The Adventures of Lucy & China: The Beginning
July 27, 2010 -
I receive a lot of questions from Pet Parents looking for ways to introduce their current pet to a new pet sibling, but it wasn’t a situation that I thought I would find myself in anytime soon. “Prepare for the unexpected” should be my motto.
As I was watching some shelter dogs play, a pair of blue eyes belonging to a scruffy- looking Siberian husky caught my eye and before I knew it, China was coming home with me. I dropped China off to get groomed (BIG thanks to the ladies at Store 1040) and went home to prepare my parrot, Lucy for a new sibling.
Lucy is 21 years old but since a parrot has the mental capacity of a 2-year-old child; the best way to introduce your bird to a new pet is to allow them to “help” you set up the new pet’s area. As I unpacked the PetSmart bags, I talked to Lucy about her new sibling. We cleaned and filled the food bowls, lined the dog food next to the bird food, and placed the dog toys by the bird toys. Lucy muttered under her breath and gave me the evil eye the whole time.
Lucy is familiar with dogs, having been around them at her previous residences, but I knew that she wasn’t going to roll out the red carpet and there would probably be a dominance display. Birds judge dominance by eye level; the higher the eye level the more dominant the bird. To help Lucy create a sense of dominancy, I had a friend stay in the house with Lucy while I picked China up from the groomer. This allowed Lucy to be on top of her cage when China entered the house.
I kept China on a tight leash as Lucy scoped her out. China was very curious about Lucy’s tail and kept trying to sniff closer. Lucy puffed out her feathers and raised her wings, the equivalent of a dog raising his hackles. China ignored her. Lucy grabbed a plastic dish of food on top of her cage and threw it at China’s head. When China still didn’t respond to the perceived ‘threat’ Lucy was posing, Lucy growled in a perfect imitation of a dog from her past. China immediately took two steps back.
We are still working on China’s training. She is rewarded when she stays away from Lucy’s area with praise and treats (I never leave them unsupervised when Lucy is out of the cage). Lucy enjoys taunting China as we practice her obedience training. When I ask China to “come”, Lucy likes to yell “come here!” to confuse her. When China makes a mistake, Lucy walks over to a mirror and tells herself “good girl”. My favorite is when I take China outside and Lucy yells “bye-bye!” after us. Lucy is pretty disappointed when China comes back in the house but she adapts a bit more everyday.
In conclusion, introducing a new pet into the family can be difficult but not impossible. Allow the pets to sniff each other and praise for good behavior but separate the pets if there is aggression. As hard as it may be, do not try to comfort the upset pet as this will reinforce the aggressive behavior. Most important, keep to your pet’s normal schedule of feeding, playtime, and naptime, and don’t be afraid to ask for additional help from a Pet Trainer.
The Adventures of Lucy & China will continue as we battle sibling rivalry. Stay tuned for the next installment.