A Kermit Training Update

IndySE

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Hey all, I posted a while back about my progress with harness training. That was about a month ago. I'm happy to say Houston, we have progress

[ame="https://youtu.be/slXR_KX1QTA"]https://youtu.be/slXR_KX1QTA[/ame]

I've been pretty busy so this is only with a 10-15 minute training session per day (which is shared with the second piece of progress I'll share in a moment). She's a LOT more comfortable. I can rest it on her back, I can usually get the strap under one wing. I could push her more, but at this point I'm trying to make small steps. But it's all coming together pretty fast now.

I did discover why Kermit and I suffered our initial set-back. Generally when first starting these sessions, she'll barely put her head through the loop. I have to give her an "easy win", gloat on the seed she totally didn't earn, and then she's ready to go. I think this is what happened initially, but I took it as a complete setback in progress and then proceeded to push her too hard to the point that she regressed... so at the end of the day, I have to let the parrot think this is all going according to HER plans. Let's just say she's been scoring a LOT of safflower seeds.

Next I'll try draping the strap under both rings and get her more and more used to be the harness being manipulated. Ultimately I'd like to have her wearing it and just munching on seeds.

~~~

Now, for the second piece of training that I like to call Alex and Dr. Pepperberg. I've been very fascinated by what goes on through Kermit's little mind, so we're working on our colors ! This is a pretty common game I've seen others teach their parrots, but I haven't seen a GCC do it yet.

[ame="https://youtu.be/rqjjueR-JwA"]https://youtu.be/rqjjueR-JwA[/ame]

It's a challenging piece of intellect and Kermit is only about a month into the game. It took a while to teach her just to take the rings off and put them back on. Now we're focussing on listening to the language. My ultimate goal is I'd like her to understand and identify the colors Red, Yellow, Blue, and Green. So far we're just on Red and Yellow (largely to teach her to differentiate).

I also want her to understand commands with these words like Put (place on ringstand), Take (take off ringstand), and Touch (touch a specific color -- very useful for introducing the concept of colors).

So in essence, I'm trying to get her to understand 2 words sentences. She's by no means 100% (and hilariously with the 'touch version' of the game, she'll often touch both yellow and red just to see which pays out; with the 'put' version of the game, she has very strong opinions on the red ring belonging on the green ringstand), but I see potential here. I'm very curious to see just how far she can take this game, and even when she doesn't get it, throwing around rings is good fun.

Every now and again, I do see the little gears turning. It's very cute. Sometimes she'll focus very intently on what I just said, turn her little head down, and stare at the table. A lot of times after coming out of this reverie, she connects what I'm asking of her. It's pretty neat to watch !

So just a bit of progress right before Thanksgiving. It gives me something to be thankful for I s'pose :)
 

Laurasea

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Amazing! I love GCC attitude, lol . Great job!!!! I feel like such an underachieving parront...
 

Jen5200

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Awesome! Such a smart girl...
 

VeronicaJ

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You have the patience and understanding this girl needs! I would like to say I have that...but I wouldn't be honest. You're and inspiration, Indy!
 
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IndySE

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Thanks all for the warm thoughts and encouragement :) We've taken a bit of a training break in light of Thanksgiving madness and a large national exam I'm taking in a few days. I'll update when I get more progress. I did manage a short harness training session today. I think she's open to letting me get the strap under the other wing.

It's funny... it does take patience to train a parrot for sure, but the little bird gets so much joy out of it. She's screamed at us a few mornings for delaying her training -- she wants those safflower seeds bad. I don't always feel like I'm fullfilling her intellectual needs from her toys (I've hit a patch of creativity block on making her new toys from my bucket of parts), so training always feels like a satisfying way to make sure she's using her little noggin.
 

AmyMyBlueFront

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Wow it looks to me you and Kermi have it down pretty good. As well all know,the way to ANY parrots heart,or brain,is always thru the tummy:p
Give Kermit whatever it takes to do the job. I know Al (Wrench13) went thru ALOT of pine nuts initially with Salty lol.

Awesome job...the both of you!


Jim
 
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IndySE

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Another update:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Y3Dl2R8ZWZuD6IqDG_cuh8IgBwQUYFaD/view?usp=sharing

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1f4EHkzGQUbOAI9-sIdsFAj2rH32wkIQq/view?usp=sharing

We took a step forward and 2 steps back. The first image is from Thursday where I managed to get both her wings in the harness ! Woo for us, and I was excited the end was near. However, in subsequent days Kermit became much more reluctant. She doesn't even want to put her head through the loop. I don't think she's traumatized or in a complete panic when it's on as she'll still take safflower seeds when it's on, but I can tell it makes her very uncomfortable. This will just be something that takes time for her to sort out. We may need to take another little break from the harness. But she's made great strides and I think she's very close !

