Updated: Jun 26, 2022
We all have our own ideas of what makes a parrot trainer "good." What characteristics or credentials do you look for in a parrot trainer?
I have had a lot on my mind these days when it comes to training and parrot behavior. The amount of information out there can be overwhelming, and I often find myself going down rabbit holes (in the middle of the night, I might add). Something that has been weighing on me recently is getting into the topic of what really makes somebody a parrot trainer or behavior consultant. I have been in university settings for longer than I’d like to admit, so I am accustomed to and, quite frankly, find comfort in the idea that a person’s knowledge and credentials are earned by means of learning from field experts combined with rigorous examination and extensive peer review. The process is methodical and, while not easy, it is easy to follow. In other words, you know what you have to do to get to the metaphorical finish line, where you can slap your degrees, published works, and presentations onto your resume and this, in and of itself, demonstrates to others that you have put in the time and effort for becoming a so-called expert in your field. It can be a lengthy process, but to me, it is so rewarding and has been worth sacrificing my 20s for.
Now, let’s switch gears and enter the world of parrot training and behavior consulting. I am by comparison a novice in this field when you hold me up to world-renowned trainers. I have learned so much in my years as a companion parrot owner, and I do take pride in knowing that I have helped other parrot owners improve the lives of their feathered friends. But WOW…there is always so much more to learn, and I have to say, there is no one path to follow to become “an expert.” As a person who has poured so much time and energy into following the essentially single path toward gaining a doctorate in my field, the idea that there is no one path for accruing “expert-level” knowledge in parrot training and behavior is…daunting. What’s more, the idea that you can simply call yourself an expert in parrot training and behavior is potentially problematic. There are of course the obvious issues: anybody on the internet can call themselves an expert in something, even if they very clearly aren’t. This is already a huge subject that I could go on and on about, so let’s skip that for now and go onto the next issue. The term “expert” is subjective. In my years in academia, I have been slapped in the face many times with the reality of this—even “experts” still have much to learn, and the good ones are fully aware of this. The unfortunate downside to this is that rather than us simply being humbled by the knowledge that there is always somebody, somewhere who knows more than you, we become somewhat consumed by imposter syndrome and self-doubt. Not good, but at the same time, I personally would rather have an excess of misplaced self-doubt than an excess of misplaced self-confidence.
Now, the next issue. When there are processes like gaining degrees, licenses, or being subjected to peer-review, it is relatively easy to distinguish somebody who could justifiably call themselves an expert in their field from somebody who couldn’t or shouldn’t. For example, when you seek medical care, I’m sure you don’t just go asking anybody (unless maybe you love WebMD). But at least for the serious stuff, we go to medical doctors, people with M.D.s who went through medical school and hold a valid medial license. But in the absence of degrees, licenses, peer review, and so on, how do we measure a person’s proficiency in a field? You don’t need a degree or license to be a professional parrot trainer or behavior consultant (which is different than a behaviorist, by the way). So, what do you look for when choosing a trainer and/or behavior consultant? I am really asking. Is it certification by international organizations? Is it testimonials from other clients? Is is something else, or many other things? I have my own thoughts, but I am really interested to hear the perspective of others.
Dr. Stephanie Rosenbloom has her Ph.D. from Cornell University and has been caring for parrots her entire life. She believes that we can all benefit from asking more questions, seeking knowledge from reliable sources, and giving others the benefit of the doubt before drawing conclusions. She applies these concepts to her practice as a parrot trainer and behavior consultant.