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Treat Aggression

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Shiko
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Treat Aggression

Post by Shiko » Sat Aug 15, 2015 4:56 pm

Hi everyone! I've been a lurker on this site for awhile, and generally my IRN is as sweet as can be. He's almost exactly a year and a half old and has already gone through his bluffing stage. I have however encountered one problem that I can't seem to find any information on, and that is his aggression towards anyone who tries to give him a treat. It initially started when I was working on recall training him, and he would land and "attack" my hand. By "attack" I mean angrily squawk and do a lunge without ever biting. The entire time I've had Shiko, he has never once bitten me or anyone he's interacted with. Even when he's most frustrated, he never actually bites as I did work with him and bite pressure train him - plus he came from an excellent breeder who also worked with him in that regard.

But recently his treat aggression has become so bad that if I try and do training sessions, I end up being unable to give him a treat because he becomes so focused on getting it. He has no problem listening to commands and he will do them without fuss (step up, wave, high-five, turn around, recall to me, or recall to his cage, target train, etc). He also gets angry at my other bird, a GCC, if she receives her treat first and will go into a massive hissy-fit if he sees her receiving one, even if he already has one, despite them being the best of friends. He used to accept treats fine, and then eventually I had to teach him a "gentle" command which he no longer responds to. I'm honestly at a loss and I'm not sure where to even go with him from here :(.

Just 5 minutes ago I was target training him, and when I pointed to a location he flew around, squawked angrily, and tried to attack my hand. I tried to end it on a positive note by recalling him to his cage, but when I dropped the treat in his food bowl he once again lunged and tried to essentially steal the treat from me. Any help would be greatly appreciated. :(

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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by MissK » Sat Aug 15, 2015 5:16 pm

Any recent changes to his diet? Is he housed with an other animal? Are you certain he's getting enough to eat? Are you training him too hungry?
-MissK

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Shiko
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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by Shiko » Sat Aug 15, 2015 6:52 pm

No changes to his diet - every morning he receives a fresh chop that is 20% of his body weight in grams (approximately 23g of food), then once he finishes that he receives his pellets - 1 tsp of Roudybush, 1 tsp of Harrison's, 1 tsp of natural Zupreem, 1/4 tsp of Goldenfeast hookbill seed blend. If he finishes it all, then I give him 1-2 more tsp of pellets. I don't train my birds based on hunger because they respond positively to it without hunger as a motivator. He rarely finishes all of his pellets, and sometimes doesn't even finish his chop. So hunger certainly isn't an issue. He's a healthy weight at 120g, and doesn't share his 33 x 24 x 64" cage.

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InTheAir
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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by InTheAir » Sat Aug 15, 2015 10:17 pm

Hi,

Does this behaviour happen when you give him a treat outside of training time, ie not as a reward? Do you train him after or before you feed him? Does it happen if you change your training schedule? Does he react the same way when you give him treats from a plastic spoon instead of hand? What do you do when he exhibits this behavior?

What do you mean by "bite pressure training"?

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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by MissK » Sat Aug 15, 2015 11:50 pm

Did the treat itself change?
-MissK

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Shiko
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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by Shiko » Sun Aug 16, 2015 11:08 am

This behaviour happens whenever I try to give him or my other bird a recognizable training treat, inside or outside of training time. I don't have a "strict" training schedule if you will, instead I take about 5-10 minutes out of the day to just go over what he has learned or to try and introduce a new trick. Right now we're learning the "bat" trick where he hangs upside and points his beak to the ground. The birds don't train on an empty stomach and always have access to food inside their cages (but the amount they consume is monitored).

I haven't tried giving him a training treat off of a spoon, the only thing he often has off a spoon is some of my homemade fruit smoothie or when my raspberries have gone a bit too ripe and become mushy. I can definitely try that, though. His training treats have always been small pieces of almond, as he loves it the most out of sunflower seed/pine nuts/walnuts. Whenever he exhibits the behaviour, I give him a stern look, say "No treats until you're gentle", and turn away for about a minute. Afterwards he may or may not calm down, which is why I'm at a loss. There's currently nothing I've done that's prevented the behaviour consistently.