On the ring front, I've seen a lot more progress. She's starting to get the concept of 2 word sentences. It's very neat ! She'll listen for the world yellow vs red, and more often than not seems to go for the one I ask. She understands (ish) the difference between take vs put too, though we're still working on the distinction. The trick is to keep things easily within her reach. If I frustrate her, she'll have a small temper tauntrum and throw rings everywhere until she feels better. I'm very proud of her, she's doing so well !
 

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great progress with Kermit ! Especially on the hrness. Concentrate on putting the loop on and off of Kermit, thats usualy what they hate doing most. THe under wings part is easy because it can be made much larger then needed .

LOL on the rings, believe me Kermie has it down, and is just messing with you now. Salty does that all the time. He will do them right a fw tmes and then get bored and messup on purpose. try putting the rings on the post and asking for the color from Kermit, just to change hings up. Keep up the good work!
 
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IndySE

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Another update.

Training is going well in that it had to take some steps back.

Shortly after posting my last message (where she had the harness under both wings), Kermit almost completely "lost" all our training progress. She would approach the harness, maybe, but it got to the point where she didn't even want to put her head in the loop. I know I've been pushing her pretty close to her limits, so I decided to give her a few days break. We started up harness training. The first few days were slow, but after no more than 3-4 days of progress she started warming up to the harness again and allowing it on her body for extended periods of time. I did change one element of our training that seems to be a success -- once I put the harness on, I place the entire bowl of safflower seeds in front of her so she can have infinite seeds as I fiddle with the harness.

Overall, I think I could get her to wear the harness once but I'm trying not to push her limits too aggresively lest I never get it on again. I also busted my thumb a bit (in a nonparrot related incident, as this apparently is most my friends' assumptions LOL) and until the bandages come off, I'm hesitant to do anything that requires much in the way of coordination. Still, I think we are close :)


Ring training update is quite interesting. Some days I'm not sure if she "gets it" or not. I've noticed it really depends on how I'm phrasing my commands and how mentally fatigued she is at the time of asking it. I.e. I'm better off holding two different colored rings and asking her to pick a specific color vs spreading it out on the table. I also think she tries to "hack" the game a bit, like when I ask for a yellow ring she'll run and touch BOTH rings until she gets the payout. I'm trying my best to keep "resetting" the layout to keep her from taking the easy route. Such a funny little bird. I'm delighted to see how that brain of hers works.
 

FlyBirdiesFly

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How is your harness training going? Curious since I’m harness training my Kermit and it’s been going slow, but he’s making good progress. Should I be preparing for a setback like what you experienced? Has (your) Kermit recovered and has she made progress since then?
 
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IndySE

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We're at a setback, but honestly that's more due to me than Kermit. Anytime we take a few days break from harness (in my case because I was scurrying around hosting friends for the New Years), she generally takes a few hearty steps backwards in progress. My biggest challenge is getting her to put her head through the hole now. She KNOWS the reward is infinite seeds, but she's very reluctant to put herself out there. Once it's on her head, she's content to munch on seed for a good 20 seconds.



I'm probably at the point where most owners would just shove the harness on their bird. With enough coordination, dexterity, and speed I could probably get it on her... I've already managed both wings and her head on a handful of occasions and just haven't gotten to tightening it. However, I'm just nervous about pushing her too far out of her comfort zone. I've certainly pushed her a lot, and I feel so bad everytime she gets all tangled up in her harness. I think those experiences are a lot of why she has set-backs.



I try very hard to end on a positive and build her confidence with a lot of easier successes, as well as hoping that she'll eventually realize there's no need to panic because I'll ultimately untangle her. And there's been SOME progress in that department. But I feel like a lot of our "setbacks" are just me not being good enough. But Kermit is patient enough to humor me and get a safflower seed out of the deal, so once I view this more as a bonding and trust experience I'm ok with it.



As what you should expect with your Kermit, I suppose it depends. I started introducing my ladyKermit to her harness at a year old which may have missed the window of comfort the babies get. You may get a setback if Kermit has a somewhat traumatizing experience. And some days just aren't "learning" days. However, those days are usually pretty special, because the following day you can expect some great leap.
