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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello! I'm new to the forum and looking for advice with a problem I've been having between two of my pets.

I just recently brought home a new parrot. We've always had very active, noisy parakeets so we just assumed the dogs would be fine with her as long as we were just cautious for a little while at first. Granted, the parakeets spent a lot more time in the cage and little time out in the house and also didn't squawk quite as loud, but we didn't expect it would be too big a deal.

Well, my parents have two dogs: a Border Collie x Queensland, Lady, and a Westie, Spiffy. They are both mature dogs. Lady couldn't care less about the bird, but Spiffy, being a hunter by instinct, can't get over it. We have a large backyard so the dogs spend most of their time outside and when they are indoors they are confined to the kitchen area because my dad is allergic. The dogs each have their own lockable "crates" in the kitchen which they sleep in at night. When I bring the bird out, the dogs either have to be outside or Spiffy has to be locked in her crate, where she almost constantly incessantly whines, yips, and even tries to dig her way out of the crate. It's obvious that it's driving her crazy.
We thought that she would be able to adjust and maybe eventually get to be out while the bird was around, but it doesn't look like that's really going to happen the way that things are going. We really don't know what to do.

I'll be the first to admit I am not much of a dog person, especially not this type of dog. I'm more of a horse person, anyway. Regardless, my theory is that she needs firm correction every time she behaves in a way that is undesired, with a sharp "NO", then reassurance and praise when she is quiet and calm. To me that seems like the most logical response.
My mom, however, tends to be extremely inconsistent, especially when she's not sure how to handle the situation. She's been switching between scolding her, ignoring her, and going to her with reassurance. This, to me, seems like it would only highly confuse Spiffy, seeing as she can't speak English well enough to tell the difference between a soft "it's okay" and a soft "good girl". I could be wrong, but to me it just seems like going to her and reassuring her when she is doing something you don't like is only going to reinforce that behaviour and tell her that she is doing the right thing.

My mom feels very bad for Spiffy, saying that she can't help it and it's only her nature. I understand that, and definitely don't want to torture her, but I can't help but feel that a well trained, obedient dog can be trained to go against her nature. Am I wrong in this? Is there something else we can be doing? If I am right about the way that Spiffy can be trained, I think that maybe enough responses agreeing with me could convince my mom to be more consistent. Or if I'm wrong, what can we do, if anything?

If nothing can be done, I think the situation will still be okay. I do plan to move out and bring my bird with me within this coming year, so I think that Spiffy could probably hold out until then and we could try to minimize their proximity to each other. I'm just hoping that there will be a way for her to adjust instead.
Also, sorry that this is so long, I kind of have that tendency...;)
 

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In most cases terriers and small aimals (birds, rabbits, rodents, etc) just do not mix well.
It really takes quite a bit of work to train against instict, and honestly I would never trust the two to be together without supervision.

This article might help you out.
Dogs and Cats Living Together - Whole Dog Journal Article
It does talk a lot about counter-conditioning dogs to cats (also talks about other animals). But no matter the type of animal in the example, you would follow the same process to counter-condition your westie to your bird!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
That's an interesting thought, and I certainly don't mean any offense but am purely curious, to me it seems like if I brought the bird into Spiffy's view (which she would respond to by immediately entering hunter mode as she always does, no matter the distance) then gave her a treat, to me that seems kind of like she would be getting rewarded for that response and also more powerfully associating the bird with the act of eating like she already is (especially because this particular dog is, admittedly, not the brightest spark out there if you catch my drift)
Spiffy so far has never seemed to fully make the connection between people and food, but rather environment and food. As soon as she receives food from people she is immediately very defensive of it and will look to the people for it just as much as she will look in every other direction.
But perhaps my logic needs a 180 in this very different world of dogs? It's just difficult for me to wrap my mind around this method.
 

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I've been a little worried about bring my Lab( Bird Dog ) home to meet my Cockatiel I've had for years, I hope being I'll be bring home a puppy I cant work a lot with him getting use to her being a family member & not a fetch toy. :eek:
 

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That's an interesting thought, and I certainly don't mean any offense but am purely curious, to me it seems like if I brought the bird into Spiffy's view (which she would respond to by immediately entering hunter mode as she always does, no matter the distance) then gave her a treat, to me that seems kind of like she would be getting rewarded for that response and also more powerfully associating the bird with the act of eating like she already is (especially because this particular dog is, admittedly, not the brightest spark out there if you catch my drift)
If she reacts automatically then you are not starting with enough distance between her and your bird. Perhaps you will need to have her in one room while she see you and the bird in another through an open doorway. I'm not sure how great of a distance you will need to start with as it is different with every dog. :)

