Force-Free Parrot Training
– by Luke Beyler
One of the coolest parts of parrot ownership is the acknowledgement of how smart these animals are! Their ability to problem solve is amazing to say the least. Because of this, there is an amazing opportunity to train both practical behaviors as well as some very fun ones! When you read books published several decades ago about how to handle a parrot, most of the suggestions should make you wince if not giggle for their absurdity. Tail-grabbing and food deprivation are thankfully things of the past as we have learned more about parrot behavior and how animals learn on the whole.
Instead of forced interactions with our parrots (i.e. pushing our hand into their bodies until they are physically unable to do anything BUT step up), training your parrot with positive reinforcement has taken its place (i.e. your parrot is so excited to see you when you present your hand that it climbs over and onto your hand because they know that only good things happen when you are around). When animals are provided with choice and are then rewarded for the desired outcome (while undesired outcomes are ignored), a lot of cool things happen in your relationship with that animal!
First, your parrot is problem solving. Through your training sessions, you are able to stimulate that wildly complex brain that sits just behind their beak. Making sure that our parrot’s lives are stimulated through toys and puzzle feeders is a great way to enrich their lives. Training sessions take that opportunity for choice up a notch.
Secondly, a huge positive is less band-aids. Most interactions where a bite happens are interactions based out of force instead of choice. Force based interactions lead to aggression. Choice leads to trust! They know that you are essentially the bringer of all good things! Who wouldn’t love a friend that only brought you your favorite goodie, never lied to you, and knew that every second spent with you was a chance invest in your relationship. This is what force-free training does.
Please know that the force-free training is not always easy, but any amount of training that you invest in your relationship with your bird is so important, especially because these animals will be in our lives for so long! A little bit of hard work will go a really long way. A really good resource into how to train your parrot without force is Good Bird, Inc. which was created by Barbara Heidenreich. Please check out her website (www.goodbirdinc.com) for tutorials and products to help you make the most of your relationship with your parrot!