Training My Cockatoo to “Give Kisses”

I absolutely love the videos of Marnie (Thanks, Jenevie!), the blue Indian Ringneck parrot that gives kisses to all the stuffed animals and says, “You’re just so cute!”  It’s a common saying in our household if we ever call one of our birds cute, we follow it up with, “You’re just so cute!” on our best Marley-voice.  For whatever reason I’ve been thinking about those videos a lot lately and listening to Bandit backstage. When he’s asking for a treat, he does so with giving the kiss AND saying “I love you” because originally the cue for him to say “I love you” was me giving him the kiss... but if he gives the kiss then he thinks he’s given himself the cue. It’s pretty cute, actually.  Sometimes he goes off on tangents backstage making kissing noises that get longer and longer and juicer and juicer...!   It all gave me the idea to put his kissing on cue so I started working on it really casually for the last week. I’ll say, “Can you give me a kiss?” or “Can you give me kisses?” and I lean in and let him lean wayyyy in to give me a kiss too and I wait.   In the beginning I would lean in, let him lean in and I’d make the kissing noise after saying “Can you give me a kiss?” but soon I was leaning in, he was leaning in and I was waiting for him to make the first move. It didn’t take him long to catch on that he would make that kissy noise because in his mind that’s what was supposed to come next.  

The better the kiss, the better the reward and more praise that came.   And I didn’t use a clicker for this because Bandit already understands training and honestly, it was unplanned training so I never had a clicker on me to use. Sometimes you can get away with not using a clicker or bridge, I just used the treat - but for future training to get it more precise I’ll likely use a clicker again when I have a set training plan and it isn’t wingin’ it.

Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.

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