I'm interested in getting a pigeon but I'm a little intimidated by how smart they are? I think I could handle it but it's still a little nerve wracking. I'd get a dove but I actually might need to have the pidge wear a diaper (and i know it's super bad for doves), and I'm interested in training the pidge to be a kind of assistance pidge like the marvelous Ankhou! Do you have tips or advice on how to reduce the anxiety about the intelligence level? Or on how to successfully train a pidge?
Pigeons learn like toddlers and cannot be forced to do much of anything.
Basic training involves giving them a pattern to latch onto and fill in, but Assistance training is based on first and foremost forming a close bond of trust with you pidge.
Pigeons are social observation learners who are directly taught the basics of being a pigeon by their fathers (because mom is often on the next clutch of eggs bey the time they wean) and then learn nuances by observing the flock and experimenting, VERY much the way young humans learn!
Pigeons are vocal and gregarious, and the way they naturally excel at mapping patterns makes them very good at picking up on language, which is a visible and audible pattern of communication.
The first thing your pidge needs to know is that you are safe and trustworthy, which will involve becoming attuned to its comfort levels so that you can adjust and make yourself comfortable to be on and around.
I generally start harness training mine early, so you will need more training than the bird when the time comes. XD
But while that bond is being forged, it’s important that you talk to your pigeon the way you would a very small child.
I don’t mean baby talk. That shit’s confusing as fuck.
Clearly enunciate, and name EVERYTHING! Remember that language is a pattern and pigeons are good at patterns!
Name objects. Name people. Name places. Name actions! Everything we do and interact with and even the way we interact with things has a name, a specific word, attached.
Concepts have names, but are harder to convey to a non-human. And yet, Ankhou understands concepts like “want” (offering him a choice to accept or decline, rather than giving him a command) and “help” (I am offering to do something for him that he can’t for himself, like open a jar of treats)
He also learned that I can follow his line of sight and to point to places he wants to go when flight is not available to him. (Pointing comes naturally to corvids, but not to pigeons, so the fact that he figured that concept out on his own is significant!)
If you need your pidge to be an Assistance bird, it would be best to start with a weanling. Yes, adult birds, especially hens, can bond to people well enough to become emotional support and assistance birds, as @tinysaurus-rex and @skuttlebutts can attest with 4 month old Rex and adult Horchata.
But the younger the bird, the more time it has to develop that all important relationship with you and the less chance a young cock will become aggressive (occasional driving behaviors aside).
Since pigeons are notoriously difficult to sex, it’s important for an Assistance Bird to come into your life early enough that the sex won’t matter.
Ankhou decided to be my assistance bird. I did not train him to alert or help me recover.
He got to know me at my healthy base line and became alarmed when I was suddenly not-me, from his perspective.
Pigeons being the innate pattern mappers they are, he picked up on warning signs I am not aware of and figured out that cuddly time lowered my stress levels.
He put 2 and 2 together entirely by himself!
Now, when we’re in public and he catches those warning signs, he gets in my face and insistent about going somewhere quiet to cuddle with him.
Pigeons are intensely socially driven, so you need to think of your relationship more as an interspecies friendship than an owner-pet relationship.
It’s important to remember that a pigeon is mentally and emotionally five, and when it acts out, it’s because it got excited by the thing that is no and forgot in its excitement that that thing is no, got distracted from the thing it was supposed to be doing, or is frustrated by a need not being met.
There needs to be a consequence for doing things they aren’t supposed to, but it can’t be a punishment.
You cannot afford to make yourself scary to a pigeon you want a relationship with, so correction cannot hurt or frighten the pidge.
And the most effective deterrent I know of is limiting free time.
Ankhou LOVES his kennel! He eats there. He has a nest in there that he likes to lay down and woo me from. He preens it in passing, some times.
But when he does something he knows he’s not supposed to do, he gets zipped up in the kennel and told that he can come out when he settles.
He understands “no”. He knows where he is not allowed to be. And ke knows thta not going back into an ok place means he gets kenneled.
It’s important that it’s as clear as possible that his actions got him kenneled. I did not just trap him on a whim.
He also understands “out” and what it means to be “let out” and that “you” addresses who ever I am looking at right then.
“Ankhou” addresses him, specifically, apart from the other birds, whose names he also knows.
“Settle”, for Ankhou, means to get in his basket and be content.
If I tell him to settle and he immediately runs to his basket, hops in, and wing twitches, I let him out, even if he was just put up seconds ago.
Because it’s important that he understands that his actions get him *out* of trouble too!
It really, legitimately is like training a nonverbal toddler with wings!