Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Building Trust with Your Parrot

Today I was stroking my yellow naped amazon parrot Delbert’s foot. I was marveling at how such a little tiny creature would sit there so relaxed while I gently touched him. Seriously, it really is a moving experience when you think about it. An animal that can easily fly away from me or perhaps bite me hard enough to draw blood is allowing and enjoying me touching his feet. I think that is really cool. And in a weird way, a proud moment. The pride comes in because I know it is the choices I have made when interacting with my parrot that allows me this wonderful privilege.

Building trust with your parrot is a very realistic goal. What it requires is tossing out those old school notions about how to interact with animals. You are not going to be the boss, your bird does not have to obey you, and your parrot doesn’t have to do anything right this second.

Instead you are going to be your parrot’s partner, his provider of all things wonderful and most of all, you will be his friend.

Here are a few tips to help you start building a trusting relationship with your parrot.

1. Avoid using force to get your parrot to do something you want.
2. Avoid doing anything that creates a fear response. (You will need to learn to be very attentive to your bird’s body language so you know what the slightest fear response looks like.)
3. Avoid doing anything that creates aggressive behavior. (Just as with fear responses you will want to become very familiar with aggressive body language to avoid creating it.)
4. Empower your parrot to choose to participate. Let him walk or fly away when he wants to.

Some may be thinking “With my parrot having all that freedom to choose how in the world will I get him to be well behaved and do what I ask when needed?”….like step up when it is time to go back in the cage. This is where learning about how to train with positive reinforcement will be very important.

Positive reinforcement training will teach your parrot that when he does cooperate with your requests wonderful things happen. Like he gets treats, head scratches, cuddles or attention. Or all of the above! When you use this approach you get a parrot who can’t wait to do what you ask. And best of all you get a parrot who really enjoys interacting with you.

Follow these tips and not only will your parrot learn to trust you, but you will also find your relationship will blossom. Making that connection with a parrot is very rewarding for you both when you train with positive reinforcement. You can learn more about how to train your parrot and build trust from my DVDs Parrot Behavior and Training: An Introduction to Training and also my Live Workshop DVD The Basics of Parrot Training. Also check out the DVD Understanding Parrot Body Language to fine tune your sensitivity to fear and aggressive behaviors.

I get lots of emails about people having turned their relationship with their companion parrot around by following these strategies. I can’t wait to hear your story!

Happy Training!

Barbara Heidenreich
Copyright 2011 Good Bird Inc

1 comment:

Best in Flock parrot blog said...

Wonderful post, Barbara!

One of the most rewarding things about living with parrots is knowing that I had to *earn* my birds' trust. When they choose to be with me, when they could easily choose not to be, that means more to me than if I knew that they only did these things because they didn't have any other option.

When I first got Stewie, he bit hard and he bit a lot -- somewhere in his life before me he had learned that this is how he needed to communicate. Now, after a lot of trust-building work, if I do something to accidentally annoy him, he knows that all he needs to do is make a particular noise and give me the stink eye, and I'll back off. It's much more pleasant for both of us when neither of us have to resort to force to communicate. ;)