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#221982 - 06/12/10 03:31 PM Captain (M2)- Aggression  
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Jester Offline
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My M2 "Captain" has been having a recent problem with aggression. In particular, it seems like he is being actively aggressive towards me while benign to my live-in g/f of 1.5yrs. We are both finding it harder to handle the bird and, as a result, he doesn't get the out of cage time he needs. I am determined to turn things around even if it means going all the way back to in-cage training and starting from scratch.

Some background: Captain has been living with me for a little over 2 years... he is 6yrs old now. I am his 3rd owner and took him knowing he was going to be a giant challenge. He is a SCREAMER! He is also a lover. Up until recently, he has always been very affectionate towards me and was equally interested in scratches and being held by other people... strangers included.

The past month or two has been out of character for Captain. He now gets very aggressive almost every time I go into the bird room. If allowed to go onto the floor, he will come across the room in an effort to bite me, in particular. He will walk right around my g/f to get to me. I am now too scared of a serious bite to handle the bird, which means he is not getting out and about like he needs to.

We just purchased a new large cage for our downstairs area (as Captain cannot be trusted to stay on a perch unsupervised for even a second). He has not been acclimated to the cage yet, though. Our bird room upstairs is a kid-sized bedroom with Captains large stainless cage and Jesters (Congo Grey) cage. Both cages are in the corners of the room closest to the single window on the far wall so they can see outside.

Jester is taken downstairs for many hours daily with no behavioral issues, while Captain has become such a handful, he is no longer taken downstairs at all! Thus the new cage.


I am opening up myself to your wisdom, guidance, and questions. I will be as forthcoming and honest as possible in my responses and will keep a journal of our progress. My g/f and I are very excited to get some good behavioral training.... for ourselves! smile

#221984 - 06/12/10 05:08 PM Re: Captain (M2)- Aggression [Re: Jester]  
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Good morning Drew!

Keeping a journal is an excellent idea. You can not only record your progress but keeping one is an excellent resource to refer back to for certain triggers or patterns that may otherwise be overlooked.

Since Captain is 6 y/o he is coming into maturity which may account for some of the new behaviors you are seeing, but with the help of ABA you can turn this around.

Are these new behaviors limited strictly to when you enter the birdroom, and does it happen every single time you enter the room? Is your g/f always present in the birdroom when you are?

I'm sure Bev will be along to add her wisdom, thoughts and possibly some more questions too.



Birds are angels who lift us up when our own wings forget how to fly.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world - indeed it is the only thing that ever has!" ~~~ Margaret Meade ~~~

Noelle, A Rehabilitation in Progress
#221997 - 06/12/10 10:37 PM Re: Captain (M2)- Aggression [Re: EchosMom]  
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No, I won't. This one is yours EM. One on one means exactly that. Take it away girlfriend. I need a break.


Bev


Owner: DebRan Bird Toys
#221999 - 06/13/10 01:10 AM Re: Captain (M2)- Aggression [Re: ZazuSally]  
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lol... looks like you're stuck with me ;-)

The aggression is whether or not my g/f is in the room. I have tried limiting eye contact, treating for calm behavior and some other things that don't seem to be working (partially b/c I've never found any treat Captain will really jump through hoops for).

I'm thinking this is some kind of nesting behavior. I have seen him vent rubbing on the perch next to his food bowl and on his food bowl itself. I have not yet removed these b/c I wanted to remove the bird before doing so...

#222005 - 06/13/10 05:43 AM Re: Captain (M2)- Aggression [Re: Jester]  
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Correction - looks like your stuck with me - LOL!

Ok, I need to back up a bit. I was under the impression that Captain is out of the cage when you go into the birdroom. Now I'm thinking he's in the cage. ??

Is he biting you also?

If you haven't already, be sure to read the articles that Bev wrote - they are stickies at the top of this forum.

The downstairs cage sounds like a very good idea - especially if the problems you are experiencing are associated only in the birdroom. It's always easier to change the environment/events that cause the behavior - it is the path of least resistence!!

You mentioned Captain isn't food motivated. What is his diet like?

Another thing I always recommend. Any change in behavior warrants a visit to your AV. It's always best to get a clean bill of health before assuming that new behaviors are just that - behavior.

M2's have a reputation for being the most difficult of the cockatoos, and especially the males, so hang onto your seats -LOL!

Another question while I'm at it. When Captain is on a perch downstairs, why kind of perch is it and what does the stand have to offer in the way of keeping him occupied/entertained?

Captain is lucky to have you and youf g/f (does she have a name? LOL) who want a better relationship with your bird. You can do this with ABA.

ETA: Oops, one more question. Since "aggressive" is a label, Can you operationalize it for me please. What does aggressive look like to you? What is Captain doing when he is "aggressive". Describe Captain being aggressive in clear, observable terms.

Last edited by EchosMom; 06/13/10 08:26 PM.

