Thursday, December 29, 2016

Top 5 Reasons Pet Owners Need Training Skills

1. Veterinary Exams

Every pet needs a yearly exam so why not improve their lives and make this visit as stress free as possible? Stress has been linked to a cornucopia of diseases, both physical and cognitive, stress can be reduced by associating good things (ie. toys, treats, praise etc.) with travel crates, nail clippers, body manipulations, syringes, swabs, towels, and anything else you can think. Training for medical exams greatly improves our pets quality of life. Wouldn't it be amazing to have your pet making friends and earning cookies at the vet's office instead of learning that people in scrubs give scary, strange, and uncomfortable procedures? Yes it would!

2. Medical Emergencies

The one thing that is more stressful than a vet visit is an emergency situation. Vet visits don't happen just once a year, the potential to make an emergency trip is always present: birds break blood feathers, dogs scarf down chocolate, cats stop eating, and lizard hemipenes prolapse. Having your animal trained to walk into a crate or let you manipulate a sensitive area can mean the difference of life and death. Training saves lives!

Tambako The Jaguar at flickr

3. Normal Behavior

Learning to teach your animal behaviors without using force or aversives trains you to notice the most minute behavioral changes in their routine. Knowing what makes your pet uncomfortable and making a commitment to avoid these situations allows you to see problems cropping up long before they ever get bad. Having regular training sessions gives us information about how much food out pets eat and the mental state they're in, any deviations from this norm is cause for concern (like biting, pets of aversive-free trainers don't get bit but pets in pain can bite).  Its like having super powers!

4. Preventing Behavior Problems

Noticing subtle changes in normal behavior feeds into another skill, seeing the potential for behavior problems to develop. If you recently brought home a particulary mouthy baby bird you may notice, not unlike a human child, they like to explore their new world with their mouth. Fingers are especially fun for birds to chew and manipulate but baby birds may not realize how much pressure they are using and the pain they cause. I realized this when I recently brought home my baby parrotlet, Titan. At first he would begin to lightly chew the soft webbing between my fingers (everyone has this webbing). Realizing that sometimes Titan would chew a little too hard I wanted to nip this behavior in the bud as I did not want this to develop into chewing fingers whenever he sees them. That would get in the way of him happily playing with my freinds because I want him to be able to play with anyone. To prevent him from chewing on  my fingers I make it a point to leave small, chewable toys that he likes in front of his cage and I use them when I take little Titan out. This allows me to easily grab a fun, special toy he only gets when outside his cage. I prevent him from chewing my hands by offering the toys to chew first, and if he did beak my hands I redirect his attention to a nearby toy to chew instead.

Taco, a recent foster bird.

5. Socializing is Easier

Birds get scared and it's often from new people. Being equipped with training skills allow you to teach others how to make your bird feel comfortable in their prescence and allows you to observe and prevent situations that will cause your bird to associate anything aversive with new people. You'll know to reserve favorite treats only for such visits and to heavily reinforce your bird for appropriate behaviors towards your guests. I do this every time I have a visitor interested in meeting my birds. Think of it as an interview, but the employer is your pet looking to hire new acquaintances. First impressions are very important for any interview and it begins when you walk in the door, the same is true for your pet bird. When my doorbell rings I open the door and ask the company that if they want to make friends with the birds inside the best thing to do is immediately sit down on the couch without making much eye contact or fuss (now that might not hold true for your hyperactive caique but it certainly won't make the bird scared of your visitors). I work with rescue birds that have a history of poor behavior habits and they have responded most positively to visitors that keep their space, keep their voice low, and offer lots and lots of reinforcers (special treats, toys, and activities for only when they are really good). My fosters have always warmed up very quickly to new people this way and it is easy to tell when a visitor has passed their interview.

Caitlin Bird Copywrite 2016

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

To Everyone Who Has Looked at an Animal

As I think of today's topic my blood begins to boil and my hands begin to shake. Some people believe that because they've trained one young colt, that it makes them an expert in training all horses. What's worse is that they have convinced others to believing in their delusion.

Sure you've trained one young horse, and I emphasize young because of the very impressionable and malleable brain that all young animals have, which makes them easier to train with aversive methods. And you then parade yourself around like you're the expert with all horses. With an old school University that acts as your authority figure it's easy to see why you think you've been taught the "right" methods of training. What they forget to tell you is that the training they teach comes with long term psychological side-effects. And it's not just that, some trainers are so paranoid that their "training secrets" will be revealed that they're not even going to share the knowledge that they've gained. Which is quite okay because their knowledge is outdated anyway and I'm not interested in promoting it.

What really pains me is that this kind of mentally damaging training still exists in the world. The only thing that is stopping these individuals from actually promoting humane methods that do not create learned helplessness, depression, anxiety, fear, and self-harming behaviors in their animals is their own, personal limitation to understanding the scientific articles in their spare time instead of watching Netflix and cruising Facebook.

And while these may be the flaws of these individuals, I of course have my own flaws. I am so passionate and careful with the knowledge that I choose to freely give out to others, I often fail to speak up against individuals who cannot be bothered to take the time to self educate themselves in fear that I will be using punishing methods on the "bad" trainers. Who am I to talk the talk but not walk the walk? Being a strong advocate of humane and ethical behavior modification plans I also practice what I preach in my own, personal behaviors. It is always a continuing journey for me. I can tell you how nervous the idea of  socializing in a room at a party used to make me feel, now I thoroughly enjoy making new friends and seek it out as opposing to shying away from it. This of course has taken years of work on my own and maybe I would have gotten there faster with a mentor. Regardless, it is a feat that I can proudly claim as my own.

