Maybe it’s the rebellious kid in me, but nothing makes me more uncooperative than being told what to do. Ask me to do something, sure, no problem. Suggest that something needs to be done, I’m all over it. Barking an order to me is the surest way of seeing that I’ll get to it in my own sweet time, which might mean next month. My umbrella cockatoo, Linus, seems to take after his mom.
I think it’s really important to allow our parrots to have some control over their environment. We make all of the important decisions for them: we feed them what we believe they need, they get their baths when we decide it’s time, we provide their sources of entertainment. Left to their own devices in the wild, they would be more than capable of fulfilling these needs and wants on their own. In situations where giving them the choice to decide what they want to do is appropriate, it will only make for a happier, more well adjusted parrot, and will strengthen the relationship between you.
If he’s not in the mood for training and is being uncooperative in his efforts, let him be. Chances are you wouldn’t have had much success at this time anyways. If he doesn’t care to step up, and he’s fine where he is, respect his decision to stay put and try again later. If he is swinging from the cord to your iron and doesn’t want to step onto your hand, this is when you put your foot down. But otherwise, always forcing a parrot to bend to your will either break his spirit or bring about resentment, and most likely the latter.
I find my parrots to be pretty cooperative. With a little gentle coaxing, I can usually get the behaviors from them that I want or need. I think the biggest part of this is mutual respect. As I continually respond to their wishes to do or not do something, they respectfully comply when I require cooperation from them. If something has come up and I need to leave the house in a hurry, I can count on that Linus will step up for me regardless of his mood because he respects me.
Another part is trust. They know I wouldn’t hurt them or put them in harm’s way. Aside from trips to the vet, which are occasionally held against me for an afternoon, I have never put them in a situation causing them to question my judgment where their well-being is concerned.
Like people, a parrot is inclined to be more agreeable about things they don’t want to do, when they are given the opportunity to make some of the decisions. When my daughter was young, I would often let her choose what our vegetable would be served with dinner that night. Giving her the responsibility of that decision made the “eat your veggies” argument a thing of the past. It made her feel grown up and less excluded from decisions that were important to her. Eating broccoli was no longer a thing that was being done to her.
Your parrot is more likely to offer respect when he is treated respectfully.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.