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Old 12-27-2018, 04:51 PM
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The Aviator harness arrived!

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Kermit’s Aviator harness arrived today and I just had his first training session with it. He’s not scared of it at all and was very interested when I showed it to him. Within a few minutes he was already putting his head through the collar for treats! He sticks his head through, takes the treat, and pulls away immediately. How can I get him to stay in longer and do you have any other tips on where to go from here? I realize this was our very first harness session but he’s already progressing so quickly! What was your harness training experience and how long did it take you?
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Old 12-27-2018, 06:14 PM
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Re: The Aviator harness arrived!

Go slow and easy! I had my JoJo to that point, putting his head through the collar, and he panicked, flying off with the harness hanging from him and the leash bouncing and grabbing onto everything! It was not good! We have not been able to recover from that point yet!
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Old 12-27-2018, 06:18 PM
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Re: The Aviator harness arrived!

Months! Getting the head through a loop is the hard part, the rest is relatively easy.
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Old 12-27-2018, 08:31 PM
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Re: The Aviator harness arrived!

Congrats!!!

Not sure what your cue words are for Kermit, but I would say "on" when he put his head through and "off" when he took it off his head. Slowly, I would delay the treat giving little by little. Then I started giving him more treats if he stayed there longer (so the first time it looked like I was shoveling treats into his mouth, but he quickly got the idea and then could offer them slowly). At this point, it's really about reading his body language to know how much time can lapse between treats. So he puts his head in, extend the time between putting the head in and giving a treat. Then when you give him that treat, give him a second. Eventually he'll have to wait until the second treat. If Kermit is touch-phobic like Cairo is, it might not even be just two treats but five or so to get him to understand the positive association past his fear/dislike of things touching him (his first thought in the harness is to get out ASAP, so once he learns that being in the harness longer means more treats then you've gotten over the big hurdle).

Once he started getting the idea that putting his head in the harness would get him what feels like unlimited treats, he started running for the harness every time he saw it. But do keep a hold on the harness with your other hand so that it doesn't get caught on his perch if he moves around (if it does, then keep calm and very positive - everything regarding the harness being on his, even when it goes wrong, has to be super positive and reassuring).

Only once he calms down and can wait for treats with the harness can you let it rest on his body (not necessarily let go of it just yet, but let part of it touch his body). For Cairo, he doesn't like being touched by human hands, so simultaneously (and independent from harness training at first) we worked on touching his wings - for the record, he still doesn't like being touched but will tolerate it for treats.

Once he's calm about it, then you can practice letting go and resting it on him. After that, then practice tucking it under one wing. Etc.
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Old 12-27-2018, 08:41 PM
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Re: The Aviator harness arrived!

Quote: Originally Posted by charmedbyekkie View Post
Congrats!!!

Not sure what your cue words are for Kermit, but I would say "on" when he put his head through and "off" when he took it off his head. Slowly, I would delay the treat giving little by little. Then I started giving him more treats if he stayed there longer (so the first time it looked like I was shoveling treats into his mouth, but he quickly got the idea and then could offer them slowly). At this point, it's really about reading his body language to know how much time can lapse between treats. So he puts his head in, extend the time between putting the head in and giving a treat. Then when you give him that treat, give him a second. Eventually he'll have to wait until the second treat. If Kermit is touch-phobic like Cairo is, it might not even be just two treats but five or so to get him to understand the positive association past his fear/dislike of things touching him (his first thought in the harness is to get out ASAP, so once he learns that being in the harness longer means more treats then you've gotten over the big hurdle).

Once he started getting the idea that putting his head in the harness would get him what feels like unlimited treats, he started running for the harness every time he saw it. But do keep a hold on the harness with your other hand so that it doesn't get caught on his perch if he moves around (if it does, then keep calm and very positive - everything regarding the harness being on his, even when it goes wrong, has to be super positive and reassuring).

Only once he calms down and can wait for treats with the harness can you let it rest on his body (not necessarily let go of it just yet, but let part of it touch his body). For Cairo, he doesn't like being touched by human hands, so simultaneously (and independent from harness training at first) we worked on touching his wings - for the record, he still doesn't like being touched but will tolerate it for treats.