Birds are angels who lift us up when our own wings forget how to fly.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world - indeed it is the only thing that ever has!" ~~~ Margaret Meade ~~~

Noelle, A Rehabilitation in Progress
#222113 - 06/15/10 03:10 AM Re: Captain (M2)- Aggression [Re: EchosMom]  
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Lots of questions, lots of answers... here we go!

- Captain is primarily in his upstairs cage and being handled by my g/f currently (because of the recent outbreak of aggression towards me). We are just now (this week) starting to utilize the downstairs cage. The "running across the room to bite me" I spoke about before was in reference to an experiment that my g/f and I performed b/c I told her that Captain was posturing aggressivly and she didn't believe me. So I wrapped my legs in pillows and covered them with jeans and put on a set of steel toed boots, stood in the far corner, and let Captain out on the floor of the bird room. At first he didn't come right at me... but soon violently attacked my boot. Luckily, he did not bite my g/f when she picked him up! Captain was not at all interested in biting her... This is the only time I have willfully let Captain bite me and was the beginning of our contacting this site officially.

- I try never to let Captain bite me. To date, in 2 years, he has only bitten anyone maybe 6 or 7 times (all very minor bites). I claim about 3 or 4 of those. Though, while having various episodes on the floor in the past, he has bitten the bottoms of my shoe violently (he was not allowed on the floor after that until my g/f started doing it in the birdroom recently w/o telling me... This has now stopped until further notice.)

- Articles have been read by me... probably twice smile

- I'm not sure if the cage downstairs is helping with the aggression or not. We've done a couple back-and-forths already this week. We've also started trying to train a replacement behavior for his screaming by going to the cage the minute he makes any other noise that sounds like he wants attention while he's downstairs (but we don't react at all if he screams). He does not seem to react in the same way to me while in this downstairs cage. Not as aggressive.

- Captain's diet is primarily Zupreem Natural (large) pellets. He is not at all interested in fruits, seeds, nuts, or veggies it seems... lol. Though, today he went crazy for the crust on my sandwich! smile

- AV is on the list to do soon. He is about due for his yearly in any case.

- Aware of what I've gotten myself into... lol. Yippie! Its something I've wanted to do since I was a little kid though... smile

- The perch is a swing perch contructed out of two ceiling hooks, chain, 2' of PVC, and a big grape vine perch that normally would bolt into a floor stand. Aside from the movement of the perch, he didn't have much to entertain him. We've yet to create a full jungle out of the living room. Its a jungle in progress (pics to come soon!)

- G/f's name is Jenna.

- When I say aggressive, I mean any combination of a couple of things:
1) Neck feathers raised.
2) Back feathers raised.
3) Raised shoulders/ wings slightly apart from body.
4) Mouth gaping (sometimes grunting)
5) Running around in circles
6) Charging/ Biting the side of the cage.
7) Making unpredictable movements (sometimes biting/ bluff-biting movements)

I even think he trumpets when I leave the room after a display in "victory". (I have questioned whether I should leave based on his displays because of this, as I don't want to positively reinforce his aggressive behavior by having it effectively "scare" me off).


Thanks for you help! smile

Last edited by Jester; 06/15/10 03:12 AM.
#222173 - 06/16/10 02:21 AM Re: Captain (M2)- Aggression [Re: Jester]  
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Happy Tuesday Drew and Jenna! smile

Thanks for the great answers, things are becoming clearer. As I am sure you are realizing, the experiment you conducted with Captain wasn’t such a good idea. Even though you had pillows on under your jeans, I’m sure he realized that there was something different about you when you walked into the room – perhaps not your physical appearance but the way in which you handled yourself. You were on a mission to show Jenna that he was having aggressive tendencies and you pretty much invited him to pursue and bite you. You have to be consistent with Captain.

It does sound as if Captain, especially given his age is becoming territorial over his cage/room. Not unusual, but regardless a behavior that can surely be modified with ABA.

When you and Jenna conducted this experiment, what reaction did the two of you have to him, primarily Jenna’s reaction. What happened after he attacked your boot – did Jenna pick him up? Was there anything laughing? Also you mentioned that Captain is “benign” to Jenna, but later you mentioned that the two of you are finding it increasingly difficult to handle him. Which is the more accurate statement of the two?

Honestly, I can’t blame Captain for wandering from his perch in the familyroom since he has nothing to do there. The movement of the swing isn’t enough to keep him occupied and entertained. Would you stand in the same spot for long with absolutely nothing to do? I wouldn’t – LOL!

While the act of biting can become reinforcing, biting is also a form of communication. And as you have witnessed with the bluffs – he’s warning you. Heed those warnings Drew. As a matter of fact, take that another step back and heed the warnings (fluffed feathers and body posture) before he resorts to a lunge - or worse a bite.