Bite pressure training means that he can beak me, but he knows that he can't use a pressure that causes me discomfort. If he ever does bite me, it's often very gentle and it has never broken the skin. He doesn't latch on either as I've worked to ensure he knows if he's using too much of his beak on my hands by saying "please don't" and removing my hand... the face is a different matter. Unfortunately he's not a very gentle preener on himself, my other bird, or me :P

His training treats have not changed in the year and 2 months that I've had him. Since day one it has always been almonds because he loves them the most. But regardless, if he associates anything as a treat he immediately exhibits this behaviour. If I'm simply sharing food with him, he's quite gentle (though he has been known the steal a homemade yam fry and run off with it...). The aggressive behaviour only comes out if he recognizes that he did a positive behaviour or something I've queued that deserves a treat. Part of me feels like he doesn't trust me to give the treat because he doesn't quite understand that it's his behaviour that's stopping me, but I'm not sure anymore.

sanjays mummi
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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by sanjays mummi » Sun Aug 16, 2015 11:51 am

Here in the UK a chop is a cut of meat. Could you please explain what you mean by "chop"?

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Shiko
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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by Shiko » Sun Aug 16, 2015 12:29 pm

Chop is a pre-made fruit and vegetable mix with 10-15 ingredients in varying proportions of each. For example, this chop includes:

- broccoli
- cauliflower
- sweet peas
- green and yellow string beans
- yam
- wild rice blend
- brown rice
- kale
- 6 bean medley
- quinoa
- apple
- puréed strawberries, bananas, and raspberries


The grains are in a lower proportion to the vegetables, and the fruits are in small proportions and act as a sweetener for the chop. I prepare everything by "chopping" it up (hence the name) into appropriately sized pieces for my birds or by using a food processor to make certain things fine, like the broccoli and cauliflower for example. Obviously certain things get cooked while others can remain raw. It's then portioned off, frozen, and then every morning I take a portion and warm it up for them to eat.

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InTheAir
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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by InTheAir » Sun Aug 16, 2015 6:19 pm

Shiko wrote: His training treats have always been small pieces of almond, as he loves it the most out of sunflower seed/pine nuts/walnuts. Whenever he exhibits the behaviour, I give him a stern look, say "No treats until you're gentle", and turn away for about a minute. Afterwards he may or may not calm down, which is why I'm at a loss. There's currently nothing I've done that's prevented the behaviour consistently.


The current school of thinking is that time out should be a few seconds. A long time out could possibly exacerbate what you describe below about how you think he might not trust that he will get the treat that he was expecting.
Also, it would be challenging in your situation as you do need to reward the trick, but stepping away from the bird until his behaviour is calm and doing time out for a couple seconds should bring faster results than staying close and waiting for him to calm down. You may have to do a bit of training in the cage so he can't follow you when you back off.  


Bite pressure training means that he can beak me, but he knows that he can't use a pressure that causes me discomfort. If he ever does bite me, it's often very gentle and it has never broken the skin. He doesn't latch on either as I've worked to ensure he knows if he's using too much of his beak on my hands by saying "please don't" and removing my hand... the face is a different matter. Unfortunately he's not a very gentle preener on himself, my other bird, or me :P
I take it you just withdraw yourself from him when he nibbles too hard, not flick his beak or other forms of discouragement (please dont get offended, all sorts of people come on here and have different ideas). I have not had to teach either of my birds to be gentle with me so I'm not quite understanding the concept...


His training treats have not changed in the year and 2 months that I've had him. Since day one it has always been almonds because he loves them the most. But regardless, if he associates anything as a treat he immediately exhibits this behaviour. If I'm simply sharing food with him, he's quite gentle (though he has been known the steal a homemade yam fry and run off with it...). The aggressive behaviour only comes out if he recognizes that he did a positive behaviour or something I've queued that deserves a treat. Part of me feels like he doesn't trust me to give the treat because he doesn't quite understand that it's his behaviour that's stopping me, but I'm not sure anymore.

I believe you are correct that he is "confused" about why he is suddenly not getting rewards for things he is normally rewarded for. It might be helpful to think over, if you can remember, what happened before this behaviour occured the first time. Had you withheld the reward for a behaviour in an effort to get a bigger approximation of a trick that he may not have understood? Changed reinforcement schedule?

