[At Ms Joseph’s request, we have removed the final paragraph. Editorially, we are disappointed to do so, as on the record she had stated what we felt was an important structural social principle related there.]

Lara Joseph confessed: dinosaurs, not birds, were her first passion. But as she studied animal anatomy and physiology, birds (yeah, evolved dinosaurs) increasingly intrigued and captivated her. Evolved as prey, not predator, birds with their complex behavior attracted Lara, on the one hand, for the multi-faceted complexity, on the other, for its divergence from that of predator dogs and cats more commonly found as US pets.

Six years ago, after years of accumulating free flight miles between consultations, Lara, professional animal behavior consultant and trainer, opened her current base of operations, The Animal Behavior Center. While Lara still travels to consult, the Center allows Lara a life more rooted in Ohio. Meanwhile, consultations occur online via private conferencing, livestreaming, and webinars. Lara’s animals, of course, thrive on increased consistent quality time with her.

Certified in Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, Lara utilizes positive reinforcement and other ABA techniques to facilitate owners in developing animal behaviors conducive to a synergistic and enriching home.

Positive reinforcement conditions animals consistently to elect behaviors that optimize a shared environment. Countless studies document the superiority of positive reinforcement operant conditioning over the converse — punishment, which can have detrimental developmental and neurological effects.

ABA analyzes observable behavior so positive reinforcement incents the desired behavior. An offshoot of B.F. Skinner’s seminal behavioral research, ABA “coincidentally” is the preferred technique for minimizing dysfunction in autistic individuals. Of particular interest, autism experts recommend ABA primarily through age 4. As people mature and can increasingly express thoughts and feelings, a related tool set is added, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which analyzes thoughts and feelings, opening opportunities to incent yet more complex behavior.

And they told you your parrot had the intelligence of a 5-year-old? Yep. Birds are complex. Just don’t forget training is your most effective method of communication.

Importantly, as science improves, professionals in complementary fields need to better understand and respect the boundaries of their expertise. For instance, a parrot suddenly initiates plucking and escalates to feather chewing, i.e., feather destructive behavior. Initially this feather misbehavior likely has its source in a stimulus-response chain of conditioned behaviors gone awry. (Many parronts do not realize they can build separation anxiety through excessive repetition of positive reinforcement, a phenomenon known as over-bonding). New undesirable behaviors ideally are immediately addressed with countervailing behavioral modification measures.

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