Parrot training and behavior is a subject that has been misunderstood extensively. Many believe that parrots bite and scream like humans, but they also refuse to eat certain foods and play with certain toys. This is either because they are wild animals, lazy, mean, or dominant.
It is impossible to be more true. Functional behavior is the basis of all behavior. Because they have learned it works and it continues to work, parrots behave as they do. They don’t behave the way we want them to, because they have never been taught how to. We must recognize that they are our responsibility to teach them how to live in our environment. It is also the responsibility of the dog owner to train them not to bark, jump on other people, or chew furniture.
Body language of the Parrot
Training is more about having a two-way conversation than giving ultimatums. You must be able both to comprehend what your bird is saying and to communicate with it. This requires being able read your bird’s body language. For more information on understanding parrot body language, see the Resources section.
Although there are many theories on how to train animals we know that the best ones follow the three E’s.
- Is it effective? Is it effective?
- Is it ethical? Is it ethical?
- Is it Empowering? Is it empowering?
Training methods that involve force, dominance, or punishment may be effective but are not ethical or empowering. Absolute permissiveness, which allows the learner to do what he likes, may be ethical but not effective. It may also be less empowering.
Positive reinforcement training for birds
The scientific approach to behavior, also known as applied behavior analysis or positive reinforcement training, can meet all three E’s. These are the foundational principles of applied behaviour analysis:
- We don’t assume who the learner is. Instead, we describe what the learner does.
- We are objective, not subjective. Instead of saying, “This bird is mean”, we say, “When my hand touches the bird, it bites me.”
- Instead of telling the learner what to do, we show him what TO do.
- Our instinctual reaction is to immediately punish or suppress an undesirable behavior, but it’s better to teach the bird how to behave.
- Instead of forcing the learner into conforming to our will, instead we empower him to make his own decision.
- Instead of forcing a bird into doing what we want, instead we teach it to behave voluntarily.
These principles are the first step. However, learning how to train is a difficult task that requires instruction and guidance from trained professionals. If you need more assistance, the resources section contains links to sites that provide free information and resources.