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Old 12-06-2017, 05:58 PM
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I now have a young Hahn's macaw. I used to have a Pacific Parrotlet that lived until almost 15. Before that I had a budgie.
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Making him "step up"

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My husband and I adopted our Hahn's macaw (mini macaw) a few months ago. They told us he was 5 months old, which the avian vet later said made him still "a baby". There was about a week or two before we took him for his initial avian vet check-up where he seemed to know and obey the "step up" command, but starting just after the avian vet visit, which seemed to sort of traumatize him (the blood test) he stopped "stepping up" on command. We thought he just needed to get past that, but unfortunately he got a mini feather jammed under his eye lid and it swelled up so we had to take him to the avian vet again. The feather caused a little ulcer on his eye, so we had to give him an eye drop 4X/day for 10 days. He HATED it and became a bit wary of us, but when we'd force him to be on or with us he'd be fine.

It's been a good month since the eye drops were stopped. The first week off he had to stay with my brother when my husband and I went on vacation for a week. Since he's been back with us he's still not obedient to the "step up" command. My husband gets mad at me for not training him back into it. I'm home all day with my bird boy. I have tried with treats and patience, but it doesn't always work. He will step up when he WANTS to, though almost never from within his cage or on top of his cage. When he is with us, however, he does poop on demand over white paper, unless he really doesn't have to go.

My bird boy can be very affectionate and often even loves when we pet, kiss, tease, and caress him. He's definitely not afraid of my husband or I! We're always sweet and gentle with him, other than when we need to grab him (gently prying his feet and/or beak from the cage spokes) in place of "step up" or to force him back into his cage when he doesn't want to. Sometimes he'll also be on us and give us trouble getting him off of us. Other times, he complies. Again, the treat incentive doesn't seem to cut the mustard. He has a mind of his own. He's more apt to "step up" from his play gym, which he can get to himself from his cage. So I usually just let him go there on his own after opening his cage, and then get him. Occasionally he'll get to the floor on his own (his wings were clipped) and then he complies with "step up" or even makes his way up to the bed on his own to join me (I spend a lot of time on my bed with my laptop).

He's sometimes a bit of an imp and gets into mischief. I know that's just parrot behavior. I know that that type of behavior can't be trained away, but I know that "step up" should be learned once and for all. My old Pacific Parrotlet who lived until 15 years old always obeyed the "step up" even when he was still so young that he didn't want us to touch his body. How can get my macaw to relearn it? I think it's crucial that he do before his flight feathers grow in. Help!!!!!!

As an aside, he makes all kinds of crazy noises, including meows like a cat, but the only English words he speaks are, coincidentally, "Step up!" What a jerk!

Last edited by Cthebird; 12-06-2017 at 06:26 PM.
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Old 12-06-2017, 06:26 PM
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Re: Making him "step up"

My almost 4-month old only does it when she wants to, as well. Like you I have to sort of gently scoop her up when it's cage time (and oh boy when it's bedtime does she kick up a stink!)

She's still eating mashed veg so she shows no interest in treats at all. The only reinforcer I have found so far is praise and snuggles.

So what I do:

* When she does step up when asked, make a big fuss
* I try and time the "step up" cue when I know she's more likely to (e.g when she wants to already come onto me)
* If she's interested in an object/toy/bowl of mash, use that as a lure to get her to step up, and then provide the object of interest as a reward
* Try and limit the forced step ups - if it's not urgent that she step up and she ignores after 2 attempts, I walk away.

I have my fingers crossed that she starts becoming interested in real treats soon - it'll make my life soooo much easier.

Hope this helps!
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Old 12-06-2017, 06:41 PM
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Re: Making him "step up"

Hmmm, lots of words that assume that Parrots understand Human Language and very few that would imply that the Humans understand Parrot.

Consider starting from point zero! i.e., all over again, as if you and your MAC have never, ever had any history with each other! It's day one at your house! This includes basic relationship and trust development.

Start back though the MAC section targeting anything from Birdman666 either as a Thread or his Posts!

Remember:

It is NEVER the fault of the Parrot!
It is ALWAYS the fault of the Human!

