Whether you already have a dog and you are considering a pet bird, or you already have a bird and are considering a pet dog, it will take a bit of work to integrate them into the same household. While it can be a challenge to train dogs and birds to get along, it is possible as long as you are patient and always make provisions for the safety of each animal.
Introduce Your Pets Slowly
Dogs, like cats, are predators in the wild, and most will naturally view a bird as prey that should be pursued and conquered. Even if your dog is timid with a less prominent prey drive than others, the instinct to hunt a bird will always be present.
Start with a very slow pace when introducing your dog to your bird. Bring them into contact with each other several times, for only a few minutes, over the course of a couple of weeks. The goal is that they will eventually become comfortable together, and you can start increasing their time socializing. Definitely don't try to rush it, as haste could possibly lead to a stressful or traumatic experience, or potentially serious accidents.
Choose a Neutral Area
When you first introduce your dog to your bird, choose a neutral area that neither animal will consider to be their territory. For birds, this will be a room that their cage is not normally located, and preferably you choose a space where they spend little time. Getting the animals out of familiar surroundings will help to reduce the potential for aggressive behavior and make them more agreeable in general, which can be helpful in these sorts of situations.
Reward the Animals
One thing that dogs and birds have in common is that they're both often pretty easy to distract and bribe with food. Offering them plenty of tasty treats can be a great way to reward each of them for good behavior during the introductory phase of their relationship. Be sure to have plenty of treats for each animal on hand before beginning your sessions with them.
After several sessions of bringing the bird and dog into the same room together and helping them get accustomed to one another, you can begin to allow your dog to be off-leash in the area as long as he or she continues to behave and not harass the bird. However, for your bird's protection, never allow him or her out of the cage while the dog is present, and never leave the animals in the same room together unsupervised. Accidents can always happen, even with the most well-trained and trustworthy canines. The best way to reduce the risk for your pets is to simply keep your bird inside of the cage while the dog is around.
Problems and Proofing Behavior
It's important to recognize that the difficulty of this process will be quite different depending on the breed and age of your dog. If your dog is a puppy, the training and introduction is going to take more consistency and time. Also, if your dog has a strong hunting instinct, it will take more effort to introduce them to your bird. Keep these factors in mind as you begin the acclimation process, but don't get discouraged. As long as you put in the effort, most pets will eventually figure out how to live amicably in the same space.
Mistakes to Avoid
Two important things to dodge when introducing your dog to your pet bird:
- Do not have either animal loose in the room during your pets meeting. Make sure that your bird is placed securely inside of their cage at all times that the dog is present, and always keep your dog leashed. Failure to restrain either animal can result in disaster if one decides to charge at the other. Until you've established that they're both comfortable, keep them confined.
- Make sure your bird is in an appropriately sized bird cage and that the door is secure. Also, place your bird's cage in a spot where your dog will not be able to jump up and reach it.