 
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charmedbyekkie

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Don't stress!! With scary things like the harness, it does take daily familiarisation. What I used to do was one 5-min session the moment I got home from work (just on-off a couple of times, then on-touchwings-off once or twice). Train something else like recall, play a little, then another 5-min (repeat on-off, on-touchwings-off). Then right before bedtime, we'd do it again.

After on-touchwing-off is 'normal' (enough for Kermit to be calm-ish about it), then you can loop a wing. I didn't stay too long at the loop a wing part because I practiced with him so long at the touchwings part. For touchwing, I started just touching the outside, then practiced lifting it up and moving it around, then added in touching his side underneath his wing. He got used to the touching with the harness just being over his head, so when we got to looping wings, it was super fast.

Another reason I didn't dwell too long with the wing-looping is because it is such a high risk of entanglement (big scary event). So we almost leapt from harness-on (basically head through) and touching all over for a long period of time to harness completely on.
 
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IndySE

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Thank you for that advice. I've actually gotten Kermit very comfortable with her wings being handled. We started touching them outside of the harness and then slowly introducing it with a harness. Once her head's through the loop, she's generally ok with me touching her wings. Sometimes, though, she has a brief wave of panic so I have to move fast before we hit that point. I can also see more consistency and multiple trainings a day would be helpful (I'm not the world's most consistent parrot trainer as far as timing is concerned... I can get easily distracted. I'm a bit bird brained, haha).

I guess what I'm getting from this advice is next I get her up to speed where she was, I'll have to try the harness all the way on.
 

charmedbyekkie

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You ultimately know your bird best. I was only able to go for the whole harness because I was able to ready his body language, which hinted that he was open to trying more. But if Kermit isn't ready yet, then no need to rush. It's just about being careful with the harness not getting caught anywhere and about keeping everyone calm. If there's any hint of panic, just reassure, back-off, positive reinforcement for staying calm, then try again.
 

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How about a cheat? ;)

I got my parrots entangled a few times- and it is not nice.
Then I realised: if I work with them on the table/ a flat surface they are bound to scuttle backwards when something spooks them and in general go crazy...
(I wanted to give them more room to move about so they could approach the avitor on their own terms)

but... the few times they were actually on a perch (of my lap) ...
nu scuttling about (they know they would fall off)
and they actually remained a lot calmer.
(not really fair: they had nowhere to go, but it actually forced them to really look for other opportunies)

I really, really dislike forcing my birds into anything...but if this helps them not to go in a flight-modus and get entangled (and possibly traumatized) ...

(mine did get entangled but not traumatized- because it was not a big deal/ I refuse to let it become a big deal, we just moved on)



Legs and feet that are busy holding a bird in place will not get entangled easily ;)


The other thing that really helped me: name what you are doing and stick to that routine. Birds are smart - and they love knowing what is going to happen.
 

charmedbyekkie

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Good point, Christa! All of our training takes place on his perch (except for some tricks), so I never thought of that possibility of them running back.

And seconding naming everything. It gets them warning so they can mentally prepare themselves and be in a mindset that they're in control also.
 

FlyBirdiesFly

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We're at a setback, but honestly that's more due to me than Kermit. Anytime we take a few days break from harness (in my case because I was scurrying around hosting friends for the New Years), she generally takes a few hearty steps backwards in progress. My biggest challenge is getting her to put her head through the hole now. She KNOWS the reward is infinite seeds, but she's very reluctant to put herself out there. Once it's on her head, she's content to munch on seed for a good 20 seconds.



I'm probably at the point where most owners would just shove the harness on their bird. With enough coordination, dexterity, and speed I could probably get it on her... I've already managed both wings and her head on a handful of occasions and just haven't gotten to tightening it. However, I'm just nervous about pushing her too far out of her comfort zone. I've certainly pushed her a lot, and I feel so bad everytime she gets all tangled up in her harness. I think those experiences are a lot of why she has set-backs.



I try very hard to end on a positive and build her confidence with a lot of easier successes, as well as hoping that she'll eventually realize there's no need to panic because I'll ultimately untangle her. And there's been SOME progress in that department. But I feel like a lot of our "setbacks" are just me not being good enough. But Kermit is patient enough to humor me and get a safflower seed out of the deal, so once I view this more as a bonding and trust experience I'm ok with it.