When you change your vantage point from Human Centered to Parrot Centered you will far more quickly determine what you are doing wrong and correct it!
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Old 12-06-2017, 07:17 PM
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I now have a young Hahn's macaw. I used to have a Pacific Parrotlet that lived until almost 15. Before that I had a budgie.
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Re: Making him "step up"

Thank you, both, for the tips. I'll look for the Birdman666 posts. I guess I can't compare my Hahn's macaw to my Pacific Parrotlet. Different birds!
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Old 12-07-2017, 01:19 AM
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Re: Making him "step up"

Some issues I see....

"obey"
"force"
"obedient"
"command"
"caress"
"need"
"grab"
"once and for all"


I'd say that with your training techniques, even if he knows the step up command and "obeys" it, you will never be able to allow him to be flighted because he may choose to avoid you and bite... which in turn will result in you clipping his wings because you cannot control him.


To me, it sounds like the vet visits and medications have made him wary of hands, and he hasn't gotten over that. By trying to force the behavior and make him obey, he may very well start seeing him bite (if he isn't already) and the bites may become worse and even unpredictable. He may also become aggressive near or on his cage.


I agree in that you need to take a step back and try starting from square one. However, I do not agree with the methods that are being recommended.


Training should be a two way communication. He doesn't want to step up right now? Okay, fine, he doesn't have to step up! It may suck, but just give him some ambient attention! You can always ask again in a few!

Maybe what you think are rewards aren't really that rewarding. If you were to ask a child if they would want a steak or an ice cream, 90% or so of the time, they are going to say ice cream! You ask me that same question, and hands down, it will be a steak! A well cooked (as in, not overcooked!) juicy, flavorful steak! Someone else may just be happy with a bowl of fruits!

My point is, if he's not too keen on those treats, maybe he's not really that crazy about them anyway and you need to find a better treat to use as a reward.


Likewise, maybe you are asking too much too soon. This is what step up training should look like (give or take *multiple* repetitions of each step)
  1. Reward your bird for looking at you.
  2. Reward your bird for moving his head towards you.
  3. Reward your bird for taking a step towards you.
  4. Reward your bird for taking another step towards you.
  5. If he doesn't run away, keep rewarding him for remaining where he's at. (if he runs/backs off, you may need to start over again)
  6. Reward your bird for taking a couple more steps closer.
  7. Encourage him to come closer yet again and reward him.
  8. Reward your bird for touching you with his toe(s).
  9. Reward your bird for putting a foot on you.
  10. *JACKPOT REWARD* Give your bird lots of goodies for putting both feet on you!



We want our birds to do the things we want them to because the birds want to do them! This would result in happier bird, happier human. If the bird does the behavior because it *has* to, then it's not necessarily happier bird, which could result in a not so happy human.


In other words, we don't want to have to chase a parrot around because they don't want to step up, we don't want a parrot that feels the need to bite when we present our hand for the step up. What we want is a bird that is eager to step up and may even lift their foot in anticipation of stepping up before even being asked! The mentality is *hugely* different!



The word caress is something I am a bit concerned about... do you mean petting of the head only? Or petting of the entire body which could result in an overdrive of sexual hormones?

Unless there's an emergency or it's a *must* (i.e. vet visit), you should never grab your parrot in any way that would make them feel uncomfortable.


And the phrase "once and for all". Birds can, and do, "forget" how to do behaviors. If a behavior is not rewarded on any amount of intervals, then a behavior can become "unlearned" and will therefore need to be retaught. If a bird has already learned a behavior in a positive manner, then it may be quite easy for them to re-learn that behavior.
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Last edited by MonicaMc; 12-07-2017 at 01:22 AM.
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Old 12-07-2017, 08:45 AM
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Re: Making him "step up"

As you say, you've had some really good responses. Lots of details and everyone on the same page, which is always helpful! I think the responses so far are excellent.

I have a couple of other comments to make. I'm not sure "stepping up" in a vet's office should be thought of as proof he understands the command. Possibly he was scared, at least unsure and something was put in front of him that would allow him to get higher (safer) so he climbed onto it while someone said "step up". So potentially he hasn't forgotten/unlearned/started to disobey anything! - Tell your husband to stop telling you off!

The second thing is me just wondering why you need to or want to " get him" just after you've let him out? Sounds like he can play on his cage and playstand independently. Also sounds like he likes being with you. I'd wait until he wants to be with you and then offer a way to you "step up". Being with you can be the reward.

...ok, it was 3 things!...I can't recommend target training enough! It's another way to get the same results as step up i.e. you're able to move your bird when he needs to move, but it's a completely different method.

