM
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Re: IRN screaming behavior help

Quote: Originally Posted by RingneckLuv View Post
I have a 6-7 year old, he screams and I ignore him, is it working? Don't know yet, its just our second day together.

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Before a behavior improves, it often gets worse (it's called an extinction burst in ABA)...so if it doesn't seem to be working, the worst thing you can do is change your response...Now, if long term, it just keeps getting worse, then you may need to change your approach, but patience is key.

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