Tonawanda News

January 7, 2013

Too quiet, too loud

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — QUESTION: We have a two year old male Umbrella

cockatoo. At this point, he does not fly, scream

or talk. Any suggestions on how to get him to fly or mimic? -- Mary N., Tonawanda

ANSWER: No flying, screaming or talking looks like no problems to me. He sounds like a very well-behaved bird. Earlier this year I reviewed a DVD by Barbara Heidenriech, which can be viewed on Critter Companions’ Facebook page. For training a parrot to mimic, exposure is best. Playing sounds over a computer/CD or repeating the same phrases is how it is done. Once you hear something that sounds kind of like a word, you should make a big deal about it and give your bird attention or treats. Give more treats the closer the sounds resemble the word you want.

At work we have seven macaws that are a little over 1 year old. About two weeks ago, two of them started to mimic “Hi,” and “Hello.” The other five, nothing – just squawks. If you want your bird to mimic, keep repeating yourself. Parrots do act like human 3-year-olds.

To get your bird to fly is going to be a little trickier. Has your bird’s wings been trimmed ever? If your bird has been trimmed previously, every time he has tried to fly in the past it has been very negative for him -- he has crashed.

Barbara Heidenriech, the guru of parrots, says that the best candidates for flight are those who have never been clipped (especially during fledging) and have had ample space to practice flying daily. Larger birds such as macaws, cockatoos and amazons have a tough time getting lift even after getting their flight feathers back which also makes it tough to get them to voluntarily launch.

That being said it is not impossible to train but it will be a slow process (and sometimes more time than it is worth.) There is usually a distance that they can reach the hand with the beak and then must flap a little to keep balance to cross the divide. Reinforcing the flapping is a good step at that point. You might also experiment to see if you can find that distance in between the hop and step. Then hopping to little flights, little flights to longer ones.

Q: How do I get my neighbors’ dog to stop barking? It runs up and down the fence when I am outside in the backyard. -- Danielle B., Niagara Falls

A: A baby crying is one of the most irritating sounds one can hear, unless it is your own kid. Then it is tolerable. I believe the same is true for pets. Excessive squawking, meowing and barking is aggravating, unless it is your pet, then it is easy to block out.

Doing some “research” on the topic of getting your neighbors’ pet to quiet down was eye opening. Almost all the sites I went to mentioned police, lawyers and high-pitched sound emitters to use unbeknownst to your neighbors. In my opinion all of these sites were foolish.

I would first confront the neighbor. Ask them if they notice the extreme barking. If they do not, maybe they will bring the dog inside while you are playing in your own backyard.

If they do notice the barking and care not to do anything, ask them if you are allowed to give their dog a few treats a day, or if you are allowed to touch or pet the animal. If you are allowed to give the dog a toy, that would be beneficial too.

Once the dog is quiet you would then walk over to the fence and give the dog a treat, to reward the silence. After the dog barks a lot, wait a few seconds or minutes and give them attention through petting or playing. Hopefully the dog will enjoy the attention, treats or toys. Since the dog is only getting them for being quiet and calm, the dog should act this way quicker and longer.

Another option is if the dog is very active (running back and forth and barking) taking the dog for a jog around the block will help facilitate the calmness. Asking your neighbor if this is allowed is highly advised, or else you might be getting a police visit.

Kenny Coogan has a B.S. in animal behavior. Please email your questions to, or search for "Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan" on Facebook.