Isolating this undesirable behaviour from the tricks may be a good approach. Having never been in this situation myself, and not being able to see the whole behaviour means that I can think of a few different things I would try.

Personally I would try this first:
First thing is to figure out how you can deliver treats in a different manner so remove hands from the equation. A small cup might be easier than a spoon. Put the amount of treats you want him to have for 1 trick in it for each trick so you are not taking treats away from him. Hold the bottom of the cup so your fingers are not going near him. Make sure he takes treats from the cup comfortably before trying tricks. Then you can deliver treats after tricks very quickly, no matter whether he lunges or not. If the cause behind the aggressive behaviour is insecurity about the treat being withdrawn, he will naturally reduce the lunging behaviour after a few tries. Use a T perch for recall until the lunging is no longer happening at all. I would try it with a very simple trick where you are already in close proximity to him and have the treat ready to follow the bridge very quickly, so he has very little time to get worked up.
This approach may seem to be against what we commonly think is correct in training, it is up to your judgement to assess whether it is effective or not as you go along. If you try it and the lunging continues or increases, it is not working and write it off as a bad suggestion!
I have tried something similar with a nesty hen who was very nervous of me and she stopped trying to bite me and took the treats nicely.

If the first suggestion was not helpful, see if behaviour can be isolated from the tricks and you can try short time outs by stepping away to the distance where he is no longer reacting and count to 3. Time out must be short to have meaning.

Also, you could try a lower value reward and see if that changes anything, but you do need to be able to deliver the treat in the first place, so that could be difficult ;)

I also noticed that quite a few of your chop ingredients are quite high energy. I am by no means a dietary expert and that is between you and your avian vet. It just may be something that is relevant or might not be. Is it birdy breeding season in your area? Somebirdies can be a wee bit less tolerant of us when the hormones hit.


I'm not a qualified professional or anything, so my advice might be crap.

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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by MissK » Sun Aug 16, 2015 8:16 pm

It's a fascinating problem and I really look forward to seeing what the cause and remedy turn out to be.
-MissK

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Shiko
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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by Shiko » Mon Aug 17, 2015 7:47 pm

Bite pressure training is often used with large macaws rather than with smaller birds, but because IRN's are known to be biters I worked with Shiko on it. It's teaching a bird that beaking is acceptable to a certain degree... and after a year and a half of never once receiving a hard bite from either of my birds after countless lunges/aggressive displays:hormones (my GCC), I do think it pays off. It's really just a form of boundary setting through a form of communication that your birds understand best. Though I am still waiting to get nailed one day... it's part and parcel of being owned by birds!

His energy is very high, but he's fully flighted and has a minimum of four hours outside of the cage each day... and ironically could sleep until noon no matter what time he goes to bed. Always looks so stunned when I wake up him up in the morning, haha! He's also really great at self regulating his own exercise. If he needs to burn energy, he'll fly non-stop until he's tired. I'll never get over how self-aware IRN's are!

I actually sent off an e-mail to a bird training specialist (Barbara Heidenreich), and she surprisingly responded. InTheAir, your response about a cup was also exactly what she suggested and as of today after training multiple times in short bursts I have yet to experience a single lunge or aggressive display! She essentially equated it to him being afraid or distrustful of my hands only in a training situation, and removing my hands should remove the aggressive problems (so no, your advice isn't crap! :) ). I do still need to find a way to flight recall him without him landing directly on my hand, so I do think I'll invest in a T-perch specifically for that.

Thank you all so much for the help. Hopefully the treat cup idea will work for the next 25+ years ;)

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InTheAir
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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by InTheAir » Mon Aug 17, 2015 8:31 pm

Yes! I'm channeling BH! I feel awesome right now! She did talk to our parrot club on the weekend, so that might be why.

I very much doubt you will have to use a cup forever. Once he is secure with treat delivery again he will start taking treats from bare hands again. Behaviour is fluid.

Best of luck and keep us updated.

