Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Good Start to a Good Bird. Raising and Training a Great Companion Parrot

There is plenty of data that supports that value of having animals in our lives. As the third most popular pet, birds obviously hold a special place in many people’s hearts. However a common statement about parrots is that they are bad or challenging pets. Really? I have cohabitated with parrots for over twenty three years and really can’t think of a moment when I thought to myself “Uh oh. This was a mistake” In fact I credit my parrots for helping become the kind of pet owner all animals deserve.

More importantly having a personal connection with individual parrots has helped me become aware and concerned for parrot species in the wild. As technology takes over and more people become disconnected from nature, pets may be the only animals future generations experience. By fostering a connection and giving caregivers the tools to live successfully with parrots we are doing so much more than making great pets. We are creating deep bonds that can benefit individual birds and their wild counterparts.

Are Parrots Difficult Pets?
In my experience parrots are neither inherently good companion animals nor inherently bad companion animals. The behaviors parrots choose to exhibit are the result of what earns them reinforcers or what will cause an aversive stimulus to go away. In other words parrot behavior is the result of our behavior. If we choose to reinforce behaviors we like, we will see those behaviors exhibited more often. If we try to control parrots through unpleasant experiences we are likely to create aggressive behavior or fear responses.

The bottom line is parrot caregivers who are armed with tools and information on training their parrots with positive reinforcement are likely to have great success with a parrot in their home. Those who rely on coercion are sure to encounter problems and sadly miss out on the incredible relationship based on trust one can have with a parrot. The methods we choose to influence parrot behavior determine the outcome, not the genetics of the parrot. I have been fortunate to see successful parrot and caregiver relationships over and over again in my travels. Those who succeed have embraced the positive reinforcement approach to parrot behavior.

A Successful Start
Parrots are learning machines from a very young age. If you are planning on acquiring a parrot from a breeder I recommend the rest of the article in our free sample of Good Bird Magazine.

Barbara Heidenreich
Good Bird Inc
Copyright 2010 Good Bird Inc


Saeran said...

Hi Barbara-
Thank you so much for this post! With all the information out there blaming parrots for the many problems people have with them, it's encouraging to see that it is possible to take responsibility for having a good relationship with your birds. I feel much more confident going into my first experience with birds and look forward to the relationships I will cultivate with them.

Unknown said...

Hi Barbara,
I am 16 years old and I have been volunteering/working at a specialized parrot store, in which my mom worked also before me,for about 3 years now so we're both fairly knowledgeable about parrots. Although we have a close relationship with the parrot industry we disagree with most of the ethics in the parrot breeding and selling business. My family currently has 6 parrots and only one has been purchased and all the others we have rescued. About 2 weeks ago I rescued an Umbrella cockatoo myself. I had been bonding with him for a few months before bringing him home with me. He's a good bird for most of the time but there are quite a few challenging problems that I must address in order to keep my bird. He's very attached to me and therefore will not let me leave the room without him or the house without screaming bloody murder, nonstop. When I adopted him I agreed to care for him the best I could and I strongly believe that I am doing a good job but as a teenager, I do expect the least of a social life and I believe I can have one even though I have a parrot. The next problem is aggression. He detests with a burning passion everybody in the world but me. He won't allow my boyfriend over at my house and if I put him in his cage he screams and if I let him out he will hunt my boyfriend down around the house and nobody or anything can stop him. He does not like neither of my parents either, he is always trying to attack them and yesterday he bit me because I stopped him from reaching my mom. My parents are very frustrated with him but I love him so much and I do not want to take him back to where I got him or give him up at all but it is very difficult. I also have inpatient neighbors who don't put up with too much screaming (p.s. my other parrots don't scream or make much noise at all, they're really friendly, well behaved pets) so after reading one of your articles on how to address the screaming issues, I still find challenges because of my parents and neighbors. On both issues I understand, after reading your article, that my family and I do reinforce the screaming and aggression due to limited knowledge on how to handle the situation. I am willing to do anything I can to keep him. But he also won't sleep in his own cage at night even though I cover and try my best to have him do so, he wakes me up very early every weekend and break mornings with screaming, he makes homework ten times more difficult to do by stepping on my stuff and constantly begging for my attention. My birds are all fullflighted and I'm waiting for his flight fathers to come out so I can have him fly outside with harness and I'm also looking forward to teaching him tricks and engaging him into a very healthy diet, but I won't be able to do these if he keeps the undesired behaviors that he has right now. I am very desperate and I was wondering if there's any advice you can give me that would maybe help? Thank you for your articles, they're very informative and useful.You're great and it would be such an honor to receive some advice from you or have my bird trained by you. I appreciate your work. Thank you for your time.

Barbara Heidenreich said...

Lots more resources for various behavior problems here