Once he's calm about it, then you can practice letting go and resting it on him. After that, then practice tucking it under one wing. Etc.
Thanks so much, this is very helpful!! I’ve been working on training Kermit to let me touch his wings to prepare him for that step. Have you harness trained Cairo? Did it take you a long time?
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Old 12-27-2018, 09:48 PM
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Re: The Aviator harness arrived!

Congrats, very exciting. Levi & I were doing so well, until he freaked a tad when he couldn't get his head back out of the loop. I put it away for a while. I'm planning on picking it up again soon.

Good Luck.
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Old 12-27-2018, 10:29 PM
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Re: The Aviator harness arrived!

Quote: Originally Posted by FlyBirdiesFly View Post
Thanks so much, this is very helpful!! I’ve been working on training Kermit to let me touch his wings to prepare him for that step. Have you harness trained Cairo? Did it take you a long time?
Cairo is fully-harnessed trained - we go out just about every other day for walks on his harness, and we also go flying in parks most weekends with a leash extension on the harness.

I know Cairo is very much an anomaly regarding harnesses, though. He picked it up within 2-3 weeks, largely because he's incredibly food-motivated, and he doesn’t bite it normally. Most of the other birds on the forum took months, so don’t compare Kermit to Cairo.

In terms of touching, we have a set cue word (“sayang” - it’s a local word) to let him know that we are touching for the purpose of the harness, so he knows he can expect a treat for ‘suffering’ our hands (he’ll tolerate our faces near him, but hands are not kosher unless it’s for a set purpose). So that actually took up most of our practice time. While I put the harness on him, he does open his beak and search for a treat in my hands simply because he still dislikes being touched (I really can’t express how much he does not want to be touched, but he’s polite about it and doesn’t bite), so he needs the reassurance of treats constantly.

For the actual harness itself, I prep the harness to be wide enough for his left (my right) wing. Then we typically go (but lately, I can skip a lot of the treat giving):
“On” (head through)
Treat
“Sayang” (loop left wing)
Treat
“Sayang” (adjust the harness to make space for the other wing)
Treat
“Sayang” (loop right wing)
Treat
“Sayang” (tighten the body strap)
Treat

That being said, I’ve noticed if Cairo is acting upset with the harness (he’ll beak it), it’s normally because his feathers are out of place. So throughout the process of putting the harness on, after the we’ve completed the process, and during our time wearing it, I run my finger through the big body strap to make sure all his underwing body feathers are underneath it, which means I do have to poke underneath his wings. You’ll eventually notice which feathers on his back move with the wing - those go above the straps.

I’ve also noticed that Cairo doesn’t like it if the body strap is too tight (I suspect because it’s uncomfortable with his feathers when he moves and breathes), but you also can’t have it too loose or his foot will get caught when he flies and lands. So after the harness is on and I’ve checked that his feathers are underneath the body strap, then I step back and recall him to me. Then I can check that I’ve adjusted it properly (vestige from when I had a horse). The main reason I do recall is so when he does fly and land and if his foot does get caught on a too loose body strap, it’s while he’s landing on me, so I can immediately fix it.

We used to do harness training every day - if I missed one day, he would be hesitant about hands again, and if we missed two days, he wouldn’t be as enthusiastic about the head loop. Now, he’s more agreeable to forgoing constant training with the harness because he strongly associates it with going outside.

There will be other little things you guys will learn together. If Cairo spooked off, he used to just anyhow fly, then the harness would hold him back. Now if he spooks off (less frequently now that he’s better socialised with strangers), he’ll fly off in a panic, but then turn when I recall him back and land on my arm (he feels is more stable than a hand) or my head (he feels is a safe space). Do note that if Kermit spooks off, the harness will ruffle some feathers (bad pun intended), so you’ll need to tuck them back underneath and/or loosen the strap.

The biggest thing you can do for him after he learns to accept the harness is to normalise it. I ask him to do our usually training routine (tricks and toys), so he gets used to the idea that he can move in the harness (example: he used to not recall when wearing the harness, until I got him to “step up”, then put him back and ask for recall). Then, we go outside (which he enjoys) and I ask him to do some of his tricks. It can be as simple as “step up” or you can do anything else he knows.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some stuff right now, but feel free to ask questions and I’ll try to remember other points to cover.
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Old 12-28-2018, 08:14 AM
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Re: The Aviator harness arrived!

