Throw Spaghetti?

One of the ways of telling if your spaghetti is cooked is to throw some against a wall. If it sticks, it’s done. The thing with spaghetti is that it sticks when its done AND when it’s over-cooked, and it doesn’t really tell you much other than that it will stick to a wall. Not a very useful test.

It would be like taking your car to the mechanic and asking them to do what other people have done. Your car gets an oil change, a replacement belt, and all the light bulbs replaced, and THEN seeing if it fixed your problem. No? Did you even figure out what the problem was? If it was your brakes, then all the other stuff was just a waste of time, and effort, and money.

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Sometimes when we are working with bird behaviour, we will ask what someone has tried before. Often, we hear a lot of ‘spaghetti-at-wall’ type solutions. Try this, see if it sticks. Try this, see if that sticks. And after the person tries EVERYTHING they feel like nothing works. It can be really frustrating!

Since our birds are individuals, and each situation is different from the next, it is no wonder these types of ‘spaghetti’ solutions don’t always work. Without an assessment to figure out what is actually going on, how can we find a solution? How will the plan work if we don’t know what our goals behaviour is?

The easiest way to make a change in behaviour is to figure out that behaviors FUNCTION. All animals behave to have an outcome, otherwise they wouldn’t waste the energy. Finding the function will greatly assist in finding a solution. Then, make a plan.

Here are the three things I suggest as part of your plan:

  1. Arrange things so the problem behaviour is hard to do, and the correct behaviour is easy to do while maintaining the same function for the bird.
  2. Focus on the Dos – what would you like him to do? How would you like him to say that? Where do you want him to perch? “Don’t do this” and “don’t do that” isn’t helping towards a solution.
  3. Teach skills as if your bird has no idea how to get it right. Teach a skill to help your bird. Use positive reinforcement to help your bird learn new ways of doing things. Even if he ‘should’ know how, teach it again to help him get it right.

Making a plan will help you and your bird focus on the changes that are needed. You will stop throwing spaghetti at walls and make some clear choices to help the situation. And making slow, steady progress will make you both feel better!

If you have a problem you just can’t seem to figure out, it might be time to hire a professional. We will do the assessment, make a plan, and help you get to your behaviour goals!

We offer individual coaching sessions here:

  • Robin Horemans, KPA CTP, IAABC ADT


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