When it comes to companion parrots there are very few behaviors they need to know that can really make a difference in veterinary care. Probably the most important behavior to train is being comfortable with restraint in a towel. Most parrots do not like being captured or restrained against their will. By training this behavior with positive reinforcement you can significantly reduce or eliminate stress when visiting the veterinarian. There are many different ways to train this behavior and you can see some examples in my DVD Training Your Parrot for the Veterinary Exam.
Another behavior that is very helpful is to train your parrot to stand comfortably on a scale. This is something that you can easily train at home. If you are very good about regularly weighing your parrots and keeping a record of this information there is a good chance your bird won't even need to be weighed at the veterinary clinic. You can weigh your bird before you go. This information is very helpful to your veterinarian. You can find a scale to weigh your parrots at stores that sell mailing supplies, scales for weighing food and avian specialty stores. Check out my parrots getting weighed in the video clip below.
It's also good idea to train your parrot to be comfortable loading into some sort of transport cage or container. If your bird is not comfortable with this, just getting to the veterinarian could be quite difficult and stress inducing. I prefer to use a wire collapsible dog crate that has two doors for my larger birds. It is pretty easy to train parrots to load into this type of transport cage. Be sure to include practicing driving your bird around in your car. This part needs to be trained too. Be aware that some parrots will get motion sickness. A sure sign of this is when your parrot starts to regurgitate when the car is moving. For birds that tend to get motion sickness, avoid giving a big meal before going in the car. You can also put the crate in the front seat so your parrot can see where you are going to help prevent feeling sick. Take turns slowly and keep your trips short if you can.
When it's time to go to the vet, be sure to bring along favorite treats and toys. Familiar items from home that are associated with good things can help your parrot be more comfortable. I actually bring my scale from home because my birds know it is associated with good things. Standing on it and getting treats helps them relax quicker. My macaw Blu Lu enjoys playing with toys at the veterinary hospital in the clip below.
Another important behavior to train is teaching your bird to accept fluids from a syringe. This is in case your bird ever gets sick and needs medication. If your bird already knows how to take many different types of fluids from a syringe then it will be no big deal when he needs to take medication. The alternative is to have to restrain him every day to squirt the medication in his mouth. Most parrots don't like this, and if you have to do it, the procedure could damage the relationship you have with your parrot. You can learn more about training this behavior from my e-book Train Your Parrot to Accept Medication. You can get the e-book for free by going to this link http://www.goodbirdinc.com/ebookoffer/. http://www.goodbirdinc.com/ebookoffer/. Go through the steps like you're going to buy the book. Enter the code PARROTRX in the special code box and hit apply. This will bring the cost down to zero and you will get the e-book for free.
Your parrot will live a long time. Training these four simple behaviors can be done quite quickly and will make a big difference in how your parrot experiences a visit to the veterinarian. I hope you will give them a try with your parrot.
Barbara Heidenreich has been a professional animal trainer since 1990. Her company Good Bird Inc (www.GoodBirdInc.com) provides parrot training DVDs, books and workshops. She has been a featured speaker in eighteen countries and has been published in nine languages. Barbara also consults on animal training in zoos.