Training Parrots

Fireworks Parrot Training

Many parrot and other pet owners have rather mixed feelings when it comes to new year’s and other public celebrations. Of course any party is great. But fireworks can be really scary to our beloved animals. They could be stressed or even injure themselves in panic. Fireworks parrot training is the solution.

Introduction

Parrots are prey animals and therefore prone to flight, if scared. Panic flights as a response to sudden noises are not uncommon and the birds may injure themselves significantly when crashing into things. Clipped birds often respond by jumping from their perches in fear and also can terribly hurt themselves.

Unfortunately, the birds’ owners often aggravate the problem. They tend to want to soothe the animal, console it and worry about it. Rather than calming it down, this tends to confirms to the animal that the situation is indeed dangerous and warrants full panic. Even animals who normally would not be afraid, can thus be inadvertently trained to be fearful. Unknowingly, the owners are achieving the opposite of what they intended. Effective fireworks training should, therefore, not only encompass training for the animals, but also give behaviour guidance to the owners.

What is fireworks training?

Fireworks Training for Parrots and Other PetsThe objective of fireworks training is to gradually get your animals used to increasingly loud and startling noises.
Clickertrainers may have seen this in action already when conditioning frightful birds to the clicker, as some of them are initially afraid of the clicker’s sound. To circumvent this, the clicker’s sound is dampened, until the bird has understood the connection between click and treat, thus losing its fear.

We use the same principle for fireworks training. The animals are familiarized with typical fireworks sound that are gradually increased in loudness by connecting these sounds to treats. For best training results, these sounds should be as close to the real thing as possible. Thanks to Paul, we are able to give to you some training sound files with typical fireworks sounds:

Training sound files

Fireworks: Roman light and shells by Paul White (1:49)
Mixed fireworks by Paul White (2:03)

Training

Training will be easiest to accomplish, if you are already clicker training with your birds. Animals who have learned to learn and seek guidance from their trainer, are good students. And, of course, clicker trainers themselves know how to instruct their animals most effectively. Even without the advantages of prior clicker training, you can be successful at fireworks training. I think that it is by far to important to not at least try. However, in that case you should allow some extra time and patience to reach your training goal.

Non-clicker-trainers will simply reward without using a clicker during training. Please pay attention not to flood your birds with your comments, encouragement etc. This kind of eloquence tends to inhibit training. Your birds need the space to think and draw conclusions. Verbal hemorrhage will only distract him unneccessarily.

As he is not used to training he will likely need some extra time anyways to understand what is going on. In addition, fireworks training is more for advanced students. Thus, clicker traininers have an advantage here. but, try to make the best of it. Every little bit of fear you can reduce via training before the big evening will help your bird making fireworks training definitely worthwhile.

Last, but not least, the training should not be carried out in one go. Spread it out over as many days as needed. Training sessions should be short. You objective is, to make training as easy as possible for your pets. Do not overtax them by marathon training sessions. Pay close attention to your birds, always stop training when it is the most fun and end it with a jackpot reward.

Step 1: Volume very low

Begin the training by setting the volume on your computer speakers to really low. Then start the first sound file. At a very low setting your parrots should be able to handle the noise well and show little, if any fear. If you have several birds or pets, the most sensitive one should be your indicator.

The duration of the sound should initially be very short. One second is fully sufficient. We will train longer play times at a later training stage.

The calm demeanor of the bird during the sort playing of the sound file at a very low volume is rewarded with a click and treat.

Attention: Be patient! Progress in tiny steps. Do not play the sound at a length or a volume at which the bird shows an averse reaction. Because then you would be rewarding exactly this reaction which is totally counterproductive to your training purpose and would set you back. as always in training, you will achieve results much faster with many tiny steps than by being impatient and trying to take steps which are too large for your student.

If the bird is already at the lowest setting and at extremely short time intervals, you will need to dampen the sound even further, e.g. by placing a towel over the speakers or by playing the sound file from another room. Be creative and help your bird be successful in his training. 😉

Step 2: Gradually increase the volume

If your bird tolerates the initialy sound volume and duration well, the next step is to slightly increase the volume. Again, it should be low enough that your bird is not showing any fear or stress reaction. The playing duration should be, as before, one second. This, too, is rewarded with a click and treat.

Repeat this step as often, as needed, until your birds are fully relaxed at this volume. Only then may you increase the volume slightly, again.

Keep repeating step two, until your pets tolerate the sound file at full volume for one second.
Attention:The volume increase for all the iterations of step two must always be small enough that your parrots are never stressed or fearful.

Step 3: Gradually increase the duration

Once you have reached maximum volume by repeating Step two in many small volum eincrements, it is time to start increasing the length of time the sound file is played. Increase the duration from one to two, then three seconds and so forth. Each step is, as before, rewarded with a click and treat. Again, proceed slowly. Remain at each duration level for as long as needed, until your birds are fully relaxed. Pay attention to not stress or overtax your bird.

The goal of your training is to play both sound files at full volume completely repeatedly without your brids showing any adverse reaction. If you know the duration of fireworks as they are usually performed in your location that is the duration you should achieve to accomplish in your training.

Transfer exercises

As the unfamiliar sounds of new year’s eve or other celebrations are not limited to the training sounds chosen, you must transfer the training to a multitude of other sounds. The procedure for training these other sounds is exactly as the one used for our sound files: start at lowest volume for a short duration and gradually increase. Please always keep in mind to be patient and not to overtax or stress your birds.

Various sounds may be found on the internet or you can make your own sound file with party sounds, crashing dishes, bells, whistles and whatever. If you’d like to share, I can post your sound files here for other pet owners to use. Just send me an email with the file to ann@annsworld.de.

Finally, once your bird has become a sound pro, you can play all the sounds mixed up, at the same time etc. etc. to train every conceivable combination for a super sound cool pet.

Human training

As I wrote at the outset, owners often contribute or even cause fear problems in their pets. I am sure that is not the kind of pet owner you want to be, right??? 😀

So, you need to learn to – believably – demonstrate to your parrots that potentially stressful situation are absolutely nothing to get worked up about. Fireworks training is a great starting point for this. The basic principle is that you curb your urge to comfort your animal when exposed to potential stressors. Rather, you need to react with enthusiasm. It helps using the same phrases and voice patterns that you use in positive situations, like when they are getting a special treat for having done something really well. For my birds I say enthusiastically “Ohhhh!!!!” or “I love you!!” or “High five!!!”

With these phrases and voice patterns you “appreciate” the sound and click and treat immediately thereafter. Make sure your enthusiasm sounds real. 🙂

Reality

Whether you want to close all shutters on New Year’s eve or rely on the efficacy of your sound training and make it a “special event” for your pets is, of course, totally up to you. I would like to suggest, though, to turn it into a flock event. For years now, I have been standing at midnight with my birds at the windows watching the fireworks. They comment with me each particularly loud or colorful display with “Ohhhhhh!!!!” “High five!!!!” and so forth. Newcomers to our flock are calmed right down by the “coolness” of the other flock members. As a result, all of my birds, as well as the dogs, do really well. Try it. Maybe this will turn into one of the most specials nights of the year for you and your flocks, too.

Having said all this, I would like to wish you and your feathered and non-feathered families wonderful holidays and a happy new year.

Ann.

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