January is National Train Your Dog Month
…but it should be National Train Your PET Month!
All pets can be trained. While some don’t need it as much as others, training is a great way to spend quality time with your bird, rabbit, guinea pig…you name it. If you don’t think your pet can be trained, just take a look on youtube and see what other enterprising people have been doing.
Why Train Birds
Birds really respond well to training for a number of reasons. They are incredibly smart so, first of all, we train them no matter what we are doing. Just like a small child who learns by watching. I recommend working to learn how to train your bird…so you get them to actually do what you want (not what you do). There are a number of basics that all birds should learn – step up on command to all members of the family, step up on command to confident strangers and stay on a perch.
Why those three?
First, we want our birds to be member’s of our family flock and to discourage pair bonding with one individual. In addition to worrying about reproductive health issues or aggression to perceived interlopers, just think how unhappy you’d be if your preferred mate never gave you what you wanted. It’s just not very nice.
Second, we want our birds to learn to interact with a variety of people, to be confident and assured of themselves. Working on this step helps broaden their horizons and allows owners to worry less about strangers.
Finally, birds expect to spend most of their time with their flock. Since most of us work away from home we can’t give that to them. When we are home, we can allow our birds to “flock” with us to different rooms if they are able to stay on a perch. I feel it also reinforces the idea of independent play. Imagine a 3 yr old child who has to be held by mom or dad at all times – kind of tiring and perhaps a bit unhealthy.
On top of that, there is one more basic. I think it is extremely important…teach your bird to take medicine from a syringe! This can only be done when they are healthy but the rewards you will reap if you ever have to treat your feathered friend are endless.
Sure – there are some times when a band is very useful
International Travel may require unique identification and some birds are too small for microchips.
Identification in a breeding situation ensures that birds are not mixed up – which is especially important if there are subtle health issues.
A band, if the number is known, is a way to prove the bird belongs to you.
So Why is a Band ever Bad?
When it is unnecessary.
Larger birds can be microchipped.
Birds that have left a group situation no longer need their bands.
Since there is no central database for bands they cannot be used to track down an owner.
Why Should You Remove a Band?
The main reason – to prevent injury. We see birds who damage or break their legs because the band got caught on something. They can irritate or annoy birds causing them to bite at the band. If the leg is injured it may be difficult or impossible to remove the band without causing further injury.
Jackie’s Band Problem
Here is Jackie – a cockatiel. She came in for an injured leg. You can see that the skin of her leg has swollen around the band:
Luckily we were able to remove the band and with supportive care the leg has healed well…if a little different from her other leg!
It could have been much worse – the pressure can cause damage to the bone. In Jackie’s case, she didn’t need surgery to repair the leg since there was no exposed bone and she still had good blood flow to all the digits. Her smallest toe was damaged – it is likely permanently pushed forward due to the swelling. Maybe it too will heal with time.
We all fear accidents – all we can’t do is take reasonable precations. But our pets sometimes outwit us and late last night Jasper flew into a pot of boiling water. When I saw him the next day I explained to the owner that even though the legs looked pretty good, the true extent of the damage might not show up for several days.
The owner was not surprised since, as a cook, he was familiar with burn first aid care. Jasper was bathed in warm (not cold) water initially and repeatedly. Warm water helps stimulate blood flow which leads to long term improvements in healing.
Within 24 hours you can see the swelling starting already:
Initial swelling on the left leg
Irritation and swelling
Regardless of the presentation, we treated for the possibility of very bad burns by starting Jasper on pain medication, antibiotics and topical treatments. Sometimes wrapping a burn can be helpful but it depends on the location and the patient. Jasper did well on his treatments and recovered fully. He was lucky – many of our patients lose toes or worse. It can be very hard to keep their pain under control and to medicate them frequently until the burns are healed.
Take a look at some of the changes to Jasper’s legs over the following weeks: