Why Training Your Bird Can Save Your Relationship

Why Training Your Bird Can Save Your Relationship

 August 16th, 2015
Posted By:
Hyacinth Macaw

Hyacinth Macaw

This post is probably not going to make me popular. However, my popularity in the avian community has never been driving force in anything I have said or done here. I don’t use Birdtricks to gain personal affirmation in the form of shares and likes. My only interest in this community begins and ends with your birds.

I will be speaking my mind in this post and saying what I feel needs to be said. I want to point out, though, that when I say “we” throughout this article, I don’t mean YOU, I mean “we”. I have made mistakes with my birds. Jamie and Dave have. Anyone who says they have not is lying. 

Let me tell you a secret… The unfortunate and regrettable truth is that WE cause our birds their problems. Even if our birds sucked up to us in a way that made it impossible to walk away from them, WE made the decision to bring that bird home. WE have done, or not done, whatever it is that has caused the screaming, biting or plucking. WE either do something about it, or WE don’t. Our birds are at our mercy.

You can travel far and wide in this community and you will find NO ONE that has a magic pill that can fix your bird’s problems. If your bird has a behavioral problem, you will have to put effort into fixing it. If you are unwilling to do that, just bring your bird to the rescue it will wind up in anyways so someone there can do the work you are unwilling to do. There. I said it.

So let’s get to the meat of this post…

I was looking at a Facebook page a week or so ago and I read something that concerned me. One person, whose name I recognize from our Facebook page, was politely complaining that when she asked for help with a biting problem I recommended training as the solution. Others agreed that it makes no sense. I completely understand the complaint.

I understand that not everyone wants to train their bird. I know that some people could care less about having a bird that waves on cue. I know there are still some people out there who see training as a bad thing – like it’s forcing a bird to bend to your will for food, or using your bird for your entertainment. I completely understand where this thinking comes from – having been there myself at one time. But I PROMISE YOU that this is not what it’s about and that training WILL HELP YOUR BIRD.

As I stated above, WE are the reason our birds are in trouble. The majority of companion parrots are doing poorly in human care. We are failing and there are packed rescues with powerful evidence of this.

Having a bird with problems does not make you a bad person. Nor does it make you a bad bird owner. It simply makes you human. In a way, we are destined to for this to be a bumpy ride based on the simple fact that we are not birds. There is no sense in beating yourself up for your bird’s problems. But what are you willing to do about it?



You already know I am going to recommend training. Before I tell you WHY training is what you need to do to help your bird, let me take away any excuse you have to not read any further because you are too busy to train your bird: in the beginning, you will spend under three minutes a day teaching your bird target training. Once you establish the basics of training, you will only need to keep up on it from time to time so that it doesn’t have to be relearned. The time you will spend keeping your bird trained will only take as long as it does to cue a trick and give a reward. There is nothing you can say to convince me you don’t have time for this.

You may wish to go on to teach your bird tricks (which we hope you will) or you may just use the target training for useful things like getting your bird back into the cage at night or into a carrier without having to use force. Even considering all the practical positive results of training, the real magic happens during the training sessions…

Biting and screaming are communications from your bird. A biting bird uses the beak to tell you that he is no longer willing or able to attempt a normal relationship with you. He feels he must bite to make his message clear.

A screaming bird is desperately trying to convey a point. He has discovered that screaming gets the reaction that normal behavior has failed to get. Your bird definitely has your attention now.

Unfortunately, biting and screaming only widens the rift between us. Even when we recognize this breakdown in communication, when our birds are screaming or biting us we don’t tend to react in a productive way. Imagine how that feels to your bird to be trying to tell you something and you just get angry with him. Communication, or the lack of it, is our main area of failure with our birds.

Training galah to fly through hoop

Training galah to fly through hoop

Training IS communication – very clear and direct communication. You cue a behavior and your bird willingly responds in the way he understands he should to get a treat. There is no guess work, no confusion.

Does training fix existing problems? No. What it does is give your current relationship with your bird new purpose and direction. The cooperative effort between you both gives hope for a better future together.

Maybe this example will help you understand:

Years ago, when I lived in Chicago, there was this guy I just didn’t like. You know how some people just rub you the wrong way? It was mutual – he didn’t like me either, but life kept throwing us in each other’s path. Eventually, we were in a situation that required us to work together on a project.

