Earning Back Trust – Alexandrine Parakeet Rasta Learns Tricks

Photo by Dave Womach
Location: Athol, ID
Shown: Alexandrine parakeet “Rasta” going into his cage to his perch via touch training 



Since cage training Rasta (teaching him to go back into his cage willingly via touch training which took about 6 training sessions total) I’ve been thinking… what’s next? I know Liam would love for Rasta to learn some tricks so that has been my new focus with him.


Usually, I would start with teaching the ‘wave’ but since I’m not home that often during the day, it makes it really hard to use capturing on a bird who doesn’t step up on cue. So I decided to start with the ‘spin’. It’s something that is easily taught after teaching touch training anyway, since it uses the stick.


Now, my blogs aren’t meant to teach you how to do tricks if you’re frustrated for lack of detail on that.

I began by getting Rasta to know to go to the back of a chair I pushed up against the door of his cage if he wanted to train. It was working out really well, and he would eagerly come down to it BUT… this is the same back of the chair that he’d fallen from and he just didn’t feel stable enough on it. Every time I would get him to turn around, he would use the cage to steady himself which was ruining the effect of the trick training.




Every once in a while (in a blue moon) he would turn without issue, sometimes with his wings out, but I was getting frustrated with how to progress and Rasta was beginning to think the trick was ‘look at the blonde girl, go to the cage and turn around, go to the cage and turn back around, get a treat’.


Photo by Jamieleigh
Location: Athol, ID
Shown: Rasta comfortably perched on his dowel at the top of his cage 


I wasn’t pleased with that so I watched him on his cage a while and noticed he turns around on his own just fine at the very top on the wooden dowel. So, I stepped myself on the chair and began training him up there!


That’s when I realized there was some serious trust issues with turning his back on me. He really didn’t trust doing that with me, as if I was going to do something he didn’t like while he was in this vulnerable position. Any time my hand went above his head to try to get him to do a full turn, his entire demeanor changed for aggression, nervousness and defensiveness.


Photo by Dave Womach
Location: Athol, ID
Pictured: Rasta turning around on the dowel via touch training (learning to spin) 


I got him to the point where he would turn around (by keeping the stick, my arm and my hand low), and I threw in a small piece of cheese at the very end to let him know just how great of a job he was doing. He was shocked by this – as it has been a while since he’s had any cheese and he was very happy to end on that session. I found myself still wanting to train – so I took out my laptop and pulled out a chair next to his cage and began answering questions on our facebook while Rasta sat happily and preened himself. It was a great ‘training session’ (if you ever listen to Dave, he will tell you every interaction is a training session and it’s soooo true) so while I typed and Rasta preened – it was just telling him how content he can be in a human’s company (aka my company).


Rasta happily preening on the corner of his cage closest to me


He literally went to the edge of his cage closest to me to preen, so I snapped some pictures, of course. That’s what I do…


When Dave and his mother came home a little later, Rasta walked to the top of his cage, out of his mood. But I didn’t mind, we already had our quality time – and it was all about quality.


I showed Dave how Rasta would change once the stick or my arm/hand was over his head – and as I backed off, Rasta would be more at ease and do the rest of the turn. But if he felt too threatened, he would refuse to go all the way around.


Eventually, between both me and Dave (he’s a little more aggressive with Dave) doing the spin training (which we don’t normally recommend switching trainers – but I’ve only had so much time with my show schedule) here’s the progress we made teaching Rasta to spin around in a circle – only training him in the mornings and evenings.




Rasta’s lifestyle with me has been completely different than with Karen and Liam – mainly because I don’t have dogs so Rasta’s cage is open all the time and he flies around the house as he pleases and always comes back to his cage. The other day he surprised me (he has a thing for flying in the dark apparently…) and while all the lights were off except the guest room’s… he flew in there and landed on the floor walking around. He stepped onto my hand eagerly and flew back to his cage top. Originally I wasn’t going to pick him up – but he walked fast over to me wanting it so I obliged.


When I came home Saturday night (the 2nd) Rasta was on the parakeet cage again and so I grabbed the touch training stick and tapped on his cage top and he flew immediately over for a treat! It was amazing, I was so happy. Getting him to fly away from his cage back to the parakeet cage, however, has been more challenging. BUT, his flight was controlled and confidently executed. He will fly over there if Dave is training the parakeets, as Rasta gets jealous and wants to train too.



See how handy touch training is?! That’s why it’s the first thing we teach.


Me bathing Rasta with a spray bottle (my conures were ‘helping’ as always)


Oh, and of course, I’m still encouraging positive behaviors like preening, anything that makes Rasta happy and that includes rewarding healthy and regular bathing. As you can see, Rasta is REALLY beginning to love bath time more and more! (Tons more pics of Rasta bathing and having a great time here).



He’s also added some new foods to the ‘like’ list…


Rasta eating fresh spinach… (will make it on the dislike list if there’s something better)

Rasta chowing on some broccoli.


Rice pilaf also made the like list and cabbage made the dislike list in Rasta’s book.


By my next update, I’m hoping to have the spin on cue for Liam to see! But we’ll see what kind of curve balls Rasta has in store for MY plans…

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