Since Captain enjoyed the crust of your sandwich, you can use that as a primary reinforcer for now. Remember, little tiny pieces for requested behavior only. You may very well find that he will enjoy a lot of other things if he’s sharing them with you. They are very social creatures and enjoy sharing meals with their humans. Do you and Jenna include the birds with you at mealtime?

Good job reading the articles. Do you have any questions?

Drew, you’ve given me lots of information!! And two last questions for today. You mentioned screaming in your last reply. We need to focus on one behavior at a time – which do you want to work on first? And a very important question to leave you with for today…what exactly is it that you want Captain to do? We need a goal. I know the knee-jerk response would be to “not be aggressive”, but there is a rule in ABA called the Dead Person’s rule. If a dead person can perform the task, then it’s not a good goal. So, keeping that in mind, what would you like to see from Captain?

P.S. I'd be getting some enrichment activities on that swing, for Captain real quick if I was you. wink

Last edited by EchosMom; 06/16/10 03:37 AM.

Birds are angels who lift us up when our own wings forget how to fly.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world - indeed it is the only thing that ever has!" ~~~ Margaret Meade ~~~

Noelle, A Rehabilitation in Progress
#223016 - 07/03/10 06:12 PM Re: Captain (M2)- Aggression [Re: EchosMom]  
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Happy 4th of July weekend! I am checking in from my living room couch. Captain is in the cage behind the couch.... perfectly quiet for an hour now. He allowed me to bring him down this morning.

Couple things I should update you on:

1) I bought a dometop cage from a fellow bird owner with about the same dimensions as his upstairs cage. That way, Captain can easily be brought down to join the household.

2) Toys currently in new cage: Mirror box, Chain Gang, long chain (4') with wooden blocks. Though he doesn't seem to play with them much. I think they are more comforting and familiar.

3) Jenna has gotten much more involved "the program" as she currently has a safer relationship with Captain. Just getting Captain downstairs into his new cage and regular treating for good behavior (and eliminating treating and attention for bad behaviors) has really put things back together.

Result:

Surprisingly, Captain has made quick progress in the past couple weeks. His aggression behaviors have decreased dramatically (in # of instances vs. non-instances and duration of instances).

Key factors:

- The new cage has been my pivot. Captain enjoys coming downstairs, but he became too much of a liability to have freeroaming. We began by acclimating him to the new cage, which was done by Jenna. She took him downstairs over the course of many days and stood as close to the cage as Captain would easily allow. It didn't take long before he wanted to explore the cage with familiar toys in it.

- Captain has been heavily treated by myself using white sunflower seeds (1 at a time; usually 15 per session) during times when he was not exhibiting aggression.

I began by putting about 10 seeds on the top of his new food in the morning AFTER Jenna had replaced the pellet food and left the room. I would try to find a time when he was not displaying aggression to do it. After a number of sessions, Captain began taking treats through the cage (either by beak or by foot) through the cage 1 by 1.

Just doing this over and over had tremendous results over about 2 weeks, as he will now take other seeds from me as treats!!!! I just found this out yesterday.

Its now been an hour and no screaming. At least for an hour, I have my old Captain back. If I had my own house, I would certainly have an outdoor aviary. These birds really need more space and more varied experiences than most any other parrot. With that in mind as my goal, its hard to go wrong.


Oh, did I mention Jenna had him out on the swing perch for a couple hours before I got home (with no incident) and about an hour after I got home (with barely any screaming) before she easily took him upstairs to his cage... smile That is the first time he's been allow back on his perch in a while.

And this morning is the first time I've taken Captain out in the whole 2 week period. He went directly from the upstairs cage to the downstairs cage. Then was given approx 15 seeds in the food dish and treated a couple of seeds 1 by 1 and praised. Other than that, he's basically been left to his own devices. smile

Hard to get all the details in. Do you have any questions? (I'm sure you do...) smile

#223042 - 07/04/10 07:45 PM Re: Captain (M2)- Aggression [Re: Jester]  
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Welcome back - I've been wondering how things were going. It sounds as if you are getting things under control. Now it's time to start working to getting Captain the out of cage time that he needs and deserves.

I'd cut back on the # of sunflowers he receives as a reward for requested behavior. Giving him 15 sunflower seeds is definitely like hitting the jackpot, and if you are not careful, they will lose their value to him. Why should he do 15 things for 1 sunflower seed each, if he can do one thing, and receive 15 rewards? Does he like shelled pinenuts? Those can be cut into 1/4's to use as a reinforcer. 1/4 of a pinenut for 1 requested behavior.

And definitely don't forget to make that swing perch fun. If all he has to do is sit there, he's going to start roaming again. There is no way any of my birds will stay put for 1 hour with absolutely nothing to occupy them.

You and Jenna have a good momentum going!


Birds are angels who lift us up when our own wings forget how to fly.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world - indeed it is the only thing that ever has!" ~~~ Margaret Meade ~~~

Noelle, A Rehabilitation in Progress

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