Guest Contributor - James Marquis
Perhaps you have a pet bird and are excited about teaching him or her how to talk! If you are lucky enough to have a parrot, that is a great start. Other chatty pet birds include amazons, parakeets, cockatiels, lovebirds, mynah birds and lorikeets. Some species will annunciate more clearly than others. Depending on the bird, a significant vocabulary may be developed.
When it comes to teaching a pet bird to talk, repetition is the key to success. When you want your pet bird to learn a word, you should be sure to clearly enunciate it over and over again, on a regular basis. It is also good idea to build a visual association with the words or phrases you are using. For example, you might say “time to eat!” every time that you place the food bowl in his cage. Another example is to say the name of a toy, both before and after you give it to him.
According to Bird Channel.com, the energy behind what you are saying is as important as the word itself. This is why you have to be careful what you say around your pet bird. For example, if you say some type of curse word with a lot of expression or energy, your bird just might remember it, even if you don’t want him to. If your bird does repeat an undesirable word or sound, if you tell them ‘no’, or to ‘stop’, they will not understand you. The right way to handle this situation is to simply walk away and ignore them.
Dr. Greg Harrison of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners suggests that giving your bird a treat when they say the right word is generally not required. He says that a more effective thing to do is to use praise and positive reinforcement, like lightly scratching the bird’s head as a reward. He also says that teaching your bird to whistle should be avoided, as this will hinder progress with learning real words.
If you need some ideas about some words or phrases to teach your pet bird, it is a good idea to teach him words that are associated with things that they want. For example, you can teach her to say foods that she likes, such as apple, banana, and nuts. As soon as your pet bird begins to imitate something you are saying, repeat the word excitedly back to the bird. In the case of food words, it is appropriate to reward the bird with a bit of the food it is vocalizing for.
Harrison says that when it comes to teaching your bird how to talk, remember to be patient and do not expect too much too soon. He says that the most important thing to understand is that if the bird is happy and has built a good relationship with you, he is much more likely to have something to say.
To build a rapport with your pet bird, the Bird Channel recommends getting in the habit of talking to your bird as if it were a young child. Greet her sweetly by name. Talk about what is going on, and tell her anything that might interest her. When you leave the room, be sure to tell her goodbye. When you cover her cage for the night, tell her goodnight.
And there you have it. Before you know it, your pet bird will start to vocalize their appreciation of you, through the words you have chosen to teach them.
James Marquis is part of Lifestyle Pets, a blog dedicated to providing tips and help to pet owners. He is owned by a schnauzer-terrier mix named Ace.