We recently received this email from a customer and just had to share it:
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! In just a few short hours your training tips have made me love my bird again.
My African Grey had become a screamer, I think mostly from being left alone too much. The kids are grown and I work two jobs, so she spent a lot of time alone. When I came home she screamed constantly. I was on the verge of finding her a new home, but hesitated because I thought someone who did not know birds would end up with her and not treat her well. The clicker training has pretty much stopped the screaming in just two evenings and in about 15 minutes she mastered the “no” head shake on signal. I’m amazed and cannot wait to teach her more tricks. The purchase of your cd’s & dvd is the best money I have ever spent.
To Nancy: Thank you for taking the time to tell us about your success. We appreciate how difficult it can be to live with a bird that screams to make itself understood. Many people choose to rid themselves of their “defective” bird rather than manage a fixable problem. Thanks for going the extra mile for your bird and congratulations on a job well done!
The most typical reaction to a screaming bird is over-reaction: anger, pleading, and forced affection. All of these responses add fuel to the fire and reinforce the likelihood that the sceaming will continue. From a bird’s perspective, he has gotten what he wants. He definitely has your attention and is no longer bored. He is feeling less insecure about his world because he has discovered a way of gaining control over it, and you.
It only makes sense that you don’t respond with over-reaction, and in fact, should show no response to the screaming at all. This will make it clear that he can’t manipulate your behavior with his own. However, and this is very important to remember, it does not solve the problem that initiated the screaming to begin with.
Nancy’s first step toward success came when she recognized that there had been a change in her bird’s environment. Her african grey was not getting the same level of attention she was accustomed to and chose to state her objection through screaming. Nancy amped up her interaction with her bird through training.
One area where we bird owners often fall short is in the type of interaction we share with our birds. We may come home from work and let the bird out of its cage to sit on a nearby perch while we make dinner or on our shoulder as we watch TV or read the paper. No doubt our birds appreciate being with us, but this level of engagement is shallow. Our attention is on our dinner, the TV or the paper – not the bird.
If we can truly call it interaction, it must be…interactive. We should have our focus solely on our bird, engaging in a mutual activity. This is where training works its real magic. The opportunity for bonding through training is unique. It is all about you and your bird, and nothing else.
Training gives your bird the opportunity to earn treats, but it also opens the doors to a new world of learning. You will see how important training becomes to your bird in the focus it has on each task, but you will also notice how much more directly and intnently your bird now looks into your eyes. You reach a new height in your communication and it is a deeply rewarding experience for you both.
Imagine if our birds could say to us: Look I know you mean well, but this isn’t working out. I’m bored to tears. Either you give me something to do or I’ll have to scream all afternoon…”in language just that clear. There wouldn’t be any behavioral problems and this site wouldn’t exist. The fact is, there’s a lot of guess work and it is hard to find and correct the exact problem. When you begin training your bird, you inadvertantly address a number of issues. Boredom is alleviated, mental stimulation is increased, your level of interaction becomes meaningful. These are the three most common causes of problem behaviors and all can be managed through simple training.
If you have problems with your birds, whether it be biting or screaming, or if you simply want to take your relationship with your bird to the next level, BirdTricksStore courses are designed to help you get where you want to be with your bird. Visit BirdTricksStore.com to get started.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.