Be Positive For Better Bird Relationships

This New Years, focus on the "positive?part of training ?by adding something to increase the behavior you want in your parrot.

Use positive play, like practicing "step-ups," with your bird.
Use positive play, like practicing "step-ups," with your bird.

The top 5 reasons why New Year’s Resolutions fail are because they are too broad, unquantifiable, too big, not negotiable and do not include time limitations.

For this year, we should focus on having positive relationships, and not just with our birds; however, being more positive does sound like a very broad and ambiguous term. With no time limitations and without being negotiable it is destined to fail? I can’t believe that. I won’t believe it.

Being positive in regards to animal training and relationships does not solely mean being happy. In addition to being happy and kind to our pet birds we should focus on the “positive” in positive reinforcement. That is: to add something to increase behavior.

This can apply to all our relationships — animal or otherwise.

How To Train For Positive Behaviors

If you want to change something — either your coworker — attitude or your bird’s inclination to bite the furniture, for example — it can all be adjusted by adding something pleasant. Of course these behaviors could also be changed by adding something unpleasant or taking something away that the individuals like. In 2016, hope you and I will choose the positive reinforcement route, as it is good for your bird (or co-worker) and your relationship.

If your coworker is a negative Nancy, you might be inclined to be hostile back. If you are hostile they may stop interacting with you altogether, which might make team projects very difficult. Your coworker might stop answering your emails and although they probably will not physically hurt you, they could start spreading rumors and talking behind your back.

Instead you should reward them every time they are in a good and upbeat mood. You could give them a food treat like a chocolate or a sweet candy that you have in a bowl on your desk. (You might feel a little demeaning training them the same way you would train your bird, even though it would work.)

Other ways to change a coworker’s sour attitude is to pay them a compliment on how they are dressed, or how well they finished a project when they are smiling or happier than their average moody self. Verbal praise is cheaper then candy and often times more beneficial. Who doesn’t want to be told they are looking good? These tiny compliments might also carry them through the rest of the day.

Now to your parrot: To change your bird’s behavior from biting the furniture, using positive reinforcement could mean giving them a treat when they bite an acceptable item, such as a toy. It could also mean giving them praise when they run around the room and tire themselves out so they don’t have the energy to bite the furniture.

In both of these situations it seems positive reinforcement is an easy solution, yet we hardly go about these behavior modifications using the high road. We often take the punishment road, taking away things that the individual likes and yelling at them to stop acting that way.

Why The Lack Of Clear Communication Creates Problems

‘One problem of not using positive reinforcement is that we are not telling the individuals what to do. ‘When we use the spray bottle on a pet (or coworker) we are telling them to stop that unacceptable behavior, but then they are left not knowing what to bite or where to scream.

In addition to not having clear communication there are many side effects of punishment that should make us cautious. Dr. Susan Friedman, a psychology professor at Utah State University and owner of BehaviorWorks.org, said they include:

  • Withdraw from further interaction
  • Suppress responding/ignore your cues to do behaviors
  • Escalate or counter aggression
  • And/or over-generalize fear.

‘If you use a water bottle to discourage your bird from biting furniture, they will most likely start to fear you and stop wanting to come out and play. Another outcome of you adding something bad, like a squirt bottle, is that they may still tear the furniture, but only when you and the bottle are not present. This type of training does not set up the bird for success since they do not know what they should be doing. Giving them a treat for when they chew on something desirable — like a chew toy or wicker basket — communicates exactly what you find acceptable.

Let us all make a resolution for 2016 to be kinder to one another and more positive. Let us add good things to our bird’s lives which will build significant and lasting relationships. Cheers to 2016!

Article Categories:
Behavior and Training · Birds

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