Quick Fixes And Why They Don’t Work

Many diverse ideas on parrot behavior have emerged throughout time, as have many various approaches for changing parts of those behaviors. The earliest behavioral experiments used strategies proved to be effective in dog training. We’ve now reached a point when tactics comparable to those used with young infants are often utilized. The difficulty is that parrots are not dogs or human children – they are parrots in their own right. Our psittacine companions are exceptionally clever, compassionate and empathic, and emotionally sensitive. They do not understand cause and effect reasoning.

Though most birds that live with people are domestically produced and carefully nurtured youngsters, they are still wild creatures with many natural tendencies. When these extremely intelligent, very loving wild creatures come to live in the artificial setting of a cage in our homes, problems occur. Early instruction is critical in helping birds learn to adapt to the environment we’ve built for them, and a lack of care frequently leads to issues later on. Screaming, biting, feather plucking, and “running wild” in the house are some of the most common issues. Even the most loving and patient bird parent may find these things difficult. When I originally purchased my first parrot 25 years ago, I was instructed to deal with difficulties by covering the cage, knocking on it, yelling at the bird, or squirting her with a spray bottle. I attempted these things a few times (hey, I didn’t know any better at the time), but soon discovered that nothing was changing in terms of behavior. What I did see was an Amazon parrot that appeared puzzled or became really agitated when I attempted those “Quick Fixes.” Surprisingly, some breeders and behaviorists still support these tactics.

I still have a few customers who say they have no other choice, but my query is, “If these approaches work so effectively, why do you have to keep repeating them?!” Quick remedies may seem to work by briefly diverting the bird, but the remedy is short-lived. Often, the condition worsens as the bird grows more agitated and disoriented. Why aren’t they working? The foundation of all interactions with companion parrots is trust. Only trust has been shown to be successful in human/parrot contact.

The issue with fast remedies is that many of them erode the trust we have worked so hard to establish. They rely more on fear and intimidation methods, which may completely destroy the tie of trust. Yelling at a bird is seen as a challenge to see who can shout the loudest. Covering the cage is perplexing – “Is it time for bed?” “What exactly is going on?” They get afraid and aggressive when they bang on the cage. A bird’s territory and refuge is a cage. Because parrots are prey animals rather than predators, a “attack” on their territory is an assault on them. Water squirting is also perplexing – “Is it bath time?” – and may drive birds to acquire a dread of bathing. When they encounter a squirt bottle, birds that have been squirted as punishment flee as quickly as they can. Positive reinforcement of “good” actions and ignoring negative ones results in considerably more effective behavioral change in parrots. Because of a lack of knowledge of cause and consequence, punishment does not operate properly. The issue with short remedies is that the underlying source of the problem is not addressed, therefore no lasting change is feasible, and, as previously said, it may worsen the difficulties. Remember that violence breeds greater aggressiveness.

So, forego the easy solutions and instead learn to identify what’s causing the issue so you can modify the habit with positive reinforcement and instruction.

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