I've come to the conclusion that there is no way to convert people by telling them how wrong, and abusive their animal training is. Because abusive training works, and when it works why change it if it ain't broke?  What they don't know is that their system is broken. There's no other reason to call it breaking a horse. Abusive training works a lot slower for most animals, and it causes way too much distress and no one who has animals willingly wants to cause the animals distress, so their psyche pulls up its shield and pretends what they're doing does more good than harm. I think the route I should take is not to attack those who teach with abuse, but to show them the other very, very awesome way to quickly and humanely train animals.

Copyright 2016 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Getting Into the Swing of Things.

        It has been an amazing three weeks since my last blog post, where do I begin? I guess I'll begin where I left off. I was speaking to the pet lovers tribe on Periscope and it turns out that the shows have now been transferred over to Facebook! They were looking for a bird expert at the show and it looks like they found one! I have been accepted into the fold of The Pet Lovers Tribe and am now presenting every Wednesday at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on their Facebook page. I was talking with a Dawn Hagen, one of the amazing people involved in the pet lovers tribe, and she help me come up with the name of my show and we settled on "The Chirp". I've been broadcasting for 2 weeks now and I'm already seeing the benefits it's having on me, personally. My regular speaking and researching skills are being used, as they haven't been since I've graduated college two years ago.

When I opened up my book for the bird anatomy broadcast I was flooded with great satisfaction reading about how animals work from the inside out. I'd forgotten how much I love researching and sharing knowledge with people. These past few months have been very difficult for me as I have been battling with depression. When living in a new place without friends, or support, or family members it tends to make getting your dreams off the ground difficult. Becoming part of The Pet Lovers Tribe has helped me feel like I belong somewhere again. In addition to the pet scope TV there is a weekly meeting that I am going to for business entrepreneurs. This group is very well-connected and very tightly-knit. Everyone is there to help everyone else and I have already contributed to helping others in this group. Feeling needed and feeling wanted is something that can break anyone out of a deep depression and I feel like being a part of both of these groups will help me to become a whole person again. I'm someone who is always looking to improve herself and understand that perfection is never achieved. But it's that striving for perfection that keeps you on your toes and keeps you learning throughout your life.

Oh, and did I mention my little parrotlet, Titan, joins me for every broadcast on the pet scope TV? He's quite popular and I must say you should come see him!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Look! A new thingy!

As summer starts to be in full swing so are a lot of opportunities to grow. I recently approached The Pet Lovers Tribe on Periscope and have submitted a few show ideas. They are interested in having a "bird expert" add a show. I've seen a bird person on there before doing work with rescue birds. They haven't been posting any videos recently so I'm wondering if that's why The Petscope TV needs a new bird person? Either way they have been working with me to develop my broadcasting skills so that I can have a great broadcast on a live streaming Network. They're a great group of people and you should go visit them on the Periscope app sometime. The show that I'm auditioning for will focus on bird care such as feeding, cleaning, compatibility with other species, personal experience, and of course lots and lots of behavior topics, which is where my specialty truly lies. I will still be doing broadcasts about dogs and other things in my life on my personal channel.

My periscope -

The pet lovers tribe -

I'm also getting some really cute puppies in my puppy classes, I'm going to ask if I can share some of the pictures with you. Oh my God your heart will melt!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Just Updated! Online Classes to Fit Your Schedule and Budget!

Is your pet well behaved but you want it to do just one behavior? This is your class! 

Individual Skillset Classes

1-3 weeks


What you will need:

A Journal/pencil
Skype and webcam (if you are located outside PA)
Camera to record training sessions
A YouTube account
A Paypal account
A knowledge of your pet's favorite reinforcers
One hour a week for phone calls (FPR birds are limited to 30 min)
5-15 min for training homework 3-7 times a week
Veterinary information

  1. Target Training Class
  2. Step up Class (Target training class required)
  3. Station Training Class
  4. Trick Training Class 1 (Turn around, ring a bell on cue, wave hello)
  5. Trick Training Class 2 (Color discrimination, fetch, hang loose)
  6. Learning Indoor Recall 1, 2, and 3

Sunday, April 10, 2016

How to safely hand food to a bitey parrot

Just wanted to share a short "How To" video if you want to train a bite prone parrot, without getting bit. In my consultation services I am often given the challenge to help people build relationships with birds that don't fully trust people. Before training the bird to do anything the human caretaker needs assistance, and sometimes confidence building. In this video Christy shows the exact way to hand a parrot something without taking the risk of being bit. Way to go Christy!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Best Enrichment Toy!

If you have not heard of Lara Joseph she is a behavior an enrichment specialist located in Ohio. She recently challenged her followers to submit enrichment ideas to win a pre-recorded webinar from her website. Being that I recently moved from the bright and sunny state of Florida to PA, I had conveniently forgotten what snow was, until today. 

After a blissfully snow absent November, December, and half way through January, today is the day the heavens have chosen to open up and unleash god's snow binging session. I am currently looking out my back window to a pile of snow no less than five feet in height. Yes it has engulfed the car and it is still snowing.

So with nothing better to do I decided to put forth a little effort and record Titan's reaction to snow enrichment! Enjoy my entry!

@thepetscopetv @larajoseph ‪#‎BestEnrichmentToy‬ Titan the Florida born parrotlet gets snow! By offering a temperature and shape changing foraging toy Titan will practice his ground foraging skills at a slightly higher level of difficulty. This helps keep our animals used to change and better adapt to life.