How can I get my parrot to... (fill in the blank)? It's usually the lead question in many a conversation I'm invited to share. I like to counter that concern with, wouldn't you rather get your parrot to reveal his true personality first?
You want to get your bird to sit on your hand, what you really want is trust. You want to get your bird to come to you, what you really want is trust. You want your bird to stop biting and screaming, what you really want is trust.
But you can't have trust between two strangers. You wouldn't hand someone you just met your house keys and say, "Hey, can you hang onto these, in case something happens when I'm not home."
Strangers are simply two individuals who don't know each other on a sincere and personal level. Knowing someone like that requires time, respect, understanding, sincerity and truth. (T.R.U.S.T.) The few people I know sincerely well, I've known for a very long time, and we've been through life experiences together. And we've let each other "be" who we really are as individuals with no expectations or apologies. Honest and deep relationships require that greatest of gift, unconditional love. There is nothing we wouldn't do for each other when asked.
Letting your parrot's personality blossom, before all expectations, pays off big in the long run. Because your gift of unconditional acceptance and a sincere desire to know their personality creates a relationship that builds the trust that allows a parrot to do just about anything you ask.
This is the hard part at times. This requires us to accept a no from our birds. They are given the opportunity to turn down your bright idea of the day. Which can become quite a funny moment. A calm and confident parrot inside this type of relationship will never let you actually walk away with a no. You will be followed, or reminded later, of that idea. It is time consuming and it is worth every second of that investment. So often in companion conversation and instruction we are so focused on what we want of our parrot right now, we loose the truth of the matter; we have our lifetime together.
There are some actions and events we need for safety and health issues, of course. Step Ups are imperative, snuggling and eating from our hands is not. It's just desirable.
Every time we interact with our birds we give ourselves and them a moment to share our true selves. We can use that moment to build or we can use that moment to get what we want, and worry about that building bit later. Maybe. Because once we get what we wanted, we humans tend to forget about the details of same.
A good example is a client I worked with who has a fabulous macaw. Her companion was submissive and always delivered clicker reactions as taught. Her companion stepped up, stepped off, and obeyed. Yup, she had a very obedient bird. She came to me because what she couldn't find with her macaw was what she saw on one of my short videos. She saw my birthday video where I held Butters while thanking everyone for my birthday wishes. She wanted to "get" her macaw to love her like Butters loved on me.
We talked a bit about their lifestyle and their relationship. It wasn't too long until she repeated the phrase "She always obeys! I don't understand why she can't be affectionate!"
"It's because she has only ever been asked to obey. She's never been asked to be herself with you along her side." I answered. "And I would venture to guess that you've never revealed yourself to her on a personal level, past the controlling human part."
Silence fell over our conversation. "Well what now?" she asked me.
And so her homework began. Everyday they were to spend an hour together that consisted of nothing but freestyle time. No requests, no removal, and no controls outside of safety needs. Just sit down together and see what comes of it. Bring food, bring toys, bring nothing. But allow the time to form itself into it's own moments. It took 3 days and 3 hours before her macaw made the first of any moves. And it was a doozy.
On day 4 and a half hour into sitting together and just talking over an apple slice her macaw climbed down from her perch branch, and stepped up on her human's knee to get a better look of her human's apple slice. Which I am proud to say was offered as a gift. Her macaw took the apple piece, finished it and quietly dozed off on her knee. Here's the thing; her macaw had never been given the opportunity to sit on her knee before. Eight years of life together and she had never been anywhere but on her human's hand or forearm.
Three months on I hear that these two share a plate of healthy treats, belly tickles, foot rubs and head scritches. You see, she has a companion who loves her sincerely and can now express that love sincerely, not just through obedience.
And that's the real point of real companion parrot relationships. Sincerity.