What is the proper and safe way to introduce my dog to the family bird?
You need to keep your bird safe from both the family dog, as well as the cat. Some dogs, especially from the working and hunting breeds, just have that instinct to go after them. However, even the most docile ones can accidentally attack or ‘play’ with a bird and the bird will get hurt. A cat’s instinct is always to hunt and they can’t help being attracted to fluttery little things.
A big cage, proper supervision and training of all pets (even the bird) will help ensure a smooth transition. Although some just prefer to keep the bird completely separate from other pets, it’s a lot better to prevent as many mishaps as possible in the first place. Just please remember, though, accidents can still happen—so it’s critical not to ever leave them unsupervised.
Start with the cage, which should be:
• Sturdy, with a lock that dogs, cats or birds can’t open. (Don’t fool yourself; they can learn this very quickly.)
• Large, so the bird can back away in case curious paws try to reach in.
• Heavy; you don’t want your other pets to throw it over, thus injuring the bird.
• Placed in a corner with a lot of “visual barriers, such as plants, so the bird can “hide” when it gets scared.
Next is training:
• At first, the dog or cat will be very curious about the new family member, but soon the bird will probably just be ignored.
• Introduce them in very small steps, for instance by holding the bird on your finger and letting the dog or cat sniff it.
• Whatever you do—and this can’t be emphasized enough—don’t allow the animals to lick the bird. The saliva (and even under the claws of cats) contains a bacteria that can cause a serious, often fatal, infection.
• Let all the pets know—even the bird—that aggression is not to be tolerated. A firm and loud “NO” usually does the trick.
Finally, supervise closely. Never leave them together unattended.