Nike is to the point now that I could probably attempt harness training but I honestly wouldn't want her on my shoulder with other people around. If anyone other than either my wife or I comes near her, or even into the room her feathers go up and she paces around very upset....and a displacement bite is not out of the question.

This behavior started about a month into our relationship when she became bonded to us, prior to that she would go to anybody.
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Old 12-28-2018, 10:13 AM
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Re: The Aviator harness arrived!

Quote: Originally Posted by bill_e View Post
Nike is to the point now that I could probably attempt harness training but I honestly wouldn't want her on my shoulder with other people around. If anyone other than either my wife or I comes near her, or even into the room her feathers go up and she paces around very upset....and a displacement bite is not out of the question.

This behavior started about a month into our relationship when she became bonded to us, prior to that she would go to anybody.
Kermit doesn’t mind stepping up for strangers, and he’ll even tolerate children. He is not a one-person bird at all.
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Old 12-28-2018, 12:18 PM
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Re: The Aviator harness arrived!

Quote: Originally Posted by bill_e View Post
Nike is to the point now that I could probably attempt harness training but I honestly wouldn't want her on my shoulder with other people around. If anyone other than either my wife or I comes near her, or even into the room her feathers go up and she paces around very upset....and a displacement bite is not out of the question.

This behavior started about a month into our relationship when she became bonded to us, prior to that she would go to anybody.

This is a very good point to make to anyone and everyone who is harness-training their birds and plans on taking them out in public with them...

My Senegal, Green Cheek, and Quaker are all Aviator-Harness trained (my Cockatiel would sooner commit suicide than wear one and we decided that it just wasn't for her, lol). I take them all out and about with me when it's warm enough to do so, but Kane, my Senegal, is the one who just absolutely loves going out and about on the harness...However, I learned very quickly that it's not your bird you have to worry about, but rather the people out in public that you have to pay close attention to and really cannot take your eyes off of!!! It never ceases to amaze me how many people just walk right up to a parrot with a beak and start touching them/petting them like they are a dog (not that you should walk up to a dog and start petting them either, lol)...They just walk right up and before I hear the "Awe, your bird is so beautiful" or "Oh my god, look at the parrot!", or my favorite "Wow, that's a real parrot, isn't it?" (I always want to say no, I walk around in public with a mechanical parrot on my shoulder because I'm a pirate. Arrrr Matey!"), they are reaching their hands out and touching them!!!

I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to get bitten by a Green Cheek Conure or a Quaker Parrot at all, but I certainly would not just walk up to a total stranger with a Senegal Parrot or any larger of a parrot and start touching a bird with that large of a beak (or larger)!!! I know that Kane could probably take a finger off if he wanted to, and you know damn well that if you bird bites someone it's going to be YOUR FAULT, and your bird is going to be called "vicious" or "dangerous", etc. if they do happen to bite someone...And depending on who it is that they bite, you may even end-up with a huge legal fight, not criminal but rather civil, as you can sue for just about anything in the world...And you know that the fact that the person just walked right up to a total stranger's parrot that they've never seen before and just started touching them isn't going to matter, it's always going to be the bird's fault...

Kane has never even nipped at anyone; when some stranger does walk up and just starts touching him he usually has this expression on his face that says "Who the hell is this person and why are they touching me?", lol...Then when I tell them to stop touching him he looks at me with his beak hanging open like "Seriously? Did that just happen? Did they actually touch me?"...lol.

You just have to be very vigilant and make sure that you know where the bird is at all times, and if ANYONE stops to look at them that's fine, but I always immediately say something to the effect of "He's not good with strangers so you can talk to him, but please don't try to touch him". And most people are fine with that...But I've had a couple of people who have walked up and said "Is it okay if I pet him?" while they are already petting his head while they're asking me if it's okay...It's frustrating. Kane doesn't really mind, he just looks at me like "Why is this person touching me? Did you tell them this was okay?", his expressions are priceless...As funny as it is, it is a real worry...
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