A Bite is YOUR Fault!

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I’m sorry, I hate to come across as the bad guy here and point fingers but I have to this time, after everything I learned. Biting is NOT an innate behavior, it is a taught behavior. So if your precious feathered friend has now starting biting on a regular. YOU REINFORCED IT! Don’t get me wrong, I have parrots who bite me too…. I’m currently working on actually analyzing the situations under which they bite and what antecedent/consequence can I use to curve that behavior to something else.

So I was taught (like I’m sure we all were) that biting was something to expect from our companion parrots, that it was a natural occurrence and we just have to accept it. I’m sure I have wrote this in many previous blogs. Well, now I am withdrawing any previous statements I made and declaring a new statement. BITING IS NOT NATURAL AND IT DOES NOT HAVE TO HAPPEN WITH A COMPANION PARROT! Your probably sitting there saying what does this chick know? She has no real credentials. Well actually, I am currently training and getting the credentials I need to become a professional parrot behavior consultant. I’m being trained to use the science of ABA – Applied Behavior Analysis with animals. So I’m sharing with you what I know so you can take a different approach with your parrots and change what you may have labelled as an “aggressive, territorial, dominating, unfriendly” parrot. All those words are constructs and you know what they mean to me? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! That doesn’t explain what the parrot is doing and that ‘s what you need to do – observe the parrot.

You may be shocked to learn this but parrots in the wild, do not bite each other (if they aren’t fighting that is). It is not a part of their habits to do so. Yes they may play and use their beaks but not to the point where they will draw blood. Your reaction to that first bite is what was an “Ah ha!” for your birdie and from there the cycle started and continued. So now that it has started, how do you make it stop? You have a few options….

1) You learn how to read your bird’s body language so you can prevent it from happening again.
2) You change your current approach to avoid putting the bird in a situation to make it happen again. There is a saying that goes: “Prevention is better than cure”. In this case that saying is very relevant!
3) You find a means of distraction. So when the parrot is going to bite, find a distraction tool that will work to take his/her attention away from biting you.
4) Find a behavior that you would prefer the parrot to do instead of biting.

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What I find amusing is that there are so many articles, videos on youtube and people stating “How to stop your parrot from biting“. How can they state that if they don’t know the reason your parrot is biting? Yes, of course they can give you suggestions but unless you’ve analyzed the situation and found the reason for the bite and the consequence it is presenting your current parrot, how can you stop it? If you are really lost as to why your parrot is biting then I would suggest maybe hiring a behavioral consultant or a trainer basically just getting professional help. If you can’t afford to get professional help although I think I’m pretty cheap hahaha, I would say just look at the setting, for example… Under what circumstances is the parrot biting and what is your reaction when it does bite? What is it getting by biting you? Once you answer those questions then maybe you can find alternatives to maneuver around it. Once a bad habit has been taught, it’s always harder to undo it but it is possible.

Things to consider why your parrot might be biting you or others is: Protecting something it considers to be valuable – It’s cage, it’s partner/owner, it’s toys etc. It could be out of fear – You’ve ignored all the signs it has tried to send your way so it feels forced to be more aggressive. Also like I have previously mentioned, out of habit. It has now become a taught behavior and the bird likes the response so it continues to do it.

Okay, now that I made you feel like the worse Parrot parent ever! (Don’t worry I felt the same way at first) How can you try fixing the situation? Well I did give suggestions above but one thing that needs work now, is your TRUST level with the parrot. You guys need to work on your bond. You need to learn to respect your parrot and not force him/her to do anything they don’t want to do. Basically you need to learn to listen and read your parrot’s body language. Also, positive reinforcement will really help in this situation.

I’m thinking of doing an e-course on trust building exercises, if that would be something you’re interested in please leave me a comment below this post or email me so I know it is something I should put together as there is a demand for it.

Green naped Lorikeet - Rasta

Parenting Parrots!

Should I take their Advice?

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When I first started being interested in Parrots – it was hard to find parrot training videos. YouTube didn’t have a lot and the worldwide web was not very helpful either. However over the years, it has ADVANCED so much it is amazing to see where we are today. The PROBLEM IS…. Some information isn’t the RIGHT information.

