Trick Training: The Retrieve

The Retrieve is a bit more tricky to teach than some of the other tricks I've taught. In this trick I have to get Nani to pick up an object and bring it back to me on command. I followed the steps Tani Robar describes in her book Parrot Trick Training.

First, pick an object that is easy for your bird to pick up in his beak. I chose a small stacking cup because I will eventually use a set of them for a more difficult trick. Next, set the cup at arms length from where you sit and place a treat next to it. Do this several times and your bird will begin to associate that object with a treat. Don't forget, PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE every time your bird makes an effort. Now try putting the treat under the cup while your bird is watching. Encourage him to go move the cup to get the treat. I had to lift the cup several times to show her it was still there. The point is you want the bird to move the cup to get the treat. You can also place the treat inside the cup face up. Now comes the tricky part.

Instead of putting the treat in or around the cup, keep it in your hand. Stretch out your other hand flat, palm up right next to the cup. Now tell your bird "bring it to me", or "fetch", or whatever phrase you want. He should go check out the cup looking for his treat only it's not there. If he moves the object at all or picks it up PRAISE and give him the treat. Once he starts to pick up the object put your hand directly below it so that it falls into your hand. PRAISE! REWARD!

Repetition is key to teach this trick so don't get impatient, he will get it eventually. Once he does try placing the cup farther and farther from your outstretched hand so he must actually bring it to you. Remember, praise and reward (treat) every tiny milestone. Once your bird has it down packed try using various objects for him to retrieve. This will keep the "game" interesting for him and he will learn to bring you whatever you want. I've heard of some larger parrots bringing their "master" the newspaper or slippers.

The Retrieve is the basis for many other tricks like shape puzzles, ring toss, pull toys, basketball, etc.

Nani and I are now working on putting one cup inside a larger cup. She's still confused, but I know she'll get it eventually. Click to watch


Mary said...

I am so impressed with Nani's skills! I've tried teaching the retrieve to my parrots, but have given up. I think I may try down on the floor, like you guys were. What a great idea! Mine were getting a kick out of throwing the item off of the counter and I'm not a good enough trainer to have figured out to work on the floor. Thanks!!!

DoodleBird said...

hehehehe, that made me giggle. It's very important to choose a treat/reward that they can't live without. Then only give it to them when they are in trick training. You have to reward every little improvement, but hold back once they get a step down to encourage them to try harder. There's been a few times that I think Nani will never get it and I get discouraged, but then a few days later (sometimes longer) it just seems to click for her. Also make sure there are no distractions, no other birds in the room.

Some days Nani refuses to do anything at all (I suspect she isn't hungry at that time).

Moky said...

I use your retreive training with Rikki for a couple of day's and now Rikki can do the trick!!!
I am so proud.
You notice that you have the basic retreive trick from a book. The title of the book you mention sounds familiair to me and after some searching between my books, I found it !!!!
Now I can go on :-)
Thanks for letting me put the first steps in the trainingworld!!!
You describe it so well!


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Nani's Vocabulary To Date:

Pretty Birdie
Pretty Girl
What Are You Doing?
(variation) Whatcha Doin'?
I Love You
Thank You
Look At You!
Come Here!
Go Poo Poo
Uh Oh
I Don't Want You.