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7 Easy Tricks To Teach Your Parrot

Parrots are intelligent birds that are skilled at learning tricks and playing games. If you want to broaden your parrot’s range of skills, you can do so with training sessions. As long as you’re consistent and reward your parrot, it will retain the knowledge required to perform the tricks.

The best tricks for parrots utilize their inquisitive nature. You can teach parrots to talk and dance by speaking and jiving with them. You can teach functional tricks, like “step up” or “fetch.” You can teach a parrot to play dead or wave at you. Your parrot can learn to shake hands or use the bathroom in certain areas.

Regardless of the trick, repetition is key. For example, teaching a parrot to talk requires 15-20 minutes of training per day. Training sessions may take 1-2 days for simple tricks. Complicated tricks may require months of consistent instruction. No matter the case, parrots always learn new skills more easily when they’re having fun.

How To Teach Your Parrot Tricks

Parrots are skilled at picking up basic and advanced tricks. Just decide on the right tricks and consider these factors before you get started:

  • How much time you have to teach the parrot. Consistency is key.
  • What kind of parrot you have. African greys can learn more tricks than parakeets.
  • How distracted your parrot is. If there are stressful things in its environment, like noise from construction work, the parrot might be slower to learn.
  • How advanced the trick is. More complicated tricks, like fetching, will be harder to teach.
  • The rewards you’ll offer. Have different food treats to reward your parrot.   

So, what are the best tricks to teach a parrot? Here is a mix of the favorites, ranging in difficulty from easy to advanced.

1/ Step Up

It works as a gateway to several other tricks. This trick is complete once your parrot steps up onto an object you indicate. This is usually your hand, wrist, or finger so that you can pick the parrot up:

  1. Work with the parrot in a distraction-free spot of your home
  2. Place your finger out in front of the parrot
  3. Say “step-up”
  4. If it doesn’t respond, nudge your hand or finger against its legs
  5. If the parrot still isn’t getting the idea, continue pressing. It may step back once or twice
  6. After a few steady nudges, it will be compelled to step up rather than back away
  7. Reward it with a treat and soft-spoken praise
  8. Let it dismount and do it again

After 3-4 training sessions, it should have this behavior sealed in its brain.

how to teach a parrot to do tricks

2/ Shake Hands

This trick involves the parrot lifting its foot, grasping your hand or finger, and bobbing the hand up and down. This counts as a ‘shake.’ Once your parrot knows how to step up, teaching it to shake hands is relatively easy:

  1. Hold your finger out in front of the parrot, but don’t let it step up onto it
  2. Allow one of the parrot’s claws to meet your finger
  3. Once it does, lightly bounce it up and down
  4. Say “handshake,” “shake hands,” or “how are you?”
  5. Give it a snack when you’re finished

At first, the parrot will not understand the verbal command. It may even try to step up onto your hand. With enough practice, it will come to associate the word ‘handshake’ with the action. Then, you can tell it “handshake” and watch as it performs the trick with no other prompting.

3/ Wave

This trick involves the parrot lifting its foot, which seems like an adorably basic wave. The more advanced version has the parrot waving its foot from side to side. While both are simple tricks, they do take practice.

  1. Hold out your finger for your parrot to step on
  2. Say the word “wave”
  3. When the parrot goes to step on it, take your finger away. The parrot should be left with its foot elevated
  4. If it’s raised its foot, praise it and give it a treat
  5. The longer it holds this position, the more praise you should offer

From there, it’s just about repeating the process. When you say “wave,” the parrot will eventually lift its claw. For a more advanced version of this trick, you can add toys:

  1. Grab a toy the parrot likes
  2. Get it to play with it for a while
  3. Then, hide the toy in your hand. Make sure the parrot knows it’s there
  4. Move it in an arch-shape from one side of your parrot to the other
  5. While doing this, say “wave”
  6. When it reaches out for the toy with its claw, give it a snack

If you repeat this multiple times, the parrot will eventually mimic the behavior on command.

4/ Talking

For parrots, talking comes gradually and naturally as they mimic the people around them. However, if there are certain words you want them to say, you can teach them. The more you interact with a parrot, the more words it’ll learn.

Parrots were first thought to be mimics. However, scientific studies are beginning to prove otherwise. Parrots can solve complicated tasks and pick up words “in ways that resemble those of very young children.” That implies that parrots use mimicry to learn.

