Objects of Their Desire

Toe biters, foot chasers and remote control assassines all have one thing in common. They haven't been shown there's something better.

Objects of Their Desire

Do you know the difference between our cellphone, remote control, or keyboard from any new parrot toy? There is none. Not in their viewpoint.

Microwaves, toasters, coffeemakers, these objects are of huge interest. Why? Because when they chime, beep, or pop we going running immediately. So there must be something amazing to be had with these objects. Consider the relationship we have with our cellphones, remote controls and keyboards. Consider that communication and interplay as information to your flock. All these things are great and wondrous and are to be high priority employment opportunities. Our companion parrots are removed, blocked, shunned and hidden from these treasures! They must be REALLY good! That's the message we send to our companion parrots. It's the the message they receive.

Butters and Snickers relationship with their employment opportunities and personal property tell the story in a different format. I do not buy two of everything. I don't because I want these two to share and swap and understand the idea that they get more if they cooperate. I've done this with all our birds. Even Felix is very good at sharing. In this scenario, no one item becomes a holy grail. It gets interchanged, it gets shared and used. It's normal and interesting and fun, but it's no big deal. Watch a pair of parrots, or a flock of song birds and you'll see negotiated sharing all day long. It might seem like arguing. But it is negotiations. There is a right way and a wrong way to obtain said item from another. Parrots use Access Transition all day long. We can use this communication to regulate their natural desire to get to the thing we seem to cherish and will not share.

Desensitizing the items your parrot craves (cellphones, microwaves etc) starts with access under control. We can not ask our parrots to stop being interested. That isn't reasonable. They will have to continue being interested because we are interested. Remember in a flock they look to the individual habits to define group habits. So unless you ignore that cellphone (or any object you prioritize), you can't ask your companion parrot to ignore it. That is unreasonable and unfair.

You can require a certain decorum and conduct. Which is simply requiring a certain habitual action to gain access or interaction.

Whether our parrots want to murder the remote, or just eat the buttons, or toss it, that desire comes from one cue or one routine leading to the cue. For parrots, its all about routine. Recognizing the before and afters of the object in your routine can help reveal what is inspiring the desire of your companion parrot.

For example, I'll use our TV remote and Felix. Felix wants to murder that remote. No two ways about it. He wants to choke it into submission, dismember and obliterate the TV remote. Changing the routines, and what came next stopped this issue. Additionally recognizing his perspective of what he was trying to do opened options. We interpret our parrots through human terms and that gets us as parents into trouble at times.

I want to be clear here, you will have to modify YOUR actions first. This isn't about them, it's about us as flock members giving them ideas. They are only being parrots, and we can not ask them to be dogs and "sit, stay". Additionally, as with all kids, after months of success those times will come where they want to see if the rules still apply. Living with a companion parrot means never having to say you are not aware. They are always thinking.

Felix and his intents toward the remote were addressed through good old modification through observation technique. He was aggressive and deadly in his attempts, in the evening, when dad was home, in dad's chair with Felix. That remote was irrelevant to Felix any other time. I can set that in his tent during the day and he will walk away. My husband just assumed it was proximity. I observed his attempts at changing his way of using the remote, placing the remote, holding the remote and generally trying to outpace Felix. What I did notice in all that gyration was the simple fact when he put the remote down, he would immediately start petting Felix.

There's the routine. There is the cue. Every parrot has a reason for doing things. Some are obvious to us, some only obvious to a parrot. It all boiled down to Felix stepping up the pace of dad's channel surfing to get back to what was important at night in that chair; pets, scritches, and beak rubs.

Why was that remote irrelevant during the day? Because I don't watch TV. It isn't a thing I interact with at all. To Felix that remote and I have no results or routine. It's invisible, it sends no message for our time together.

What was the fix for Felix, dad and the remote? It was a 2 week process coupled with a simple change of habit. Before we settle in for a football game, or program, my husband will tune in the TV channel and volume while he's still standing. Once that's done he then gets Felix and settles in the chair. Before he would get Felix first, then sit down and grab the remote and start finding the channel etc. That was about 2 minutes of "not Felix" time. Which was enough to set Felix into the process of mindfully rushing dad through the process. That's a routine.