Neither of us were thrilled about this arrangement, but we decided to do what we had to do to make it work. And we did. By the end of the project, I had enormous respect for this guy. He put out a huge effort to make it as comfortable for me as he could. I did the same for him. We grew to appreciated each other, if only for the consideration we each showed the other.

The things about each other that were so annoying before became small and inconsequential. They never went away, but they so diminished in importance that we were able to look past them.

THAT is what training will do for you and your bird – it’s a second chance for your relationship. It is the light at the end of the tunnel. What it comes down to in the end, is each owner’s willingness to put out some extra effort when their bird is in trouble. What are you going to do?

Click here -> ONE DAY MIRACLES


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5 Comments on “Why Training Your Bird Can Save Your Relationship”

Svetla Konstantinova  08/17/2015 7:32 am

What a fabulous article, Patty! I couldn’t agree more with you. In fact, I just finished reading all your posts here on Birdtricks.com (I have also read Mel Vincent’s posts – love them!) and I agree with every word you have written. I don’t know you, but my thinking with relation to birds is exactly the same as yours.

Thank you for the wonderful informative, sometimes funny, well argumented articles. I am already looking forward to your next one. I love your birds as well:)

I have six budgies (whom I absolutely adore – they are the light of my life). I am thinking of getting a bigger bird. I would love to adopt, but as I live in Europe (Belgium), I seriously doubt that any US rescue would be willing to adopt a bird out to me. I am sponsoring a white-bellied caique (Joe) at the Gabriel Foundation, and I have sent an enquiry message to them, explaining everything I would assume they would be interested to know about me, my knowledge about parrots, and the conditions I can provide to a potential re-homed bird, and asking if they would consider letting me adopt one of their birds should one like me. Unfortunately, I never received a reply, which is disappointing (a polite “no” would also be a reply – instead, they chose to ignore my message). I find it a pity that a bird that could get a good home will miss out on that for whatever reasons.

My sister says that any bird (including a purchased baby) would be lucky to come to me, and I agree with her, but I truly wanted to adopt. Belgium doesn’t have parrot rescues. I was hoping to give a bird from one of the many US rescues a caring home.

Kind regards,
Svetla (that’s a girl’s name;)

P.S. May I enquire why Mel isn’t writing articles any more? I do hope she is all right.

Shawna  08/17/2015 5:40 pm

My bird is super sweet to me, but he always wants to attack other people. My friends and family don’t really care to train with him to gain mutual trust, but i feel like there is nothing I alone can do without thier help since he’s so attatched to me. Any suggestions? I have done some clicker training in the past and he did very well with it. I did have one friend who was willing to work with him for a little bit and it DID get better. But she has since stopped, and he went right back to being mean to her.. i want to help make him more friendly, but when i have to rely on other people it’s hard.

Fred mooney  08/18/2015 9:17 am

I agree, training makes all the difference in the world.

Ashley  08/24/2015 11:45 am

In light of this post, I was wondering if one of you might consider drafting a post about how to start things off right with bird ownership? I just bought my first bird, a cockatiel, and I did a lot of research before my purchase. He’s SO sweet and friendly and I’m totally in love. But, once I got him home, I realized there were some serious gaps in my knowledge, and I feel like I can already see some problems cropping up after just a few days. Maybe just touching on subjects like how soon after bringing a bird home can you start training? Is it normal for a bird who hasn’t been caged before to have problems navigating around his cage? Is it normal for a bird to not be interested in toys after first coming home? Basically just a “Your first month as a new bird owner” kind of post? I know you’re all quite busy, so this is just loose request/suggestion!

Renata  09/22/2015 10:32 am

I agree that training is a neccessity…however my grey is crafty one and a bullie, now matter how I try he just refuses to go in transport carrier…I know he has not so pleasant experience from past, when I had no choice but for his own good towel wrap him and put him in the carrier so I could take him to vet…well and now I try all his fave treats and even his fave pellets when he hasnt eaten yet and I do touch training and also kind of lurk him but the closest I could get him is the top of carrier cage….thats it…I guess all its left for me is to be inconsistently persistant and just keep trying…cos I would like him to like carrier and b comfortable inside so I can take him out with me when visiting friends etc…..