Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Please and Thank You

With help from Linus

What qualifies as a well-behaved parrot is always going to vary from person to person. And how to achieve whatever your definition of a well-behaved parrot is will also vary widely. I am not going to get in to that fray in this post, after all, I intend this to be a short(ish) one. So instead, I will focus on a simple way to get a little closer to that goal.

And just a note, this post applies only to parrots that in general very much appreciate interacting with humans and will actively seek it out from you or another human. It does not apply to those that have not learned to love human companionship yet, and especially not to those that are distrustful of humans.

Whenever you go to interact in any way with your parrot, stop first and see what they are doing, ie, their behavior. If you want to encourage that behavior, such as playing alone, then go ahead and greet your parrot and continue with whatever you planned to do. More important than ignoring the bad is praising the good. Even for birds that have no glaring issues this is extremely important. How else will they know what you want? Even more than talking and doing tricks, a parrot that plays well on its own, is not overly loud, is friendly, and eats a varied diet is highly desired. So why just praise the talking and tricks? Praise the little stuff, since a parrot that does not wave on cue can still live in harmony with you, but a parrot that does not play? Not so much.

Going further, whenever I can, I will ask for a behavior before giving attention or food. In fact, many of you likely already do this by asking your parrot to step-up. Any time you request a simple behavior which they already can do before giving them what they want, ie attention, is a step in the right direction. Not only does this empower your parrot by allowing them the opportunity to shine (or not, if they choose), but it also gets both you and your parrot in the training mode. If you have a parrot that does not really like new toys, and you get them to beak a toy before picking them up, then the toy soon becomes associated with you and fun. Just as important, the idea that certain behaviors are rewarded is instilled at the same time, so if you choose several little things you can do throughout the day, your parrot will not only learn them, but also be on the lookout for new ones.

And last bit of advice on this subject? If you ask for said behavior (assuming they do indeed know the behavior), like step-up or as per my example beak the toy, and it is not given, you need to walk away. Really. Just walk away. I know you want to play with them, but you will send mixed messages by going ahead with that now. Once a behavior is asked for, if the request is refused, then giving in will weaken that request greatly. If you are consistent, you will very quickly find the only time you are refused is when your parrot genuinely does not want to play. And that means you now have two-way communication. In the words of that infamous ad campaign....... priceless.


BirdieSchool said...

Hi Meg, I'm a new reader that found your blog yesterday by way of Twitter. You are absolutely correct in saying "what qualifies as a well-behaved parrot is always going to vary from person to person."

I found it coincidental that you wrote about this on exactly the same day that Barbara Heidenreich posted about her bird Delbert repeating a phrase that delights her but would make me crazy.

At any rate, I mentioned you both on my blog, in my post that discusses how desirable behavior is in the eye of the beholder. I hope you don't mind the shout-out, and I'm looking forward to reading more of your blog.

I'm sorry that you are suffering from MCS. When I was in college, I worked for a woman who had severe form of it. To be around her, I could only wear 100% cotton clothing that had been washed in vinegar and baking soda, and I had to bathe beforehand in special soap. Her life was very difficult and isolating, because she literally was allergic to almost everything. I'm glad that you are able to have your birds, as I am sure they are of great comfort to you.

Meg said...

Thanks for the shout-out!

Really, twitter? I know my blog is spread on there, but I admit not being able to navigate it without frustration myself.

MCS is a hard thing. I think almost as hard as the condition itself are all the questions that go along with it, so little is known. I know there are different types of it, and different forms. Some just need a way to recover after injury, and then sometimes (in what is much less common, judging by how few I know) there seems there must be something genetically wrong preventing the body from working as it should- I fall in the later. Still, since it has always been there, I am adjusted to my life, and live around the limitations, and further, I am finally getting some improvement as I wrote here- http://aparrotforkeeps.blogspot.com/2011/12/reflection-for-new-year.html So I certainly cannot complain!

saemmabel said...

Great post! Thanks Meg!