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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by MissK » Tue Aug 18, 2015 9:08 am

I'm glad you've got the help you needed. But I have to take up for the IRN on your suggestion they are "known to be biters". I know no such thing! What I *do* know is that they will bite you if you give them a reason to bite you, especially without also giving them a way to avoid being in that situation. I see that your bird has bitten you and you can't diagnose why, but I wouldn't tag the whole species as biters over it. My tame(er) bird demonstrates a variety of beak activity, but I have never received a bite I didn't ask for. My untame IRN has had opportunity to bite me, but never has either. I believe the IRN bites in defence, and that if you were sufficiently pressed, you'd bite too.
-MissK

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InTheAir
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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by InTheAir » Tue Aug 18, 2015 3:32 pm

Actually meant to add my 10c about bluffing the other day to. Thanks for reminding me Missk ;)

Basically, as I started learning about parrots, applied behaviour analysis and force-free training, I quickly realised that this "bluffing phase" that is so rife on forums and facebook groups does not make sense. So I emailed all my favourite birdy experts, including Barbara and Dr Susan Friedman (behaviorworks.org), and asked their opinions. They were unanimous in stating that aggressive behaviour from young parrots is simply the result of handling that the parrot finds aversive (my words). When parrots are little they are more tolerant of being forced etc, when they start to grow up they look for ways to avoid things they dislike, and many try out biting. If you read and respect their body language when interacting with them and use positive reinforcement, just like you would with an adult bird, they have no need to display aggression. In fact, Hillary Hanky has raised alexandrines for free flight and never saw any signs of "bluffing", she hadn't even heard of such a "phase".

Check out what Barbara Heidenreich has to say about "bluffing"
http://goodbirdinc.blogspot.com.au/2015 ... f.html?m=1


It's like "dominance" in dogs, based on a flawed premise. I don't understand why people are so in love with believing stuff like that!
My simplified philosophy is that if my birds bite or growl at me, it is me that caused it therefore I need to take steps to ensure I don't provoke that response in them. :mrgreen:

I'm with Missk, I don't think ringnecks are bitey birds. They only bite for a reason.

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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by Wessel Gordon » Wed Aug 19, 2015 2:23 am

InTheAir,

You've made a few good points. I have one female that I would describe as ''unpredictable'' when strangers comes to greet her and she's even taken blood from me on occasion but this morning when my hand was too close to her fresh food for her liking she simply opened her beak and brushed it against my hand: a clear ''back off'' signal although if she chose to she could have inflicted a much nastier bite.

It all boils down to knowing the birds intimately and avoiding ''triggers'' that could lead to a bite.

Wessel

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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by MissK » Wed Aug 19, 2015 9:11 am

I've also experienced that warning beak activity! It's fascinating. I don't know if they intend it as a warning or simply a push to move us away. Either way, it makes me go "Wow!" :D
-MissK

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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by Wessel Gordon » Thu Aug 20, 2015 5:08 am

MissK

It is fascinating behavior. It just shows that birds have the ability to see or sense (I'm not entirely sure which) that we as owners/handlers might have had a wandering thought for a moment and whatever we did during that moment was not intended to threaten or harm, hence the ''warning''. Having said that I'm under no illusion that I might end up needing stitches if I ignored it.

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Re: Treat Aggressions

Post by Shiko » Thu Aug 20, 2015 8:41 pm

Perhaps "known" biters wasn't accurate... more like tbe species that people tend to complain about biting most commonly on forums.That's not to say it's the bird's fault, because I agree - it's not. It's the individual not understanding what they are doing to illicit it (I'm still at a loss why he doesn't trust my fingers with treats, but we don't deal with that anymore :)). But there do seem to be certain generalizations for a species. Conures for example are well known for being nippy, caiques for being rough housers, cockatoos for cuddly and emotional. I guess what I'm trying to get at is when I was doing my research for IRN's before getting one, the most common problem I ever came across with them was their biting.

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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by MissK » Thu Aug 20, 2015 9:45 pm

For me it was that you must spend hours every day with them to keep them from losing their tameness. Utter malarky. We should have a thread for "most ridiculous thing you ever heard about the species".......
-MissK

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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by InTheAir » Sat Aug 22, 2015 2:20 am

MissK wrote:For me it was that you must spend hours every day with them to keep them from losing their tameness. Utter malarky. We should have a thread for "most ridiculous thing you ever heard about the species".......
Yep, that sounds like a fun thread!
The other rubbish ones I've heard are "you need to clip their wings to keep them tame", "don't get a big cage, they don't need it, and it will make them less tame" and "they need to be hand raised to be tame". And "height dominance" - obviously invented by someone who has never seen a freeflight bird show....