As much as I would love to sit here and bash other trainers and tell you to just follow me and I’ll teach you EVERYTHING you need to know, I won’t do that. How you train your parrots/animals is a personal preference and just like me you may start to follow one type of trainer and switch it up along the way.  I look at where I came from to where I am today and I’m extremely happy. I’ve read books, purchased e-courses, googled online, joined bird forums, joined parrot groups, made connections with breeders and I just continue to try to keep my network open. A lot of people have different opinions on what is wrong and right for parrots, I compare it to having kids, at the end of the day it is your choice. Some people are very opinionated so you have to be careful on how you approach the conversation with them or else it could turn into a very bad interaction very quickly… Like having a conversation about religion – OUCH! I try to stay away. I voice my opinion and I accept their opinion, if I can help better the situation someway, some how then I am all for it otherwise I can sometimes only be an ear. I love hearing people’s passion for their birds even if I don’t agree with all of their methods.

Anyhow back to the main topic: There are some methods some trainers use that are just not giving the parrot a choice and I think this is something you have to consider when looking at different trainers. The word is getting out there that positive reinforcement is the best training method to use, doesn’t mean everyone uses it correctly and completely understands the whole science behind it but as long as you’re following someone who is trying to implement that then you are on the right path. Things to look for…. 1) The parrot is being asked for a behavior not being forced or coercion into it. 2) The parrot and trainer is enjoying their training time today and both are being respected and last but not least – 3) The training session is ended on a good note, not with a tired or worn out parrot.

For example: To get a parrot to step up, you should press against their belly just above their feet. – IF you agree then you are unfortunately WRONG! That is NOT giving the parrot a choice and it is FORCING the parrot to do something. Next option is putting your hand in front of them and using another hand to cover the bird as shown in this video below… Again another method that is WRONG.

Now this trainer isn’t a bad trainer, he just isn’t educated properly.

Now in the below video you can see that I am not applying a hand over the bird nor am I putting pressure on his belly to step up. I’m not teaching you how to teach your bird to step up in this video but this is an example of how it should look and even I should have put my finger further out so he could have made more of a choice to step up or not.

This next video below is teaching how to step up onto the hand and it’s pretty close to what you want to observe… For example it doesn’t apply any pressure to the bird and they respect the bird once the bird moves away so it’s great to see…

Out of all 3 of these trainers the last two is who I would be interested in following. The last one gets my vote because it is actually teaching the step up process so you can see that there was no force applied. Not to criticize my own work but I would have to see how I taught the step up process before committing to following me. HAHAHA, Now I know I need to make a “how to step up video”. So, it is great to see the finish product but to make sure the trainer is teaching that parrot properly, I would have to see how it was taught in the first place. This is the only way to know if you should be taking advice from a trainer or not.

For one more example if the trainer tells you, “It’s okay just keep taking the bites and eventually the bird will stop biting you.” This is a trainer you do not want to follow. Or if the trainer says, “You need to show the parrot who is boss or who is in control or show them that you are the dominant one.” This is a trainer you do not want to follow. Again these are just my opinions but I’m telling you this because I’ve been down this road already. I used to be one that would say, “If the bird sees that you do not react from the bite, it will eventually stop” because that was what I was taught. However now that I’ve gotten more informed I can see how wrong that statement was and how you could definitely be making your situation worse. The sad thing about this is that people are giving this type of advice in all the bird forums and so forth. My hope is sooner than later people will learn that this method is called “extinction“. Although “extinction” can work, it is a very hard procedure to follow as before it works the bites will get harder and harder and harder. I don’t know about you but I rather a nip over a bite that draws blood any day so how long will you be able to “take that bite” for? It’s better to find another way. This is just one of the examples that is very bad advice.

So be careful of who you decide to take advice from: trainers, friends, bird forums etc…. Just always ask yourself…. “Is this advice Empowering the bird or forcing the bird?”.

We want to always EMPOWER our pets. I hope this helps!

Parenting Parrots!