There was a recent discussion on my yahoo group about innate vs. learned behaviours. It seems the two are not so mutually exclusive. There are many behaviours we tend to chalk up to genetics and assume we can never change. But the good news is even these so called hard wired behaviours are often heavily influenced by experience. This is especially important as we work to shape the behaviour of our Parrots.
Beni the Blue-throated Macaw is a great example. As his photos show, he can be a love……once he gets to know you. Guess who he knows best now? Me. I spend more time with him than anyone. And all those wonderful head scratching sessions, treat fuelled training times and fun play encounters make me a special person to Beni. Although I certainly enjoy this, Beni has more important things to do in his future than just be my buddy. Soon he will be teaching others about responsible pet ownership and Parrot conservation. This means Beni needs to play nice with others too.
Even though Parrots may have a tendency to choose one person as their preferred companion, I know that I can use positive reinforcement training to teach Beni that it is fun to interact with other people as well.
Recently one of the staff members of the Kaytee Learning Center came to visit the baby Parrots. This was the perfect opportunity to help both Beni and Wrigley learn that other people are also great fun. John will be the baby Parrots primary trainer at Kaytee. I was very pleased to see Wrigley warm up to John right away. Within the first hour he was rolling over onto his back for play sessions and flying to John on cue. You can buy Kaytee food here.
Beni on the other hand was not so sure. He did fly to John that first session, but showed body language that indicated he was not so sure about the situation. One thing that was not helping is if I was in close proximity to Beni. Because Beni can fly, if he saw me, he would often choose to come to me instead of John. While I am flattered all that great training has worked to build a strong relationship with Beni, I really want Beni to respond positively to other people.
To help Beni and John succeed, I decided it would be better if I did not interact with Beni for the rest of the visit. Instead John would let Beni out of his cage, and also deliver all treats and toys. And it worked!
Eventually we were able to work up to a session in which Beni enjoyed lots of head scratches from John. The goal was to reduce my value to Beni and increase John’s. It did mean I had to temporarily reduce my interactions with Beni a bit, and let John do more fun things with him.
The good news is even though Beni may want to choose one person as his favourite, we can teach him he doesn’t have too. Everyone is a blast.
For more on training and behaviour please click here.
This was originally published on Barbara’s blog in 2009.
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