After the routine was broke, Felix was a bit amazed at how easy he would get his attention, and then go up to have treats and tea on his TV table. It was all fast and liquid easy. Dad attention, food, drink, relaxing. After a few days of routine change to create the new expected routine my husband would grab the remote after Felix settled on the TV Table (he likes it on there). My husband would just hold the remote to show Felix he had it. Felix at first ran over to the edge of the table to commit murder and threats, but because he was stationed on the table, he had no power. It was at that point through a bit of coaxing he eventually starting petting Felix on the head with the remote itself while Felix was on the table. ((yes, that was tricky. But with dad phrases, you can get alot out of a Felix)). The routine was established that getting a head pet by the remote led to getting in the chair with dad. Which led to the remote disappearing again. We literally reversed the meaning of the remote. The quicker Felix kindly interacted or ignored it, the faster he got dad.

After two weeks of transitioning from the table to the chair with remote pets to the head, the remote is pretty much irrelevant. Unless he wants a pet with it. And yes, Felix likes a pet on the head with a TV Remote because it gets him a dad lap.

This can be tedious to be sure. But good things never come easy or quick, particularly with a parrot. BUT this type of work and it's results "sticks" with a parrot, because communication rather than manipulation was used. Which if you think about it, wouldn't we all prefer to be communicated with rather than manipulated?

And speaking of manipulated, what is it with our feet, toes, slippered or no anyway? I'll boil it down to two simple points only a parrot can appreciate. One; what other body part choice gets us moving as quickly when chased? Two; how conveniently placed are they for a parrot, comfortable with terrain travel, to attack and retreat?

Getting a parrot to stop doing something isn't about stopping, it's about starting something more interesting or rewarding. The longer your bird has been enjoying this type of game or warfare and enjoying the entertainment and rewards, the longer it's going to take to convince them you've got something better.

So let's give them that new object and reclaim our feet! You've got two options, you can use both actually, for even more distraction bang for you buck.

Get two tube socks. Roll one sock up and push it inside and to the end of the first sock to make a flat end padding. Drop in some bells after that. Or maybe clanky measuring spoons. Noise is your goal. Knot the end of the tube sock. Or, get a pair of slippers just like yours or surrender the current issue pair. Another pair of tube socks are needed. Fill your slippers with the noise making items. Slide the slipper into the tube sock. Knot the end of the tube sock.

Your upgrades are done. These upgrades can only be offered on the floor. These are not foot toys for their feet to carry off, but a game on the floor instead of YOUR feet.

Let's talk about those foot/toe/slipper fetish moments. This is important to identify clearly. What is going on when the games begin? What happened before the event? What is the routine that leads to the moment of the event? Your parrot is picking up early signals about you sitting down or having available tootsies, and he is getting excited mentally. Which is why generally a foot/toe attack is so aggressive. They have already been looking forward to this moment for a few minutes (and we know a few minutes for a parrot is a lifetime).

The reason you need to dissect the trigger moments leading up to and at the event is to facilitate a proactive distraction with the new option. You have to recreate that trigger moment to INCLUDE the idea of getting excited about the new object and FORGETTING about your foot/toes.

I'll use a hypothetical example. Let's say you sit down for coffee in the morning, and that's when Noodles your Too starts the morning under the table toe attacks. Before that, you make coffee, grab the newspaper, set them on the table and finally grab your glasses and sit down. Noodles WAS happy on his play top, but now he comes scrambling down. He's been watching since the coffee machine steamed. He's ready! You are curling your toes, hoping he just won't.

So where do you insert the new object? At the first act. You set the coffee, newspaper AND the object down. You drop that object on the floor and get a good CLANG out of it.

"WHAT'S THAT?" thinks Noodles! Why he's practically frozen in surprised joy!

He's already stopped thinking about your toes.

Pick the object off the floor, rattle it. Grab your glasses. Drop the object with a nice CLANG.

"WHAT'S THAT?" thinks Noodles! He has already claimed the object as his!

Pick up the object off the floor, rattle it. Sit down with the object in hand.

He's coming for that object now, not your toes.

Noodles scrambles down, you toss the object on the floor within reach. Noodles beats feet for the object.

Let him have it.

He MAY or may not go back to your toes, but if he does he will drop the object. Get it, whether you have to get up or not. Rattle it. Drop it. Do not sit back down until he goes for it.

Your morning coffee will be a bit weird for a while, but in the long run, the new object is the game and not you. Eventually, you can change things up and insert items that make different noises, change the color of the sock, how it's knotted etc.

And eventually feet/toes/slippers or shoes will become irrelevant. And you have a fabulous collection of employment opportunities.

And THAT his how you reclaim your feet and toes!

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