Becker Animal Hospital | Height Dominance
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Height Dominance

It is common for owners to have their birds on their shoulders as they go about their day. We are left with our hands free and our little buddies get to spend part of the day with us.   Although this seems like a wonderful idea, it is not appropriate in all situations or for all birds.

Why can this be inappropriate?

Generally speaking a place of height is a place of dominance or superiority over those around.  It can be a territorial claim and position of control.  It is top of the “pecking order”.  On the whole, birds placed higher than the shoulders are more likely to try and “run the show”.  They may passively refuse the “up” command to hands, they may aggressively strike out or bite, and they may scream. 

 Incidents of inappropriate biting of ears, nose, lips or eyes are eliminated if the bird is never on your shoulder

 Are there any recommendations that will avoid these problems?

Although height is not an issue with all birds, there should be no exceptions with behavioral challenges, NO high perches above the mid chest of a standing owner and NO perching on the shoulders.  At the same time, some birds will develop neuroses and insecurities if constantly below waist level.  You, the owner should be in control but within a relationship of respect.


  This client information sheet is based on material written by Rick Axelson, DVM & Shawn Messonnier, DVM

© Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license. December 12, 2011