Getting The Family Involved

Whether it's your partner, family, friends, or anyone else, you want your parrot to interact with them in a positive way.

Usually, we focus on training our parrots. We train our birds using positive reinforcement which sets them up for success. Creating a strong positive association means they enjoy our company and seek us out to play together.  This kind of positive training and games also helps make sure you are communicating effectively and able to enjoy each others company. We love our birds!

But what about the rest of the people in your house?

Many of us have partners who aren’t as into the “bird thing” as we are. My partner had never even met a pet bird before meeting me. (He was in for a big surprise!).

Many of us live with partners, family, siblings or room mates. Whether you have had birds for many years, or this is your first bird, many of us have a hard time explaining and sharing our joy for these beautiful creatures.

Our partners don’t want to spend the time creating the bond

that we have with the bird. At the same time, we all need to live in the same

house! How can we make the bird part of the family?

A man in front of a theory board with red string

Generate Good Feelings

It's common for the family member to be fine with the bird around, but they may not have any success with interacting directly with the bird. Often the relationship between them is not very strong. The best place to start is with some simple positive associations. Find a yummy treat (like a Nutri berry) and keep them in reserve as special treats from them ONLY. Provide the Nutriberry to the family member and tell them that they are the ONLY one to give the bird this treat. They get to be the only one to hand the bird this special yummy treat! They can even drop the treat in a bowl and walk away. The important thing is that “Family Member = AWESOME” for the bird. Nothing more.

The bird doesn’t have to do anything. Just eat yummy treats, available ONLY

from the family member.

Cultivate Value With Games

This easy ‘game’ starts to create value for your bird. What’s this person good for? Nutriberries! When my grey Quentin first met my partner, they were not friends. After several months of special treats, Quentin would no longer leave the room when my partner entered. Soon, Quentin was seeking him out for a treat! They had created a positive association together, and it was as simple as that. No tricks!

A man wearing glasses with a goatee sits in the drivers seat of a car. He has a grey parrot on his shoulder and both are looking at the camera.

Reinvent Relationships

Another option for creating some fun positive interaction between the family member and the bird is to teach them a game together. The initial phase of this starts with you teaching your bird the game, whether it’s ‘wave’, ‘turn around’ or other fun simple tricks. Then, transfer that game to the family member.

Teach the family member how to cue ‘wave’ and reinforce that game with the bird. Then the family member can cue the bird to wave! Usually this is a fun way for both the family member and bird to interact, and they also get to give the bird a treat. This has the added benefit of the family member saying “Hey! Look what I can make him do! That’s so cool! What else can I teach him?”

Whether it’s a silly bird trick, singing a song, dancing together, playing catch, or anything else your bird enjoys, the goal is fun!

Find something your family member might like to play with the bird, and that the bird also enjoys. Help them understand how to cue it, and how to reinforce it with a treat. Once the relationship has built up, you can then start to work towards more challenging skills like a step up.

Keep interactions Hands-off

Another key part to consider is not pushing them to interact too soon. There may be some negative experiences in their previous interactions. This could mean the bird is more likely to lunge, or the family member is less likely to want to interact. Pro tip: It can be helpful to start with a hands-off behaviour like waving or dancing, so that the chance of an accidental bite is reduced.

This is what we mean when we say ‘set things up for success’.

Options for Interactions

One option is to have the bird inside the cage for safety, and the family member can pop the treat through the bars into a dish for the bird to eat when they are ready. This avoids beak-to-skin contact and makes everyone safer!

Another option could be that the family member cues the skill like ‘wave’ and you hand the treat to the bird. Finding the right balance of interaction will depend on your individual bird and family member combination.

Look for easy ways they can interact with as little effort as possible. We want their games to be quick and positive!

Play Fun, easy games to build a positive relationship with everyone

I’m happy to report that after many months of practice, Quentin and my partner are the best of friends. We can safely and confidently build up relationships with our families and set everyone up for success!

If you'd like more specific help, please book a one-on-one Coaching session so we can tailor your games to your unique situation!

 Happy Training!

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In the spirit of respect, reciprocity and truth, we honour and acknowledge Moh’kinsstis, and the traditional Treaty 7 territory and oral practices of the Blackfoot confederacy: Siksika, Kainai, Piikani, as well as the Îyâxe Nakoda and Tsuut’ina nations. We acknowledge that this territory is home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3 within the historical Northwest Métis homeland. Finally, we acknowledge all Nations – Indigenous and non – who live, work and play on this land, and who honour and celebrate this territory.

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