Good luck!

Edit: Just re-read and realised the step us wasn't in the vet office, but before. If so, what did you use as a reward? If you didn't use one he may just have stopped the behaviour because it takes him away from what he likes (his cage) and he doesn't even get anything nice for it!

Last edited by Jottlebot; 12-07-2017 at 08:48 AM.
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Old 12-07-2017, 09:15 AM
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Re: Making him "step up"

Monica has a great method described for you regarding steps 1-10. Here is a video I made on what that process looks like from the very first session, how exactly you are supposed to implement it. this is for target training. But switch “target” for “step up”. The method is identical because in Monica’s method, step up is a form of target training. The bird is targeting your hand with their foot rather than a stick with the beak.

Start around 6:25. The first half of the video is about how to begin clicker training.


Last edited by chris-md; 12-07-2017 at 09:18 AM.
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Old 12-07-2017, 09:47 AM
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Re: Making him "step up"

the trick to it is making him want to step up instead of forcing it. Remember he's very unsure right now after a hard few weeks where in his mind he was being attacked every day.

100% agree with resetting the relationship. Let him understand you're not going to hurt him, then work on the target training and of course make him want to step up. Normally a sunflower seed is a good bribe, just forego your wants right now. Try using perches as well for now to teach step up to make things a bit easier, especially for getting in and out the cage. Every time you grab him to put him back in you lose more of his trust and he could very well take to attacking you.

Always remember that a parrot does not obey us, we obey them
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Old 12-07-2017, 03:07 PM
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I now have a young Hahn's macaw. I used to have a Pacific Parrotlet that lived until almost 15. Before that I had a budgie.
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Re: Making him "step up"

Chris-md, thanks so much for including the helpful video. I watched the whole thing starting at the 6 min point you mentioned. It certainly demonstrated Monica's helpful and thorough suggestions.

Lord Triggs and Jottlebot, I appreciate your tips, as well.

Monica, the words you quoted were my words, I'll admit it, but I am not a monster parrot mother. My choice of words may not have been good, but my hopes and intentions are. My Hahn's has never bitten me (he has bitten my husband), nor is he afraid of me or my husband really. His reluctance NOW seems to be more him not feeling like stepping up than anything. It seemed to be the case that his reluctance when we were giving him eye drops was because he dreaded it. Some kind of unfortunate Classical Conditioning. Giving eye drops to a bird is not a pleasant or easy task, but we HAD to do it to ensure his eye healed. Usually we had to towel him when we did it. I'm very glad that is over and his eye is fine.

Why my bird boy did "step up" more willingly for the first 1.5/2 weeks, I don't know. Perhaps the caretakers worked with him and we didn't continue working with him the same way with the same treats, so he stopped. Or maybe it was to do with fear of what the avian vet did to him and the eye drops.

My Hahn's gets plenty of time out of cage on his own (within about 6 feet of me in the room) on his cage and play gym. He has plenty to do and lots of toys, and I feed him organic fruits and veggies in addition to the vet recommended foods. He comes and goes to his cage freely, unless I must leave the house. Then I really do want him in his cage for safety purposes. It's true that my husband and I do sometimes want that he comes to us and play at certain times. My husband has limited hours at home. It is not to necessarily "obey", but to recognize our desire to spend time closer to him, to play with him, to let him know we love him.

I rarely touch his stomach. The only time I do is when he is on me and rolls over onto his back. I confess that then I've rubbed and kissed his tummy. I guess I shouldn't. I do so because it looks like that is what he wants. It's more play than anything. If that would be problematic (sexually), I'll stop. What types of affection are recommended? Because I do want to show my Hahn's affection. He clearly likes affection.

I have to say that my old Pacific Parrotlet was easier to work with "train" (in a good sense). I know they are different birds. Like everyone, there is a learning curve when you adopt different pets into your home.

Last edited by Cthebird; 12-07-2017 at 03:53 PM.
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Old 12-07-2017, 10:41 PM
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Re: Making him "step up"

Quote: Originally Posted by Cthebird View Post
Monica, the words you quoted were my words, I'll admit it, but I am not a monster parrot mother.
I do not believe, for even a second, that you are a "monster parrot mother"! Rather, you, like so many other people (and myself in the past) are thinking about all this the wrong way.