Shiko, i think ringnecks have a very strong instict for survival, I call them "sensitive". They are all about flight or fight if they are backed into a corner. They also cheap to buy, very common and very striking. I think this combination does mean that people are more likely to buy one without putting as much thought into its care as they would if they bought a $2000 bird. Also, advice like clipping their wings and for "bluffing" where you should ignore the birds communication is a self-filfulling prophecy. This approach can have a traumatic effect on your relationship with the bird. If you go on forums or facebook a whole lot of people will was you about "bluffing" or tell you your bird is bluffing if it bites you. None of them actually have any qualifications in avian behaviour or anything related.

I think that you should be able to get back to handing him treats, just take your time. My boyfriend has also noticed that the way he holds the treat can affect Nila. We usually pinch it between thumb and forefinger, but in spring that mode of delivery can actually get Nila slightly sexually aroused. :shock: Not what we want at all!! So, we change how we hold the treat and the problem goes away...

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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by Shiko » Sun Aug 23, 2015 9:31 am

InTheAir wrote:Shiko, i think ringnecks have a very strong instict for survival, I call them "sensitive". They are all about flight or fight if they are backed into a corner. They also cheap to buy, very common and very striking. I think this combination does mean that people are more likely to buy one without putting as much thought into its care as they would if they bought a $2000 bird. Also, advice like clipping their wings and for "bluffing" where you should ignore the birds communication is a self-filfulling prophecy. This approach can have a traumatic effect on your relationship with the bird. If you go on forums or facebook a whole lot of people will was you about "bluffing" or tell you your bird is bluffing if it bites you. None of them actually have any qualifications in avian behaviour or anything related.
Oh wow, are they really that cheap where you are? At Petstores here, IRN's are at least $1600. I got my bird for $575 from a breeder, plus the $150 for shipping. I'm in Canada though, and tbh I don't see ringnecks here nearly as often, or very often in rescues either. Probably way more common over in Ontario though.

And I can't believe anyone would ever believe that nonsense about clipping. I'm 100% sure if I clipped Shiko, he would be so unhappy and miserable. He can hover, turn on a dime, and dive through small holes. It's amazing! I love watching him fly. And if I "lift" him up into the air, he'll hold his wings closed until he hits that just right spot before opening them and flying. It's spectacular.

As an update, Shiko hasn't shown aggressive behaviour yet! He got a bit snarky with my partner's friend, but I warned him and he didn't listen. So Shiko squawked at him and lunged. No one was hurt, though. Just the guy's feelings, haha!

Also, enjoy this video of Shiko being cuddly and him using his demon voice, hahaha. Figured I owed at least a picture or video after all the help :)

http://youtu.be/i9Fdm2Pm9V8

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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by Wessel Gordon » Sun Aug 23, 2015 11:41 am

Shiko

If I warn a visitor about any of my animals and they get hurt any way I don't feel sorry for them in the least. The way I see it is that I gave them a verbal warning and the animal gave them visible warnings not to push their luck.

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InTheAir
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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by InTheAir » Sun Aug 23, 2015 2:59 pm

Hehe what a cute voice!
wow ringnecks are expensive where you are! I'm in Australia! I've seen them in petshops for about $200 and on gumtree they range from $40 (aviary birds) to $100 up for a handraised baby in the common colours. Unusual mutations can get quite pricey, of course.


Here's a couple reasons I like my birds flighted: http://youtu.be/jg50yX_a25w

My little purple peregrine:
http://youtu.be/Inr9VFc_q5E

Sapphire also rocks at flying straight up from the ground to the hand like a pheasant :)

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Re: Treat Aggression

Post by sanjays mummi » Thu Mar 03, 2016 12:10 pm

I have only been bitten once, Sanjay had escaped in my absence and made his way into another room, I had only had him a few days, so he was totally lost, I had no alternative but to towel him, and he made my thumb bleed, out of fear., not his fault. Since then, and some almost seven years later, I have Never experienced "bluffing" or been bitten, he may gently nibble or brush his beak against my hand if it is in the way, and he hisses sometimes if I do something "wrong". In fact, I'm wondering if there is, in fact, something called "bluffing;

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