Training your budgie is very benefitial to both you and your feathered friend. It will allow you to build and improve the bond between you. It will also keep your budgie mentally stimulated which can help prevent things like boredom, depression and unwanted behavior. Aside from these benefits it’s a lot of fun for both you and your bird. Seeing them progress in learning a new trick will make you feel excited and very proud of them.
In this article I will break down the factors that make a succesful training session!
What you need to know before starting
Some tricks require your budgie to already know a set of skills before they are ready to learn a new trick. Your budgie needs to be at least hand tame before you can teach them any kind of trick. Training sessions are based on trust between you and your budgie. So trying to train an untamed budgie will result in frustration for both you and the bird.
Another basic skill that’s required for a variety of tricks is perching on command. If you want to teach your bird a new trick you will often use specific spots to practice. If you can’t get your bird to perch on a T-stand, step onto the table, on top of their cage, or any other place you want to train, it’s important to spend time teaching your budgie that first. Some budgies can be scared of new new things like a T-stand. If that’s the case, forget about training and work on conquering their fears with them first.
Lastly, some tricks will require other tricks to be taught first. It’s best to start with basic tricks like step up, targeting, and recall on command before you move on to more advanced tricks.
Trick-training articles you’ll find on this website will be provided with a short list of skills that need to be mastered before your budgie can learn that trick.
A clicker is not a mandatory tool for training, but it can make it a lot easier. By using the sound of a clicker you essentially create a piece of a common language between you and your budgie. A clicker is a cheap device that can be bought in almost every pet store.
The purpose of the clicker is to signal to your bird that they’ve done something right. To teach your bird this, all you need to do is click and reward them with a treat immediately afterwards. It will likely be confusing to your budgie at first, but after a while, you will notice they start to look for the reward as soon as they hear the click. Once you notice this happening a few consecutive times, you know your bird understands that the click means a reward is coming. All you need to do from here is expand that equation: do *part of trick* = click = treat.
Doing a short warming up is a key part of a successful training session. A warming up is very short and consists of doing a few repetitions of a trick that your budgie already knows. Ideally this would be the trick you mastered last session. If you think your budgie doesn’t know any tricks yet, think again! Stepping up is part of the taming process, but can also be seen as a trick. If you are going to teach your budgie their first real trick, your warm up can consist of asking them to step up a few times. When they step up, you click and reward them.
There are a few reasons why doing a warming up is so important. First of all, a short warming up will help you determine your budgies mood. If they are in a bad mood or signal that they don’t want to interact, it’s better to try again later. Forcing your bird to train even though they don’t want to will make them think of training as a negative experience.
Secondly, warminh up will help your budgie get in the right state of mind to learn something new. By doing a few repetitions of something they already know how to do, you will get them in a positive flow. It also shows your budgie that this is their chance to earn treats. Essentially motivating them to want to learn something new.
And lastly, by using a trick your budgie knows already for the warming up you will maintain the tricks they already know. By maintaining them your budgie will expand their set of skills instead of forgetting how to do tricks that were taught in the past.
How long should a training session last?
How long a training session should last depends on a variety of factors, but on average, the most optimal time is 5 – 10 minutes. Things like your budgies mood and attention span are very important to monitor while training. If you see your bird is losing interest or gets frustrated, it’s better to end the training session rather than pushing them to continue.
If you need to end your training session, try to conclude it with a succesful repetition. This way your budgie associates the training with a positive memory rather than a negative or frustrating experience. Even if the session is going well, it’s advisable not to extend it over the 10-minute mark. Your bird needs to process a lot while learning a new trick, so extending your training can cause them to be overstimulated. This can in turn affect their mood and motivation negatively.
How should I deal with failure?
Failing is one of the best things that can happen during a training session. If a session is going completely flawless, your bird will likely associate getting a treat with doing ‘something’ instead of knowing what the actual desired behavior is. By allowing your budgie to fail and not rewarding them when they do, they will learn the difference between the behavior you want them to do and just doing anything.
For example, one of my budgies is highly motivated by treats. When she learns a new trick she keeps doing that trick over and over again to beg for treats. I, however, want her to do the trick on command, not everytime she wants a treat. If I see her doing the trick without me asking for it, I will praise her with words to let her know I’m proud of her, but I don’t reward her with a treat. Only when I give her the signal to do the trick she will get a click and a reward.