Desensitization

Wera

Regular Member
Some time ago we adopted second parrot, she is an Indian Ringneck and next January she will be 3 years old, she is very friendly and really easygoing, unfortunately Bluey is terrified of mop,I usually keep bucket and mop in the bathroom but then she doesn’t even want to come there for shower so I move it to our bedroom every time before I let her out of the cage, I can’t mop the floor if she is out of the cage because she will hear it or see it and then goes straight for attack and tries to bite my face,if I mop floor when she is in the cage she is really stressed and paces up and down,when I mop next to the cage she gets really angry, she is growling and lunging, because it annoys her so much usually I put her in spare bedroom, close the door and then quickly mop, but poor sweety keeps flock calling all the time,I was wondering is it possible to desensitise her to mop and mopping floors? I was trying to offer her piece of much favoured walnut each time I mop and then bigger piece when I mop next to the cage, but she outsmarted me, she puts walnut into her food bowl and carries on with growling and lunging🤣her behaviour around mop and mopping is not an issue for us, we love her anyway, I just wonder is there anything we could try to help her overcome this fear or it’s better to just keep her closed in spare bedroom when mop is around, I guess it’s more of my fuss that I want her to be confident and not scared of household objects
 

DizzyBlue

Administrator
Staff member
Admin
You need Roz on the case lol
I had issues with an older bird I took on it was cups and towels unfortunately they had been used to try and discipline her she was terrified. I bought t-towels just for her to destroy took flipping months until she was able to watch me walk through the room with a towel in my hand :oops:

@Roz
 

Roz

Elected Forum Trainer
Regular Member
It's amazing how many parrots are frightened of the mop! Good idea to remove the mop from the bathroom if she's in there, and her from the cage when you have to mop in her room.

There are a few methods you can use. You already mentioned desensitization. As DizzyBlue found, desensitization can take a l-o-n-g time. Desensitization is gradually exposing the bird to the fear eliciting stimulus (the mop) in small manageable steps never provoking more than the slightest reaction (no treats involved). So you would start with putting the mop as far away from the bird so as to get no reaction. Maybe the far end of the room. Leave it there for a day or so. Then bring it slightly closer watching Bluey. You want hardly any reaction. Leave it there for a day or so, so that she gets used to it. And so on getting gradually closer over days, weeks or even months depending on Bluey's reaction. The whole point is to get practically no reaction, which means whilst in the middle of desensitizing when you have to use the mop, remove her from the room or you will destroy all the work so far. You could certainly switch to positively reinforcing her relaxed body language with a piece of walnut when you get close enough.

Another way is using negative reinforcement which might be quicker. Negative reinforcement is also known as escape/avoidance learning. The behaviour is strengthened (reinforced) by escaping an aversive (something the parrot doesn’t like). Here the mop is the aversive. You are going to reinforce Bluey's relaxed body language by removing the mop.

Starting from the far side of the room, walk towards Bluey's cage very slowly carrying the mop. When Bluey shows slightly uneasy body language that is your starting point. Take a couple of steps back and wait for her to show relaxed body language (RBL) again. When you see RBL take a slow step forward with the mop (introducing an aversive). Her continued RBL then earns half a step back (removing the aversive). Wait a few seconds and then take another slow step forward. Her RBL earns half a step back, and so on until you can get closer and closer to his cage with her remaining calm. If her body language changes at all, even slightly, then go back a couple of steps until you see her RBL and then break the steps down even smaller. Do just a few seconds of training now and again through the day and always ending the training session on a successful step for Bluey. When you eventually get close to her you can switch to positively reinforcing her RBL with a piece of walnut.

Another method, based on negative reinforcement, is CAT (Constructional Aggression Treatment). It can be an effective procedure to address extreme fear or aggressive responses, and/or where desensitization and counter conditioning isn’t working. It is very similar to the negative reinforcement procedure but instead of taking half a step back each time, you would reinforce any relaxed behaviours Bluey offers by turning round and going back to the starting point with the mop. You can read more about CAT half way down this article: https://thinkparrot.com/aggression-in-parrots/

A moving mop is very different from a stationary mop. I think I would be inclined to work using CAT, but you really need to be able to read the bird's body language in minute detail and get timing spot on or else you could make the situation worse. Maybe start with desensitization and see where that leads to.

