Dear Parrot Lover,
Did you know that the average parrot has the intelligence of a two year old child?
And that, just like a two year old child, parrots need to be stimulated both mentally and physically?
But if you already have kids in your household, or simply have a very busy life juggling work and play, how are you going to be able to mentally and physically stimulate your parrot?
The answer is actually quite simple. Create training drills for your parrot.
Set aside an hour or two every day – preferably at the same time – and schedule some one-on-one time with your parrot. Choose a time where the two of you won’t be distracted by other household members that may also be vying for your attention.
Decide on what exercises you want your parrot to practice during these sessions. A few suggestions are:
- Learning and practicing the ‘Step Up’ Command
- Learning and practicing the Ladder command
- Learning a new trick
- Learning a new word or phrase
- Introducing your parrot to a new toy or food
- Play time
These drill exercises are meant to be fun for both of you. So make sure that you keep the sessions on point. Don’t become your parrot’s personal Drill Sergeant as this will just harbor distrust between the two of you.
If your parrot succeeds with his training, make sure your reward him with his favorite treat.
But, if your parrot makes a mistake or ignores his training, simply ignore him.
Never raise your voice nor punish your parrot as this can scare him for life.
This may seem like an overly-simplistic way to train your parrot, but keep in mind here that your ultimate goal is to mold your parrot’s behavior into that of a well-stimulated and physically fit parrot by providing him with a nice reward whenever he does something good, and ignoring him by refusing with no reward and/or no interaction or reaction for doing something bad. Don’t think that the reward here has to be a food item. It can be a simply as a loving word spoken in praise, or an extra scratch on the head, or even a few minutes of fun playtime. Parrots are very smart and will not respond to if you attempt to punish them in anyway. Therefore you must learn to just ignore your parrot if he does something naughty. Any type of negative reaction from you can quickly turn into a reward, especially if your parrot is just looking for attention from you. When first using this training method, your parrot’s naughty behavior might actually intensify, but eventually he will catch on to what is expected of him and any undesirable behavior will stop.
The Smarty-Pants Parrot
How smart is your bird?
Your average parrot is a pretty smart bird! In fact the parrot’s intelligence can be thought of as being roughly similar to a 2-4 year old child. Studies into African Grey parrots showed that they were able to do tasks that a 4 year old child could do (Royal Society Biological Sciences). That can be a good thing for the bird owner in terms of training, but it can also be a bad thing at times.
A smart bird learns things fairly quickly, and he can be taught a wide variety of skills, particularly ones that look to his basic bird skills. For example, a parrot is adept at using his feet to hold and pick items up so training a neat trick where he picks something up isn’t that hard for him to do.
On the other hand ….
The flip side of a smart bird is that he does get bored easily and needs to preoccupy himself. Imagine putting a 2 year old child alone in a room with nothing to do and no guidance all day long, and think of all the things that could go wrong!
It’s very similar with a pet bird. His intelligence and natural curiosity lead him to want to do things. In the wild he would be flying and exploring the natural world. In your home he is seeking to fill his day mostly with attention from his humans and toys.
He may resort to bad behaviors to get your attention (screaming!), he may become destructive (chewing wood furniture!) to fill the void of items to play with and touch. You can eliminate a good majority of bad bird behaviors in just a few ways:
1. Training: Just 10-15 minutes of training time each day stimulates his brain and gets him thinking. It also builds a bond with you.
2. Toys: A captive bird must have toys that are safe for him to play with. Toys that help him mimic natural bird behavior are the best.
3. Enrichment: Look for ways to enrich his environment that help him work his brain too. The most common method is to hide food for him to locate. There are some toys that can help you do this.
Training help from the pros
If you’re not sure how to best train your bird there are bird professionals that can show you exactly step-by-step the best way to train him. They can help you prevent problems, and if your bird has already developed a behavioral issue they can show you what to do to reverse it. Bird Tricks offers all the videos and materials you need to create a happy and well-trained bird.