Parrots are one of the most intelligent pets you can own. That makes them 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 for a long time.
The best tricks for parrots play on their inquisitive nature. As natural mimics, you can teach parrots to talk and dance by speaking and jiving with them. You can also teach more functional tricks, like “step up” or “fetch.” You can teach a parrot to play dead or wave at you. Your parrot can even learn to shake hands or use the bathroom in certain areas.
No matter the trick, repetition is key. For example, teaching a parrot to talk requires 15-20 minutes of training per day. Training sessions may take a day or two for simple tricks. Complicated tricks may require months of consistent instruction. No matter the case, be sure to let your parrot take its time. Parrots learn new skills better when they’re having fun.
Best Tricks to Teach Your Parrot
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. Africa greys, for example, 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 a little harder to teach. Make sure you have the patience.
- The kinds of rewards you’ll offer. It’s important to have a few different food treats to reward the bird with.
So, what are the best tricks to teach a parrot? Here is a mix of the favorites, ranging in difficulty from easy to advanced.
How to Teach Your Parrot to 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 (depending on the bird’s size), so you can pick the bird up.
- Work with the parrot in a distraction-free spot of your home.
- Place your finger out in front of the bird
- Say “step-up”
- If the bird does not respond, nudge your hand or finger against its legs
- If the parrot still isn’t getting the idea, continue pressing. It may step back once or twice.
- After a few steady nudges, the bird will be compelled to step up rather than back away.
- Reward the bird with a treat and soft-spoken praise.
- Let the bird dismount and do it again.
After 3-4 training sessions, it should have this behavior sealed in its brain.
How to Teach Your Parrot to Shake Hands
This trick involves the parrot lifting its foot, grasping your hand or finger, and bobbing the hold up and down. This counts as a ‘shake.’ Once your parrot knows how to step up, teaching it to shake hands is relatively easy.
- Hold your finger out in front of the parrot, but don’t let it step up onto it.
- Allow one of the parrot’s claws to meet your finger
- Once it does, lightly bounce it up and down
- Say “handshake,” “shake hands,” or “how are you?”
- Give the bird 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, though, 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.
How to Teach Your Parrot to 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 lots of practice.
- Hold out your finger for your parrot to step on.
- Say the word “wave.”
- When the parrot goes to step on it, take your finger away. The parrot should be left with its foot elevated.
- If it’s raised its foot, praise it and give it a treat.
- The longer the bird holds this position, the more praise you should offer.
From there, it’s just about repeating the process. When you say “wave,” the bird will eventually lift its claw. For a more advanced version of this trick, you can add toys.
- Grab a toy the parrot likes.
- Get the bird to play with it for a little bit.
- Then, hide the toy in your hand. Make sure the parrot knows it’s there.
- Move it in an arch-shape from one side of your parrot to the other.
- While doing this, say “wave.”
- When the bird reaches out for the toy with its claw, give it a snack.
If you repeat this multiple times, the bird will eventually mimic the behavior on command.
How to Train Your Parrot to Talk
For many parrots, talking comes gradually and naturally as they try to mimic the people around them. However, if there are certain words you want them to say, you can also teach them. The more you interact with your parrot, the more words it’ll learn.
Parrots were first thought to be mimics. However, studies like the one printed in the Journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science 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 to have patience as your bird learns to comprehend and then copy the words or phrases. This process can sometimes take months to perfect. However, once your bird has the idea, it can remember those lessons for decades.
- Start by looking directly at the parrot. Make sure you have its attention.
- Say the word as clearly as possible to the parrot.
- Repeat it several times in a row. Make sure it sounds natural, as the parrot will try to say it like you do.
- If your parrot doesn’t respond, that’s fine. Continue with the training.
- When the bird does mimic the words, be ready with praise and a snack to teach it that this is good behavior.
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 bird more organically. When you see the parrot, greet it with the intended words. Just be sure you have the bird’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.
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.
How to Teach a Parrot to Play Dead
Once your bird 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.’
- Make sure your bird is on a flat surface. This should be soft or cushioned, as the parrot might get enthusiastic and flop down too hard.
- 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.
- When the bird puts its leg forward, move your finger up and to the other side of it.
- Your parrot will likely end up on its back, trying to follow your finger.
- When the parrot is on its back, give it a treat.
Your bird probably won’t love this right away. After all, as prey animals, parrots are averse to being on their back. However, rewarding your bird with a treat will teach it that the behavior is:
- Means 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 a Parrot to Dance
Want your parrot to do a little jig? Then this trick is wonderful. Parrots are naturally inclined to dance. They may even learn how to do so just by watching their owners. You’ll find the internet is packed full of videos that show parrots getting their groove on.