Yet another way would be to work with someone else. They feed her treats whilst you muck around with the mop far away. I.e. they are pairing the sight of the mop with something good - treats! Gradually you get closer. But again just short spurts of training here and there through the day.
 

Scott199

Regular Member
I had the same issue with Bert and a T perch, well any kind of perch or new toy, or old toy or, well actually pretty much anything, he was scarred of a slight breeze :)

Any way, I used the method above and left it sat next to the bottom of his cage for weeks and weeks, the thing that worked was to leave it sat on the floor in the middle of the room when he was out and I put his favourite treat on it and then just ignored him and it, after weeks he eventually couldn't resist and went over, stole the treat and run off, day by day the "run away" was delayed slightly, un till the point he would sit next to it, eat the treat, then run away from the deadly T perch, then i started replacing the treat as he took the other.

so now we were at the point he would wait next to it for another treat, then we started holding it with treat on, so it had very slight movement just from my hand movement, treat on, he come over, after a few days/weeks, I would then put the treat on it and take it to him.

eventually as soon as he seen the T perch, he would come down to the door of the cage or floor, I no longer needed the treat on the perch, then he just got one from my hand, then I started to wait for him to touch the perch before he got a treat, this all took months, early days he would reach as far as his little leg would allow and just touch it with his longest claw. then foot, the two feet and so on.

it got to the point that as soon as I opened the draw where it was kept he would coming running, but still he never, ever got used to being on it and moving, the minute it moved with him on he freaked, maybe a few more years we could of got that bit but it wasn't to be.
 

Wera

Regular Member
Thank you so much for your replies, I am gonna try different things and see what works best for her
 
  • Like
Reactions: Roz

Michael Reynolds

Regular Member
many birds get scared of things like Mops, brooms and hovers, they are big things that clean seeds and mess away, how dose your bird know it would not clean them up and make the birds disappears. it is bigger than your bird and scary. I have used the slow introduction method leaving an item on view but not near a bird overnight and removing it in the morning after feeding. slowly I bring it closer but never too close to the cage. some times forgetting to remove it during the day but ignoring the item. if i had to use it then this may be one of the few times that i would put the bird in a cage and cover the cage, once a bird gets more settled removing the cover, I have music playing and try to make it sound like a good thing by being excited a little dancing and singing while i clean. some birds get used to new items and actions quick but a few i have had do take longer to get used to any thing new
 
  • Like
Reactions: Roz

Lauraj

Regular Member
Hello!
Although different Bo was super scared of the hoover when we first brought him home, he loved the brush but the hoover was the most horrifying thing in the world!

I got fed up of sweeping the living room and never felt it was properly clean!
I started with putting the hoover on at the top of the stairs and sitting in the room with bo so he could hear the noise and be reassured.

gradually i moved the hoover to do the stairs so he could see the hoover and hear where the noise was coming from, then we moved onto hoovering the hallway and after a while started to gradually enter the living room.
It was a long process however, Bo now loves the hoover and copies it’s noise when he is sitting on the hoover during hoovering time.
If he sees the hoover he flys to sit on it and makes the noise, we have had him 18 months and I would say it’s taken best part of 8 months to get him to where he is.

It’s a long process but you will get there 😅
 

Wera

Regular Member
For the moment I take things slowly , don’t want to scare her again, I started today with leaving dreaded mop and bucket in our bedroom door way so she can see it when she sits in hallway and to encourage sitting in hallway I hanged forging stick with favourite fruit and veggies on side of her swing, she wasn’t very keen on idea, but couldn’t resist apple and chilli
 
  • Like
Reactions: Roz

Roz

Elected Forum Trainer
Regular Member
For the moment I take things slowly , don’t want to scare her again, I started today with leaving dreaded mop and bucket in our bedroom door way so she can see it when she sits in hallway and to encourage sitting in hallway I hanged forging stick with favourite fruit and veggies on side of her swing, she wasn’t very keen on idea, but couldn’t resist apple and chilli
Great idea, Wera. Keep those fear levels at a minimum.
 
Top Bottom