The Perfectly Trained Parrot by Rebecca K. O’Connor is a really good book. I have read this book cover to cover twice now and I intend to read it again and again. I find it informative, encouraging, and inspiring. Reading it helps keep me motivated to keep training. If you live with a parrot or parrots, I recommend you get this book.
I believe training is often overlooked when we consider forms of enrichment for our birds. As parrot owners we get it that parrots need toys and foraging opportunities, but training, not so much. Maybe because many of us associate the word training with a discipline like having to train to run a marathon. And I will be the first to admit I am a reluctant trainer, probably because I don’t practice training enough nor do I make time for training like I should. This book is going to help me get over that hurdle and learn to really enjoy training with my parrots.
In this book’s introduction, Rebecca O’Connor writes, “If you understand the underlying communication of training, you can have a perfect parrot. Yes, I said, “perfect”. I was given a bit of grief over my last parrot book’s having the words “perfect parrot” in the title. There were those who felt I was encouraging unrealistic expectations of parrots. So let me clarify. The English language is alive, and the definitions of words evolve. We rarely use the word “perfect” with its original intent of being flawless, as a diamond can be. So few things in this world are that kind of perfect, yet we use the word all the time. I’ve gone out on dates with a few perfect gentlemen, but they were far from flawless. Thank goodness for that too, because flawless is boring. We all have quirks and annoying behaviors. The trick to living happily with any human or animal is to make concessions for the habits that do not bother us all that much and clearly communicate how to live happily together. A perfect parrot is one that gives you great joy, is healthy and well-adjusted, and has minor and livable-with bad habits. A perfect parrot has everything to do with your ideal standard. What you need to do is decide what that standard is and make it fun to live up to it. Trust me. Your parrot has his own ideal standards of how you should behave as well. The two of you can have this conversation with applied behavior analysis.”
Rebecca goes on to explain, “Applied behavior analysis is a straightforward and ethical way to shape behavior in most, if not all, situations. Whether it is used in special education with children, managing zoo animals, or communicating with the parrot in your living room, it is applicable, replicable, and sensible. In this book it will be the basis for training and problem solving. Once you start practicing on your parrot(s), though, you may find that you get better at expressing what you mean to the whole world. You may find that you are clearer and more consistent and that everyone else seems to be as well. Life gets less stressful. Days are more enjoyable. Relationships are full of joy. It sounds like a miracle, but it’s nothing more than clarity and better communication.”
Rebecca is right. I have found that studying applied behavior analysis and training with positive reinforcement is more than something I learn. It is something I become. I am more observant and aware. My heightened sense of awareness isn’t exclusive to working with my parrots. I take an interest in what other people want and need. I am a better listener. Relationships with friends and family members improve.
This book encourages me and helps me relax and enjoy training. I felt empowered that I could define my own standards and be a “perfect” trainer. Perfect for my parrots and me, in my living room, at my house.
The Perfectly Trained Parrot features:
- training basics, such as positive reinforcement, clicker training, target training, and terminology
- basic behaviors, including the step up, step down, stick training, and stationing
- trick training, including playing dead, vocal routines, fetching, and much more
- training useful behaviors, such as participating in claw trims and wing clips and riding in a carrier
- training a flighted parrot – and keeping him safe
- solving and preventing behavior problems, including screaming and biting
The Perfectly Trained Parrot is a book I highly recommend. To quote Rebecca, “Parrots, like all other animals (and people too) enjoy the stimulation of challenges and interacting with their world. Training is one way to provide these things, and it enhances their lives. So keep training! ”