Set Pets Up for Success; then Teach them What to Do Right
John received a parrot as a gift, one with a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every utterance was rude, obnoxious, and laced with profanity. John did his best to improve the bird’s demeanor by saying only polite words, playing soft music, and setting a good example of decorum. But it seemed like a lost cause.
Finally, John got fed up and he yelled at the bird. The parrot yelled back. John shook that nasty bird, who got angrier and even more rude. In desperation John grabbed the parrot and shoved him into the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed.
Then there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard. Fearing that he’d hurt the bird, John quickly opened the freezer. The parrot calmly stepped out onto John’s outstretched arms and said “I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I’m sincerely remorseful for my transgressions and I intend to correct my uncouth and vulgar behavior.”
John was stunned. As he was about to ask the parrot what had caused such a dramatic change, the bird spoke-up, very softly. “May I ask what the turkey did to deserve his punishment?”
It’s a good story but not really helpful. Psittacine birds, like parrots, are highly intelligent and social. They can develop aggression but they don’t show it by cussing and offensive comments. When deprived of their natural behavioral outlets or if their fear is triggered they may screech, throw things out of their cages, and bite.
The above joke shows how we can lose our patience and resort to punishment as a quick solution to frustrating behaviors. Whether it’s a foul-mouthed parrot, a destructive dog, or a house soiling cat anger and violence can only damage a relationship. Setting them up for success means making it possible for a pet to abandon what’s inappropriate. Then we motive them to do what we want.
You can succeed with almost any behavioral conundrum. Visit my website, drjeffnichol.com and type a word or two into the search bar. You’ll find lots of valuable help but there won’t be any mention of a freezer.
Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.