Cockatoos are inquisitive and intelligent, making them receptive to training. However, hopefully you realized before making a purchase there are lots of different kinds of cockatoos, and only some talk or learn particular tricks. Do your research to choose a type that you can trained the way you want.
Foster trust and a bond between you and your feathered friend from the start. Meet her basic needs by providing appropriate feed and fresh water daily. Make sure her cage is roomy and that she has a variety of perches, toys and items to chew on.
Tame your cockatoo before attempting training. Handle her gently and affectionately every day in a room without distractions, including other people and animals. Hand-feed her treats and talk quietly to her in loving tones. Move slowly; never make sudden movements. Start with short taming sessions and gradually increase their duration. At first, taming will take place with your bird in her cage; after she gets more accustomed to you and willingly perches on you, take her out to continue taming.
Choose one person in the house to perform the primary training. If it isn't you, it should be someone who also puts in time and effort to tame your bird. Others can reinforce the primary training but should not conduct the main sessions, or your feathered friend can become confused about what she's supposed to do and when.
Hold training sessions in an uncluttered, quiet room. Your cockatoo has a pretty limited attention span, so you'll have to minimize the possible distractions. Close cabinets, windows, blinds and doors. Turn off the overhead fan or anything else moving or making noise. Chase away any other people or animals.
Train your cockatoo to say one word or a brief phrase of two or three words at a time. Repeat it numerous times directly to her during training sessions. Offer periodic treats to keep training time a happy time. When you bird begins losing interest, or if you start becoming frustrated or impatient, stop the session and resume a few hours later or the next day.
Be consistent about training sessions. Have them in the same place and at the same time of day every time. Stick to the same word or exact same phrase until your cockatoo learns to say it. Reward her immediately with a treat and praise when she says what you want her to say.
Reinforce the training sessions by saying the word or phrase you're working on every time you approach your feathered friend's cage. Instruct all the other humans in the home to do the same. Offer a treat when your cockatoo repeats the words until she begins saying them on her own rather than just repeating them on "command."
Refrain from yelling at or punishing your bird. She won't learn any faster; in fact, she'll become afraid of you, and less receptive to training and displays of affection.
Follow this basic process to train your cockatoo to perform tricks or to behave in certain ways. Consistent repetition, patience and positive reinforcement are key. The specifics of other types of training vary, though, so consult a trainer or a reputable guide if you want to teach your bird to do other things.
- Different types of cockatoos grow to different sizes, affecting the required cage size. Minimum sizes are as follows: for goffins, bare eyeds and other small cockatoos, 26 inches deep, 38 inches wide and 5 to 6 feet high; for citrons, lessers, Eleanoras and other medium cockatoos, 29 inches deep, 46 inches wide and 6 feet high; for umbrellas, Moluccans, greater sulfurs and other large cockatoos, 36 inches deep, 48 inches wide and 6 feet high.
- Cockatoos are relatively affectionate birds with their mates and with loving owners. While your cockatoos affection toward you starts out innocently enough, it typically becomes sexual in nature with maturity. You can train your cockatoo to be cuddly and physically affectionate, but this sends sexual messages to your bird once she's an adult. Keep snuggling and rubbing very brief, or your adult cockatoo will get turned on. Your failure to follow through can cause frustrated behavior, which may include biting.
- Don't try to train your cockatoo not to chew and shred, which are important behaviors for them. It helps them maintain healthy beaks and it's an essential source of mental and physical stimulation. Make sure your little feathered friend always has something to gnaw to bits.
Eric Mohrman has been a freelance writer since 2007, focusing on travel, food and lifestyle stories. His creative writing is also widely published. He lives in Orlando, Florida.