Parrots and Dogs

Close-up of an Eclectus parrot and a Bassett Hound puppy.

Many parrot lovers are also fans of other companion animals. For instance, besides my Blue and Yellow Macaw Sam, I have two cats (Chelsea and Millie) and a dog named Emmett.

However, multi-species animal lovers need to be aware of certain issues when adding other animals to a parrot household or adding parrots to households with other animals.

First, they must determine what category these other animals belong to. Are they predators or prey?

Predators often have eyes located in the front of their skull (e.g., humans, hawks, ferrets, etc.)

Eyes facing front give predators the ability to focus on and target their prey.

Preys often have eyes located on the sides of their skull (i.e. cows, deer, Guinea pigs, rabbits, etc.)

Eyes on the side of the head give prey a larger field of vision.

Prey can see more around them, helping them to notice predators that may be sneaking up or approaching them.

Note that all species of parrot are prey animals and dogs are considered predators to parrots.

From a psychological perspective, this is important to understand.

While many of my clients stubbornly insist that their parrots are not afraid of their huge dogs, this is simply not true.

Many owners are fooled because parrots have adopted the sport’s rule that attack is the best form of defense. 

This means parrots do not wait for the attack of a large predator. Instead, they take the offensive and attack first – which does not mean they are not afraid. Quite the contrary!

When introducing the animals, make sure you have the dog under control, and allow him to have a good sniff at the cage.

Let him watch the parrots moving around.

If he begins to bark or jump up that he knocks on the cage, calm him down and make it clear that he’s welcome to watch and sniff, but not to play with the cage or bark at it.

You need to make sure the dog does not misunderstand and think the bird is a new toy or a lovely snack.

The bird(s) will remain a novelty for a week or so, after which your dog will probably lose interest, and barely raise his head even when the parrot squawks or flaps.

The point at which this disinterest takes over will depend on the breed of the dog, but many well-trained dogs will soon get the message that they must leave the bird alone.

This is all well and good if the birds are in a cage.

A free-flying parrot is a different matter, and most dogs will instinctively chase and bite.

Many breeds will never change their opinion that the small parrot is anything other than prey, or that the large parrot is anything other than an enemy to bark and jump at.

Some dogs, for example, have been bred to find and kill small animals.

Incidentally, dogs like terriers and dachshunds have extremely high prey drives, so tremendous care must be taken with these breeds around pet birds.

If your dog is a non-hunting breed, well-trained and passive, you’ll be able to perch the budgie on or near him without reaction.

While training the dog, you may want to keep it on a leash whenever it is in the room with the bird, and never let the bird out of its cage while the dog is there.

If your dog is not that well trained, don’t let him and the bird meet face to face.

Do not make the potentially fatal mistake of assuming your presence will prevent a tragedy.

Parrots and Dogs Living Together

A person who wishes to pursue this ill-advised path of housing a parrot and a dog in the same house must meet three essential requirements.

  • The dog must be very docile
  • The parrot must be hand-trained, and
  • You must always be present when the animals are together.

At a safe distance, introduce the parrot to the dog on your hand.

Don’t continue training if the bird is about to panic or the dog is about to pounce. Take your cues from the animals.

Watch out for any signs that your dog might lash out or pounce, and reprimand her with a firm “No!”, or whatever other word of dissuasion you use.

Avoid shrieking at her, though, as that will panic both the parrot and the dog.

If the dog has never lived around birds, I strongly suggest you work with an experienced dog trainer or dog behavior consultant for help in controlling the dog in the future.

This will be money very well spent.

Dogs that kill companion birds are only doing what nature designed them to do.

Having such a terrible thing happen is not the fault of the dog; it is the fault of the humans who allowed these animals to come into contact.

So, no matter how sweet its temperament, no dog can be considered completely safe.

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