Rebecca K. O'Connor
In order to keep your parrot on her best behavior, you have to have a conversation. How do you have a conversation with a parrot? The best way and the only effective way is through training. Parrots are wild animals. Even those bred in captivity are only a few generations removed from the wild. They don’t understand when you yell at them, frown at them or ask them politely to behave. What they do understand is whether or not they get something they enjoy from the behaviors they offer.
A behavior is something that a parrot does. It can be described. It is not what a parrot is feeling or thinking. It is fun to imagine what a parrot has going on in her mind, but no matter what you think is happening when those mental wheels are turning, it’s only a guess. In reality, we rarely know what the people in our lives are thinking or feeling. You certainly can’t be sure what’s on a parrot’s mind.
The only thing you can truly address and shape are behaviors that you can describe. Even if you have the best-behaved parrot that ever shared a home with a human being, it is important to learn to recognize and describe behavior. Rewarding or ignoring specific behavior is how you start to have a conversation with a parrot.
A behavior that repeats itself has been reinforced, no maybes about it. A parrot that repeatedly screams, bites, crawls down off her cage or refuses to go into her cage has been and is probably still getting something she wants from this behavior. This means that we have trained it. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s easy to reinforce a behavior with a little attention, a scratch on the head or a well-meant treat. Knowing this however, can help you shape good behavior.
The good news is that if behavior is this easy to train, it’s that easy to keep good behavior going strong. Do you make a point of stopping by to pay attention to a parrot that is quietly playing on her playstand? Do you give you parrot a treat when she says cute things instead of screaming? When you have to put your parrot back in the cage, do you pause to give her a little attention or a treat? If you don’t, now is a good time to start. It doesn’t take much, just being more mindful of rewarding actions you appreciate. You simply have to keep having a conversation with your parrot.
So recognize the your parrot’s behaviors. Reinforce the behaviors that make your parrot a joy with attention, scratches, and treats. Pay attention and avoid rewarding behaviors that will make your parrot difficult to live with or put it in danger. The more consistent and mindful you are, the more likely you are to have a wonderful companion whose company is a joy. Even better, your parrot will think you are a pleasure to be around as well!
Want to learn more?
2 Easy Tricks Every Well-Behaved Parrot Should