Does your bird eat a balanced diet? Seeds alone aren’t healthy. Here’s how to convert him to a better meal plan of healthy pellets
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Companion bird species often develop neophobia (fear of new things, including foods that are good for them). Birds should be offered a wide variety of foods during the weaning period to reduce or prevent this level of aversion. But if your bird wasn’t, don’t lose hope!
With patience, you can reform even the most stubborn seed eater. The key is to avoid force -- for instance, changing the diet cold turkey. We want you to teach your bird to love pellets, not coerce her into eating them.
The following tips (and did we mention patience?) can help:
-- Confirm good health. Before messing with your pet’s diet, make sure he’s in good health by having your veterinarian give him a thorough exam. Birds can be adept at hiding illness, and the stress of a diet change may be too much for a bird who’s sick.
-- Set a good example. When you’re spending time with your bird at her training perch or favorite spot, eat -- or pretend to eat -- the yummy pellets yourself. Really show your enjoyment. This is your chance to show off your acting chops! Offer some to your bird, but don’t force her to take them. If, after a few seconds, she turns up her beak at your gift, keep “eating” the pellets and expressing your pleasure. If your bird tries it, give her a big “Atta bird!” for trying the new food. Make it fun!
-- Offer several types of pellets for your bird to play with. Formulated pellets come in many different sizes, shapes, colors and flavors. The more options you give, the better chance you have of finding one he likes. Offer the pellet buffet two to three times daily for about five minutes at a time. Don’t replace your bird’s current diet until you’re sure he’s eating pellets happily.
-- Feed new foods in the morning or during your mealtimes. Birds are most hungry when they first wake up, and will be more prompted to eat when their flock members (you) are eating. So, offer your newer pellet diets and vegetables exclusively at the start of the day before adding seed to the mix later in the day.
-- Combine the old and the new. Mix what your bird has been eating with the pellets and other foods he should be eating. Remember to feed your bird this mixture out of a single food bowl. Never offer enough seed to fill up your bird, and hold off on treats for a while. Vary how much of each component of this mixture is offered at any one time.
-- If you have one bird on a healthy diet, let your other bird watch her eat. Birds learn by watching -- called social learning. And we can’t say it enough: Eat in front of your bird. He’ll try most anything you’re eating, and by that we mean fruits and veggies -- we’re not suggesting you eat pellets. (But if you really loved your bird ...)
-- When you notice your bird eating pellets, chewing pellets and passing pellet-colored droppings, you can start to gradually replace the current diet with the pellet of choice. Each day, add just a tiny bit more of the pelleted diet. “Slowly” is your watchword. Continue practicing these diet conversion techniques until you’ve completely replaced the old diet with your bird’s favorite pellets. Continue checking on your bird on a regular basis to make sure she’s eating. Your reward will be a healthier bird, greater potential for strong food reinforcers for training and foraging, and best of all, a deeper bond with your bird.
(Excerpted from “Birds For Dummies,” 2nd ed., by Brian L. Speer, DVM, Kim Campbell Thornton and Gina Spadafori, Wiley, 2021.)
How to say,
‘Bark be gone!’
Q: My dog barks too much! How can I make him stop?
A: A barking dog can run you afoul of your neighbors -- or even the law! -- so it’s definitely something you want to manage. Here are some of the reasons dogs bark and ways to work with them to put the behavior in the quiet zone.
Dogs bark to express anxiety, boredom, territoriality, aggression, playfulness and hunger, among other things. And certain conditions in his environment can trigger barking. For example, a dog who barks a warning when strangers approach will bark constantly if one side of the fence in his yard fronts a well-traveled public sidewalk. Or a high-energy dog who’s frequently left alone in the backyard may indulge in hours-long barking sessions. Breed characteristics factor in, too. You can’t expect a spitz breed or scent hound not to engage in the occasional howl.
Figure out the kind of barking your dog does. Does he trade insults with the dog on the other side of the back fence? Can you limit his access to that area of the yard? Is he a bored outside dog? Do a better job of meeting his needs for physical and mental stimulation with walks, trick training, puzzle toys and more time spent in the house with you instead of all by his lonesome. (Another advantage of having your dog in the house: Many of the sounds that trigger barking are less noticeable indoors. You can further mask sounds by leaving a radio or television on when you leave.)
Work with a Fear Free-certified trainer to teach the “quiet” cue. You can also learn to teach him to “speak” on cue so he learns to bark when you want him to, not all the time. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
-- There’s plenty to celebrate in August if you’re a pet lover. Besides bringing us the dog days of summer, the eighth month celebrates International Assistance Dog Week (Aug. 1-7); DOGust 1, the Universal Birthday for Shelter Dogs (Aug. 1); Work Like a Dog Day (Aug. 5); International Cat Day (Aug. 8); Spoil Your Dog Day (Aug. 10); World Lizard Day (Aug. 14); National Check the Chip Day (Aug. 15); St. Roch’s Day (Aug. 16) -- he’s the patron saint of dogs; National Black Cat Appreciation Day (Aug. 17); International Homeless Animals Day (Aug. 21); National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day (Aug. 22); International Blind Dog Day (Aug. 23); National Dog Day (Aug. 26); and Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day (Aug. 28).
-- Darwin, a German shorthaired pointer, is one of a kind. He’s a conservation dog who specializes in detecting alpine bumblebees and their nests. Darwin and conservation researcher Jacqueline Staab, who is working toward her master’s degree in evolutionary ecology, do their work in Summit County, Colorado, and their findings may help predict climate change movements and shifts. Bumblebees are keystone pollinators, and a drop in their numbers can lead to a drop in plant diversity and other ecological problems. Unlike other detection dogs, usually trained to get as close as possible to the source of a scent, Darwin was taught to alert a few feet away from the bees. His skill allows Staab to clear an area more quickly than she could on her own.
-- Most cats have five toes on their front paws, but only four of them hit the ground. The fifth toe is called a dewclaw and is found on the inside of the front paw. The dewclaw is the feline equivalent of our thumb, and it’s used for grasping prey and climbing trees. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.