After stepping up, target training is the next step in the training process with your budgie. Once your budgie is target trained you can use this skill to teach them a variety of other tricks! All you need for target training is a target stick (you can even use a chopstick for this), a clicker (these can be found in pet shops, usually in the dog supplies aisle) and some millet or other training treat that your bird likes.
What you and your budgie need to know before teaching this trick
– Your budgie needs to be tame.
– You need to know the fundamentals of a succesful training session.
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Introducing the target stick
This can be an easy step that can be achieved in a single session, or it can take much longer, depending on your budgies level of fear. It all depends on your birds’ personality. Some budgies will instantly investigate the stick. If they touch the end of it with their beaks, you click using your clicker and reward them.
If your budgie is a bit timider by nature, they might not want to investigate the stick at first. If this is the case, it might take more than one training session to fully teach them to target. But don’t lose hope! Even though it might take some more time, both you and your budgie will feel so proud when they eventually conquer their fear and learn to target.
To help your budgie conquer their fear of the stick your millet will come in handy. Hold the millet close to the end of the target stick, with the stick positioned between the bird and the millet. If your budgie dares to come closer to the stick to get to the millet, you click and reward them. Every time your bird dares to come a little closer, you click and reward them. Repeat this process until your budgie can touch the end of the stick with its beak without fear.
Failure can be a good thing
If you want your budgie to learn a trick, targeting in this case, you can’t reward them for everything all the time. If your bird is scared to do something you can reward them for every little step of progress they make. But if they try to stay in their comfort zone and don’t try to make any progress, it’s better to wait with rewarding until they do. This way you encourage them to face their fears instead of just waiting for a reward.
The same thing goes for not doing a trick properly. With target training you want your budgie to touch the end of the stick, not the middle. If they touch the middle, you should not offer the reward because that’s not what you want from them. If you allow your bird to fail, they will learn so much more than if you reward them for low effort.
Finally, the actual target training
As soon as your budgie knows that touching the end of the target stick means they get a click (and that means they also get a reward), you can start targeting them to different places. Try getting them to walk just a few steps at first. If they walk over to the target stick and touch the end, you click and reward them. Practice this a few times. If this goes well you can try targeting them for longer distances. Across the table for example. If that also goes well, you can even start targeting them onto perches, yourself, someone else, another surface etcetera. Use your imagination and challenge both yourself and your bird.
Hopefully, you and your budgie will have fun practising this easy-to-learn trick. It will set both of you up for success when learning other tricks in the future!