Archive for September, 2011

How can I stop my parrot (insert behavior)?

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked a question like the following:

How can I stop my parrot screaming?

How can I stop my parrot biting?

How can I stop my parrot (insert unwanted behavior)?

I am sure you see the pattern here; asking this kind of questions doesn’t lead to any kind of resolution, only frustration. Simply trying to reduce unwanted behavior somehow misses a couple of important points, not the least of which is that, typically, focusing on reducing behavior leads to the use of aversives, things the bird will work to avoid. Behavior science tells us that such techniques do not lead to a good working partnership with our birds. They in fact work against building trust.

The way to avoid this situation is through a different type of question, one that asks what you want the bird to do. For example if you have a bird that is biting your hands when you try to move him in and out of his cage ask yourself, what do I want him to do? Typically what is wanted is for the bird to step onto the hand without biting when requested. This is a behavior that can be built with patience and a large helping of positive reinforcement. Avoiding force and coercion to get the bird onto your hand gives the power of choice to the bird and through many repetitions of the behavior also builds the bird’s trust in you the trainer and the chances are the biting will be reduced.

My point here is not to teach how to train a particular behavior but to encourage you to ask questions that lead you to using the most positive least intrusive strategies for training. It is through the use of these strategies that you will build a trusting relationship with your bird.

Keep soaring,




Getting your Training Perspective Right

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Our upbringing and socialization are responsible for the way we approach pretty much everything in life and training is no different. I have written before about the language we use when we speak about training. While watching a PBS program about wild horse management in the western USA I saw an interview with Ginger Kathrens of the Cloud Foundation. She made one very simple and yet poignant statement that I paraphrase here:

 “We don’t have to teach a horse to trust us, we have to demonstrate we are worthy of trust.”

Trust as an important factor in all our training endeavors and we should not forget that it is earned. It is our responsibility to earn the trust of our birds through empowerment and consistency.