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Time Management: Puppy vs Parrots

IMG_1822A few days ago I made the decision to bring home a new puppy, “Ryder”. As anyone who owns (or has previously owned) a young dog knows, they have very high needs and require constant supervision until their bathroom habits are established and they have learned basic household manners.

I know what you are thinking…this blog is supposed to be about birds, right?! Yes, it is. Hang tight; I’m getting there!

Dogs, like most creatures, respond best to positive reinforcement. Whenever young “Ryder” is behaving appropriately I am eager to praise him using an upbeat tone of voice. I say things like “Good boy!”, “That’s it!”, “Yes!”, and “Awesome job!”. Of course, these are the same phrases I use when praising my pet parrots. Herein lies the problem: if I praise the dog while the parrots are in the same room, the parrots can easily misinterpret my praise as being for them. Should they happen to be screaming, banging repeatedly at the bars of their cage, or otherwise acting inappropriately, they may think I am encouraging their behaviour! In other words, if my screaming parrot hears my happy praise at the same time, he is likely to scream more often, regardless of whether the praise was directed toward him!

There is one other problem to consider, also. Just as a young child may experience jealousy if their parents bring home a new baby, the parrots are used to having my full day-to-day attention. Since so much time is being sucked up by Puppy Boy, there is a risk that the birds not receive the individualized time with me that they require in order to stay tame and friendly. They could become aggressive, shy, or otherwise less social if they do not receive the attention to which they are accustomed.

My journey with Ryder is still evolving as I get to know him more. While there will come a time he does not have to be watched constantly, this could be weeks or even months from now. In the meantime, I must not forget that the parrots were here first and they never agreed to the dog coming home. Everyone deserves their turn, and I must do my very best to ensure regular routines stay constant despite the disruption.

If you have a parrot, or are considering getting a parrot, plan ahead and try to predict major life changes that could influence the time and attention you have to offer. Vacations, marriage, moving to a new home, having a baby, getting a dog, going back to school…as humans we consider how such events effect our lives, but responsible pet ownership requires that we consider the needs of our feathered friends, too. To be clear, I am not suggesting that one should never change their routine. Rather, I am encouraging everyone to think about the implications of major life changes and plan ahead so that there is minimal disruption to your pet birds.

Food for thought.

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