While it may seem complicated, this trick is easier to teach your parrot than talking or playing dead. You have three methods of approach. No matter what you pick, try to instigate each training session with a command word. This can be “dance,” “get funky,” “drop the bass,” or anything else.
Teaching By Example
Parrots are supposedly capable of recognizing the body parts of other creatures and understanding how it relates to their own. In other words, if a parrot sees you dance, it will understand how it should move to copy that. This was speculated in a study published in Current Biology.
Outside of scientific research, parrot owners have plenty of first-hand accounts. Your parrot may pick up dancing without any teaching from you. To speed up the process, though, you can:
- Put on some music. Parrots dance better to music, just like humans. This can also serve as a command sign.
- Start nodding your head back and forth.
- When your parrot matches this behavior, give it a treat.
Once your parrot has that trick perfected, you can broaden its dance moves.
- Try shuffling from side to side with the music. The parrot should start to copy that.
- Bend your knees to bob your entire body up and down. The parrot will start dipping as well.
- Do a slow spin. The parrot will whirl to mimic it.
- Eventually, your bird will incorporate its own dance routines based on the music playing.
Teaching With Videos
Repetition is key, and maybe you don’t have time for a dance party every day. You can play videos of dancing for your parrot to copy. This is best done with videos of other parrots. The bird will be able to translate the motions onto its own body. Be sure to reward mimicking with treats.
Teach By Copying The Parrot
You can also teach your parrot by watching how it moves on its own. This works as a great introductory system for young parrots.
- If the parrot bobs its head a lot, bob your head along with it.
- When it bounces one way or another, mimic that behavior.
- If the parrot starts doing these actions more frequently, that’s good news. It gets that this is a copy game.
- With that in mind, you should now mimic the behaviors but immediately follow them up with a different dance move. Maybe you’ll bob with the parrot and then spin.
- The parrot will start copying you to return the favor.
You should also pair this motion with a command. When you say a word or phrase like “dance,” the parrot will know it’s time to dance.
How to Teach Your Parrot to Fetch
Parrots will fly or scurry across the floor to retrieve a toy. Teaching your bird 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:
- Pick up one of your parrot’s favorite toys. Make sure it’s a toy that the bird can easily bite, pick up, and carry back to you.
- With the toy in hand, hold it out to your parrot.
- Once the bird picks it up, say “drop it.”
- Wait for the bird to drop the toy naturally. It doesn’t know the word yet, so it may not react for a few seconds. That’s fine.
- As the bird is dropping the toy, look it right in the eye and say “drop it” again.
- Give the parrot a treat, so it begins to associate that action with the command.
After the bird has a solid grasp on that stage, you can move on to “fetch.”
- Take the toy and place it at arm’s length away from the parrot.
- Look at the bird and say, “fetch.”
- Tap your hand near the toy to draw your bird towards it. Continue to repeat “fetch” as you do this.
- Once it picks up the toy, praise it.
- Try to lure the parrot back to you verbally or by tapping your finger where you want it to go.
- Once it obeys, tell the bird “drop it.” Once it does, praise it and reward the bird with a treat.
- Repeat this several times.
- If the bird gets the idea, start placing the toy further and further away.
- 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 own slippers again.
How to Teach Your Parrot to Turn Around
Nothing’s cuter than a parrot willing to spin on command. To teach this trick, be sure to start with the parrot’s favorite treat:
- Place the treat in front of the bird. It should be close but not so close that your parrot can easily reach it.
- Once you have the bird’s attention on the treat, pick it up and put it behind the parrot.
- As you do this, say “turn around.”
- This will compel the bird to rotate towards the treat while listening to the command.
- 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.
- Tell the parrot to “turn right” or “turn left.”
- Move the treat the way you indicated so the bird learns the correct direction.
How to Potty Train Your Parrot
You can’t potty train your bird to go outside and use the bathroom. However, you can teach it to go in a designated spot. This saves you the effort of cleaning its entire cage or searching your whole house for droppings:
- Start by paying attention to when your parrot goes. What are the signs? Do they lift their feathers? Do a little dance?
- Watch for the telltale signs of your parrot needing to relieve itself.
- When you spot this, take the bird to the spot you want it to go. This may be a cage, a trash can, or a spot where you have newspaper laid down.
- Place the bird here and let it go to the bathroom.
- Do this every time you catch your bird about to relieve itself.
The more you do this, the faster it will learn that it needs to do its business there and nowhere else. Be sure to reward the bird with a treat to encourage the behavior.
How Long Does It Take For Parrots To Learn Tricks?
Depending on the trick, it may take a parrot a few days or a few 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 one parrot a week to learn a trick, but it might take another a month. According to the Journal of Comparative Psychology, parrots react to teaching much like humans. They can get overwhelmed. 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.