Rather than forcing the behavior, we need to teach it. When I first got into birds, there was always "one way" in which you worked with birds... you clipped their wings, forced them out of their cage, took them into another room or a bathroom, forced them to do step ups repeatedly (aka "laddering") and ignored them biting. If they did bite, you could use methods such as 'earthquake', shouting at them, ignoring them, or any other form of punishment.

I eventually started learning that there are better ways. Instead of forcing the behavior, we "ask" them to, by teaching them how to do the behavior in the first place. Instead of training away from the cage, start *AT* the cage. This can prevent unwanted aggression while the bird is near their cage! Try to avoid bites. (I know! easier said than done!) If you do get bit, put the bird down (i.e. get them off you gently!) and take a moment to think of how you could prevent that in the future. What could you do differently?

He honestly doesn't sound like a problematic bird at all! And hopefully, that continues to be the case!



Quote: Originally Posted by Cthebird View Post
Why my bird boy did "step up" more willingly for the first 1.5/2 weeks, I don't know. Perhaps the caretakers worked with him and we didn't continue working with him the same way with the same treats, so he stopped. Or maybe it was to do with fear of what the avian vet did to him and the eye drops.
The biggest cause is probably having to be vetted and medicated which resulted in him being cautious of hands. I mean, it sounds like he was fine doing the behavior before (and many birds are when they first come home!), but something made him change his mind.

Many new birds often may step up just fine within the first day or first several days, then all of a sudden their behavior changes. Some people call this the "honeymoon" phase, but it's really more along the lines of a bird who is uncomfortable and doesn't know how to react. Once they start getting used to their environment, they start trying to communicate their likes and dislikes - which often results in biting.

It doesn't sound like this was ever an issue with your hahns. It doesn't sound like you mishandled him in any way that would result in his behavior changing - except for the vet visit and medications! Which, btw, can be trained! Animals can be trained to be calm during a vet visit. They can be trained to take medications willingly, even if the meds taste nasty! They can be trained to get injections without restraint.

Obviously, being a new bird and having these issues from the get go, training would be the last thought on your mind, I'm sure! But something to perhaps consider for future visits! (if it's ever a behavior[s] you'd ever be interested in training, that is!)



Quote: Originally Posted by Cthebird View Post
It is not to necessarily "obey", but to recognize our desire to spend time closer to him, to play with him, to let him know we love him.
I've "been there" with new birds before, and I know how difficult it is to restrain oneself. I once adopted a conure a few years ago that so badly wanted human interaction, but was afraid of it at the same time. The best thing I did for her was to "listen" to her. If I had no reason to remove her from her cage, then I didn't. If I wanted to spend time "with" her, I just moved her cage into another room. (not a tiny cage by any means! but also not overly huge!) This way, she could be with me without having to be away from her safety blanket - the cage. I then started putting a perch on the outside of the cage, so she could come and hang out next to me, but again, not having to leave her cage. When she finally decided to leave her cage and climb onto me, it took her a lot of guts! (and about 2 weeks after having adopted her - her foster mother never got that far with her in 6 months! and her foster mother was more "her" type than I ever was!) She kept changing her mind, freaking out and scurrying away, only to climb back down. But she was the happiest little bird once she did it! After that, it was just a matter of 'listening' to her. She'd climb onto me from her cage, but any time she became nervous and looked for her cage, I always took her back. At first, she wouldn't come back out after going back to her cage, but very quickly, it was just a matter of touching her cage, then she was ready to climb back on me! Then, I became her safety blanket. Instead of searching for her cage, she searched for me!


Quote: Originally Posted by Cthebird View Post
I rarely touch his stomach. The only time I do is when he is on me and rolls over onto his back. I confess that then I've rubbed and kissed his tummy. I guess I shouldn't. I do so because it looks like that is what he wants. It's more play than anything. If that would be problematic (sexually), I'll stop. What types of affection are recommended? Because I do want to show my Hahn's affection. He clearly likes affection.
That kind of interaction doesn't sound bad! Unless of course, you notice some less than undesirable behaviors!!!

I was imagining caressing as in petting down his back, petting his tail, under his wings... that kind of thing that, although as a baby may be fine, could be a big no no as an adult!





In all honesty, he sounds like a charming little macaw! Really, he does! And he's just a little scared due to what he had to go through, so he just needs to re-learn to trust you all over again! And with a little guidance, he'll be a great life long companion!
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