Barbara Heidenreich – Animal Trainer and President of Good Bird Inc

[quote style=”boxed”]When you are your own boss you quickly realize if you want your vision to come to life, you have to make it happen. This means prioritizing your goals, and including them in your schedule. Projects can get done very quickly if you want them to.[/quote]

Barbara Heidenreich has been a professional in the field of animal training since 1990. She is the President of Good Bird Inc , a company that provides behavior and training products to the companion parrot and small mammal communities. These products include Good Bird Magazine, books, videos, and animal training workshops. Barbara Heidenreich has been a featured speaker on animal training on six continents and has been published in nine different languages. Barbara Heidenreich is a former president of the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators ( and served on the Board of Directors from 1997-2009.

Barbara also consults on animal training in zoos, nature centers and other animal related facilities. She has been a part of the development and production of more than 15 different free flight education programs and has worked with over 20 different animal facilities. In her career she has trained animals, trained staff, and/or presented shows at facilities around the world.

What are you working on right now?

I always have several projects in the works. I have a few DVDs in post-production and one in production as well as another book on the way.

Where did the idea for Good Bird Inc come from?

Prior to starting my own company I trained birds for educational presentations as a zoo employee. After shows I would frequently be asked questions about parrot behavior problems. I found it surprising that the answers did not seem to be out there for the companion parrot owner. I decided to write a book with answers to common parrot behavior problems. Everything snow balled from that one book.

What does your typical day look like?

When I am working from home, the day starts with animal care and training sessions. The rest of the day may be devoted to working on projects such as editing a new DVD, answering emails and handling the normal requirements of running a business. However I am frequently on the road presenting animal training workshops. When traveling I squeeze in emails in the morning then head to my seminar. I do a day long presentation that includes lecture and live training demos. Any free time on the road is usually spent enjoying animal related activities. This may mean a behind the scenes tour at the zoo or a trip to view some local wildlife. It almost always involves some time spent enjoying animals.

How do you bring ideas to life?

When you are your own boss you quickly realize if you want your vision to come to life, you have to make it happen. This means prioritizing your goals, and including them in your schedule. Projects can get done very quickly if you want them to.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Personally I am pleased to see more and more people learning how animal training works. Rather than blindly following a method that seems to get results, they want to know why it works. This then leads to an educated decision on what training methods to use. We know coercion and aversive experiences can work to influence behavior, but fortunately more and more people are learning the problems with these methods and are focusing on positive reinforcement.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I worked for a very abusive boss. He would look for ways to put employees down. It appeared to be his way to feel better about himself. Yet he preached just the opposite, which of course was frustrating for his employees. What I learned from the experience is that you really do need to walk the talk and that it must be sincere. I also learned to keep an eye out for supervisors who behaved this way. When I do my work as a consultant, I am very careful to help these types of bosses feel good and try to look for opportunities to reinforce them for making good choices. It helps reduce their need to look for the bad in others.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would have gone for it sooner! I was raised in a world in which you expected your employer to take care of you. The world has changed drastically. We can no longer count on our jobs being there. I found once I went out on my own I was forced to get creative and make my career as opposed to letting it happen to me. I found myself thinking of all kinds of ways to create revenue streams utilizing my expertise.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Network! My success as an entrepreneur has been based on building a network of colleagues over the years by participating in many conferences and events. Good relationships with other professionals are priceless.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

One mistake that stands out for me was to trust a contractor I hired to do a project. To this day I still do not have the product and papers have been filed to sue the contractor. It taught me I should spend more time checking references before doing business with someone I don’t know.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Automate as much as you can. Technology exists that allows much of your business to operate itself. It is worth the investment. It will free you up to focus on using the expertise you offer to this world.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I would change the way people train animals. Right now popular TV shows promote abusive techniques. My goal is to challenge these methods and bring light to the kinder, gentler alternatives.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

I do use Facebook, YouTube and Twitter quite a bit. People often complain about these sites, but they forget they have provided entrepreneurs with a cost free way to reach many people. If your posts are worthy you will find your reach is exponential.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Getting to Yes by Ury. It will help you resolve conflict and maintain good relationships with people.

Two people we should follow on Twitter and why?

Rebecca K O’Connor: quick witted author and animal trainer an entrepreneur
Sirocco Kakapo: The online voice of a rare New Zealand bird. One that I was fortunate enough to train to stop mating with people head’s.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

Yesterday. When I bent over my parrot said “Nice Butt!” Such is life when you work with a talking parrot.

Who is your hero?

Bob Bailey. Great animal trainer and great knowledge of the science of behavior analysis. He is a pioneer that is often overlooked.


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