Also dogs over treshold most likely will not eat, but if you re-read the directions (quoted directly from the article below) you will see (step 2) that you would only feed your dog when she is near threshold, but not over. In otherwords, she will see the bird and is alert but is NOT barking, growling, lunging, whining, etc.
So you won't even need to worry about rewarding her for negative beavior. ;)
Furthermore, she won't be associating the act of eating with the bird. Instead she will be learning that calm behavior around the bird means big rewards for her! If you put the time and effort into this, she will begin to look to you for a reward, rather than focusing on the bird.
1. Stimulus (cat) appears at sub-threshold distance, which is the distance at which the dog sees the cat and becomes alert but doesn’t start barking and lunging.
2. Owner begins feeding bits of high value treats to the dog as long as the cat is in view near threshold distance. (I like to use chicken for this as it is very high value for most dogs).
3. Cat disappears from view.
4. Owner stops feeding treats.
5. Repeat these four steps until when the cat appears, your dog looks at you with a big “Where’s my chicken?” grin on his face. We call this a “conditioned emotional response” or CER. When you have a consistent CER at your starting distance, you can decrease the distance slightly and repeat steps 1 through 4. Every time you obtain consistent CERs you can increase the intensity of the stimulus – bring the cat closer, have the cat move a little faster, introduce two cats . . .
Spiffy so far has never seemed to fully make the connection between people and food, but rather environment and food. As soon as she receives food from people she is immediately very defensive of it and will look to the people for it just as much as she will look in every other direction.
This sounds like she may be resource guarding?
The way I read this, it sounds like she looks around nervously, worring about people taking away her food? Did I misunderstand?
Also, does she bark or growl when a person or dog comes near her food?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
What I'm really trying to say is that as long as she can see the bird at all, she will be totally on edge and begin whining, even if they're all the way across the house from each other (I have a large, very open house)
I could possibly try to bring them outside so that I could see if there is any distance at all that they could be from each other without her reacting that way..but I'm concerned that the heightened fear on the part of my bird, being in a different environment than her usual area could possibly have a negative effect on this type of effort.
But maybe I'm missing something? Is it okay if Spiffy is only whining quietly and focusing only on the bird, but not going totally crazy?

And basically, if we come too close when she is eating she will hold her mouth over it, sink forward in an attempt to shield it with more of her body, and growl. She will definitely not bite though, but will stay like that and growl until you move away. This has been something she's done ever since we brought her home, and Lady's never offered to think about trying to take her food (and neither have we) but she's always done this.

Overall, I don't believe that she has been trained well at all. All they really taught her was her potty training, not to bite, and to stay in the kitchen area. She doesn't even know "sit" or any other basics like that. They've had her since she was a very young pup and been extremely lazy with her. I've just let it be, not really being my business, but now that my bird is involved it's definitely my business...not to mention that I hate to see that she is obviously so torn up over this situation.
 

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Try not to yell or use physical punishment when he's doing an undesired behaviour (unless you need to try and suprise him or stop him from doing something like bite the bird). Otherwise he may associate the punishment with the bird. And yelling or smacking can make some dogs inconfident, hand shy, even human shy. Could you possibly remove him from the room or put him outside instead?

So how long have you had the bird. When I got guinea pigs, Sparky (my terrier) was like this. I never did anything about it. I didn't know what I could possibly do. But eventually he got over it and can walk past them nice and calmly. In fact now I can barely get him to even pay any attention to them. He prefers their poop now... preeettttyyy gross.

It sounds like his just obsessing over something new. I thing you should try some counter conditioning, and after some time the problem should be sorted out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Well I certainly would never hit my dog! (Well, maybe if she actually had the bird in her mouth I might if I had to, but certainly not as a regular punishment)
All I've really been doing is no yelling but a firm "No" when she gets too crazy (definitely when she begins to appear to panic and frantically dig to try to get out). This was what we began to do after trying to completely ignore her for awhile and feeling like things were only really worsening. Most of the time her cries are ignored, though. I try to praise her a lot when she is being quiet, especially when the bird chirps (as this usually sets her off the most, but every now and then she'll stay quiet)
I believe it's been two weeks, so not too long, which is why I haven't looked to much into it yet, but I can't help but feel that there should have been some change in her behaviour by now? The digging thing is somewhat new.

Is there still a chance it will just blow over without much human involvement?
I don't need her to reach a point where they can be trusted together unsupervised, or even go anywhere near each other, as I wouldn't trust her that much anyway, but I would just like her to be able to be in the house while the bird is out without being miserable and crying the whole time.
 

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Well I think over time she'll lose interest. Kind of like how maybe.... say you found a new tv series. And you became obsessed with it. But eventually you'll probably get over it, or not go to crazy when you see it. It'll just be normal. Ok not the best example, but I think she should get over it.

I think my dog took about 2 months to start getting over the guinea pigs. But he didn't get a chance to see them TO often. It'll just depend on the individual dog.

But after 4-6 months if she's still the same, you might need to ask for some different advice and probably contact a behaviorist or trainer...

Good luck (sorry for not being much help)
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
No, thank you, you have been a lot of help, I think we might keep waiting and see what happens...
I love your sig by the way, pit bulls are the best dogs :)
 
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