Avoiding aggression while target training (Eclectus)

WingDing

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Nanday Conure
I've had plenty of trouble target training our eclectus, Toby. Within a few repetitions, he gets worked up and growls after he gets the treat. When he does, I say "no" and put the training stick and treats away. No more treats for a while. After a 5 minute break, I come back and try again. That has worked for the past week. He would stop his growling and aggressive maneuvers (bobbing his head, marching back and forth). Then I give him about 3 reps and end the training before he has a chance to start the undesired behavior.

That routine has worked for the past week, but now he is back to being aggressive right from the start. He touches the stick without biting, he snatches the almond from my fingers but then growls, bobs his head and tries to scare my hand away.

Any thoughts about a strategy for this?

I should mention that he's been pretty hormonal the last few weeks. That may have a lot, maybe everything, to do with it. But we haven't been training since last fall when the hormones flared. He was a bit of a terror last year and I still have PTSD (Parrot Terror Stress Disorder).
 
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WingDing

WingDing

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Are you able to get video of one of these training sessions?

As an EE, I'm not really technically challenged, but I've never participated in any social media. It would be a little bit of a little learning curve to get video up. I'll give it a go this weekend when I have some time.

Also, Toby is being crazy hormonal: marching back and forth on his play stand for hours, arguing with and headbutting some of his toys, and trying to mate with others. I've been stuffing his foraging toys with veggie treats hoping he will be occupied with foraging instead of acting like an idiot. It seems to help a little bit.

Training sessions are kind of futile right now I think. I'm going to try a little bit everyday and put on the brakes when he acts up. Hopefully there will be a breakthrough when the hormones die down.

Any ideas are appreciated.
 
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WingDing

WingDing

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Ok so we just did 3 reps with no aggression perceived by me. I ended it there. I'll come back and try again later.

[Edit] Now, a couple of minutes later, the funny little bird is whining and begging behind my back for more treats. He did that yesterday but growled when I did another repetition. I think I'll stick with the strategy or keeping our sessions very short to avoid the "bad" behavior. I showed him my empty hands and said "no more for now" so he muggt get the message. He is such a smart little bird, but trouble at the same time. I often wonder, who is training who?
 
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WingDing

WingDing

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We've had some interesting developments. I've been conducting the training with an assertive stance, taking the upper hand. Praising his good behavior, telling him a solid "no sir" if there is a hint of him showing aggression. Most of the time, his attitude flips in an instant. So in a couple of days, Toby has done no growling. There's been a little "marching" and head movements that I perceive as the beginning of aggression. As soon as I see that stuff, I draw the line and say " no sir".

I'm going to try to key in on those little things he does when he is heading towards aggression. What a learning experience for me.
 
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WingDing

WingDing

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3 month update:
Toby and I are doing so well. Here are some my learnings:

1) Don't expect much, if anything, from training if the bird has raging hormones. Our training sessions always ended quickly in failure when his hormones were raging. I still tried to engage in training, but I quickly backed off if I could see that his hormones interfered with his reasoning. Still, I think that removing the treats when he started getting aggressive had a positive impact later down the road.

2) Toby had to learn that as soon as he showed aggressive behavior, the treats were gone. As soon as he growled or even bobbed his head, I said "nope" in a deep voice and marched out of the room. I always came back 10 or 20 minutes after a bad session and tried to end on a good note.

3) Since he had a fear of hands, I started holding my hand out longer and longer each time I gave him treats. My thinking was that as he was enjoying the treats in the presence of my hand, he would associate my hand with good things. After weeks of holding out my hand this way, he does not pin his eyes with that little aggressive scowl anymore when he sees my hands.

4) There is so much subtle body movement going on between Toby and I during our training sessions that it is hard to describe. I know when the exact moment when he is ready for another repetition and he knows what I am about to do. We learn from each other every day.

And so, a few months ago I didn't know if I could handle this bird in my life anymore, and now we are really getting along. Yeah, we have a very successful relationship with a lot of ups and a few downs here and there.

I remind myself daily to enjoy the seasons of life. This year, pandemic and all, has been a very good season with Toby The Eclectus. (As I say that, he is in the background trying to mate with one of his toys, saying "Come on, step up, gooood bird, it's good!". It bugs the heck out of me. Oh well, he is a wild animal after all.)
 

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