Training for the Future
By Erica Liszewski. Parrots live a long time. Especially the “bigger” ones, which can live as long as or longer than a human. The longer an animal lives, the more likely it’s going to have multiple human caretakers. For this reason, I think it’s important for the responsible parrot owner to prepare their bird for life with another person.
Let me explain myself a bit. I’m kinda new to parrots, having only lived with them for somewhere around 3-4 years. I’ve been into horses for several decades. Horses share some similarities with parrots, both being prey animals and all, but also in that they will almost all have multiple owners. Horses these days live about 25-30 years, which is not as long as some parrots, but far longer than most dogs, cats, hamsters, and other small pets. Very few horses live with the same family for their entire adult life. Some of it is due to life changes, loss of interest, behavior problems, and many of the other common reasons people give up animals, but horses have an additional challenge in that they’re often considered a “working” animal rather than a pet. Just like you might give up a car when it gets old, or too small, or no longer meets your needs, people give up horses that can’t be ridden or can’t perform to a certain standard.
OK, so what does any of this have to to with parrots? Responsible horse owners know that their horse may eventually have a different owner, and they plan for it. Even if a person has no intention of ever parting with their horse, they know it still may happen. A certain part of being a responsible horse owner (and there are a lot of irresponsible ones, don’t get me wrong) is teaching your horse some basic things so they can have a smooth transition and a good life after you.
While horse-people seem to take a certain pride in having a well-behaved horse who has at least a basic level of training, I don’t see a parallel in the parrot world. Many parrots, even those who come out of great homes, don’t have even a basic level of training. The might step up, but you can’t trim nails, give meds, put into a carrier, or other common activities. Most have never left the house, which makes going to a new home with new people a very terrifying experience.
Now I know there are differences between horses and parrots. Horses have been domesticated for thousands of years, and parrots are a tame wild animal at best. Horses also don’t tend to form super strong pair-bonds like parrots do. But, I still think it’s entirely possible to teach our parrots basic skills for living with humans. And I think when we’re dealing with an animal who almost certainly will have to move on to another home at some point, we have some responsibility to prepare them for it. Not just for us humans’ sake, but for the happiness of our parrot companions as well.