When training a parrot to talk, repetition is vital. You need patience as your parrot learns to comprehend and then copy the words or phrases. This process can sometimes take months to perfect. However, once it has the idea, it can remember those lessons for decades:

  1. Start by looking directly at the parrot. Make sure you have its attention
  2. Say the word as clearly as possible to the parrot
  3. Repeat it several times in a row. Make sure it sounds natural, as the parrot will try to say it like you do
  4. If your parrot doesn’t respond, that’s fine. Continue with the training
  5. When it mimics the words, be ready with praise and a snack to teach it that this is good behavior

Fixed Sessions

You can establish fixed training sessions, where you repeat the word or phrase in one-minute increments. Make sure to finish a total of 15-20 minutes of training throughout the day.

As You See The Bird

You can also train the parrot more organically. When you see the parrot, greet it with the intended words. Just be sure you have the parrot’s attention. The words should be clear and purposefully enunciated. This works best for those who spend a lot of time at home with the parrot.

Recordings

Some owners make recordings of themselves saying certain words. This can be played for the parrot when you don’t have the time to repeat phrases in person. If you want to teach your bird how to mimic a song, this is a great option.

5/ Play Dead

Once your parrot learns the trick, it will flop over onto its back and hold still. After a few seconds, or when you tell it to, the parrot will then ‘reanimate.’

  1. Make sure your parrot is on a flat surface. This should be soft or cushioned, as the parrot might get enthusiastic and flop down too hard.
  2. Put your finger out and wait for your parrot to extend its leg forward. If your parrot knows how to step up, use the command you’ve associated with the action.
  3. When it puts its leg forward, move your finger up and to the other side of it.
  4. Your parrot will likely end up on its back, trying to follow your finger.
  5. When the parrot is on its back, give it a treat.

Your parrot probably won’t love this right away. After all, as prey animals, parrots are averse to being on their back. However, rewarding your parrot with a treat will teach it that the behavior is:

  • Safe
  • Encouraged
  • Getting a tasty reward

If you want, you can even turn your finger into a little gun and use that as a sign for it to play dead. However, not everyone loves the idea of this.

how to teach your parrot to wave

6/ Fetch

Parrots will fly or scurry across the floor to retrieve a toy. Teaching your parrot this trick may take longer than with other pets. However, it’ll remember the skill for decades, depending on its species. You’ll need two command words for this trick: “drop it” and “fetch.” Let’s start with the first:

  1. Pick up one of your parrot’s favorite toys. Make sure it’s a toy that it can bite, pick up, and carry back to you.
  2. With the toy in hand, hold it out to your parrot.
  3. Once it picks it up, say “drop it.”
  4. Wait for it to drop the toy naturally. It doesn’t know the word yet, so it may not react for a few seconds. That’s fine.
  5. As the parrot is dropping the toy, look it right in the eye and say “drop it” again.
  6. Give the parrot a treat, so it begins to associate that action with the command.

After it has a solid grasp on that stage, you can move on to “fetch.”

  1. Take the toy and place it at arm’s length away from the parrot.
  2. Look at the parrot and say, “fetch.”
  3. Tap your hand near the toy to draw your parrot towards it. Continue to repeat “fetch” as you do this.
  4. Once it picks up the toy, praise it.
  5. Try to lure the parrot back to you verbally or by tapping your finger where you want it to go.
  6. Once it obeys, tell the parrot “drop it.” Once it does, praise it and reward the parrot with a treat.
  7. Repeat this several times.
  8. If it gets the idea, start placing the toy further and further away. 
  9. Continue to reward the parrot every time it properly fetches.

The parrot will eventually learn to fetch objects from different distances. It will also fetch based on whether you throw, drop, or leave the object. Depending on the size of your parrot, you may never need to fetch your slippers again.

7/ Turn Around

Nothing’s cuter than a parrot willing to spin on command. To teach this trick, start with the parrot’s favorite treat:

  1. Place the treat in front of the parrot. It should be close but not so close that your parrot can easily reach it.
  2. Once you have its attention on the treat, pick it up and put it behind the parrot.
  3. As you do this, say “turn around.”
  4. This will compel it to rotate towards the treat while listening to the command.
  5. Practice this several times.

Eventually, the parrot will associate the action with the command and the reward. For a more advanced version, you can start incorporating more specific commands.

  1. Tell the parrot to “turn right” or “turn left.”
  2. Move the treat the way you indicated so the parrot learns the correct direction.

How Long Does It Take For Parrots To Learn Tricks?

Depending on the trick, it may take a parrot a few days or months to perfect it. Don’t expect your parrot to get the idea after the first session. Every parrot learns at a different rate.

It may take a parrot a week to learn a trick, but another a month. According to the Journal of Comparative Psychology, parrots react to teaching much like humans. They can get overwhelmed, so let them set the pace.

No matter the trick, it’s all about the level of commitment you put into teaching your parrot. If you take the time, it’ll quickly expand its repertoire of tricks.