As what you should expect with your Kermit, I suppose it depends. I started introducing my ladyKermit to her harness at a year old which may have missed the window of comfort the babies get. You may get a setback if Kermit has a somewhat traumatizing experience. And some days just aren't "learning" days. However, those days are usually pretty special, because the following day you can expect some great leap.

My Kermit (confusing I know, our birds have the same name) is one and a half years old, so he’s certainly not a baby anymore. I wish I would have started harness training when he was a baby, but he seems to be catching on despite his lower tolerability. He hasn’t had a single negative experience yet because I’ve been going very slow in desensitizing him to the harness. However, I can see that some days he just isn’t motivated like what you described as “non-learning” days.
One thing that concerns me is that he’s not 100% comfortable with me touching his wings and grabbing him. I was training him to let me handle him for a couple months but we stopped that training when I got the harness. He sort of regressed with the handling/grab training even before I introduced the harness to him — I think I was pushing past his limits. I’ll have to get back into that before I can put his wings through the loops, but I’m far from that step as of now. Right now I’m focused on building confidence with the head loop, which I’m figuring will take a while.
 

FlyBirdiesFly

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How about a cheat? ;)

I got my parrots entangled a few times- and it is not nice.
Then I realised: if I work with them on the table/ a flat surface they are bound to scuttle backwards when something spooks them and in general go crazy...
(I wanted to give them more room to move about so they could approach the avitor on their own terms)

but... the few times they were actually on a perch (of my lap) ...
nu scuttling about (they know they would fall off)
and they actually remained a lot calmer.
(not really fair: they had nowhere to go, but it actually forced them to really look for other opportunies)

I really, really dislike forcing my birds into anything...but if this helps them not to go in a flight-modus and get entangled (and possibly traumatized) ...

(mine did get entangled but not traumatized- because it was not a big deal/ I refuse to let it become a big deal, we just moved on)



Legs and feet that are busy holding a bird in place will not get entangled easily ;)


The other thing that really helped me: name what you are doing and stick to that routine. Birds are smart - and they love knowing what is going to happen.

I train Kermit on a flat surface instead of on a perch... I will look out for any signs of trying to back away. I don’t really have a suitable training perch though (I only have elaborate playstands which would quickly distract him), and he seems relaxed when I put him on my lap to do training. He can do tricks on the playstands without getting distracted, but harness training takes a little more focus because he needs to stay still. Do you recommend that I get a simple t-stand just for training?
 

FlyBirdiesFly

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Ok so I just did our training session and I’ve been wanting to ask this question. Toward the end of the session Kermit tends to lose focus and he doesn’t want to stay in the head loop. What ends up happening in this situation is that I keep urging Kermit to do it one more time so I can end the session on a positive note, but I’m worried that the end of the session is actually becoming more negative than positive. I don’t want to push his limits, but I also don’t want to end the session prematurely when he’s making good progress. Will this cause a setback? Should I be ending the session before he starts to lose focus? I often think about ending the session earlier but then I think, he’s doing so well, so I’m going to take this opportunity while it lasts. Also how long should our training sessions be in general? Right now we’re doing a 15-20 minute session once a day.
 
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IndySE

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So much good progress for the Kermits today ! This thread was appropriately named to serve their needs.


A quick update on Lady Kermit: Today's training went ok. I convinced her to put her head in the loop and got one wing through a loop too. Unfortuneatly she started to panic, but I transferred her to my lap per suggestion and kept trying to keep her attention on the safflowers. I undid the loop, let the harness rest a little longer, and she was done easy peasy. I kept the training session going so we could end on a positive. I did manage to get her head thru the loop again, but this time only handled her wings which she let me do with ease. So I think she just needs to warm up again and it shouldn't be, hopefully, too much effort to get her back where she was.


Lady Kermit really surprised me with her rings today. She was very on-it with language, and in a few points seemed to differentiate between "putting" the ring vs "taking the ring" of the specified color. Not 100%, and I am giving her some body language clues on occasion, but she's starting to get the hang of it. I'm curious to see where she goes with it. Sometimes I do wonder if she's already understood this game for a long while and is merely bored with following directions.



@FlyBirdiesFly;;


To answer your question, you can try a T-stand I just haven't had much luck using this with Lady Kermit for harness training. It makes me a little less maneuverable as I prefer resting my arms on the table. But I do use them with good success for other tricks. Just word to the wise: if you get a plastic one, make sure it has good grip because that fact alone made Kermit leery of it for harness training purposes.


As for your other question, it's hard to predict what will cause a setback and what won't. I've had perfectly excellent days with no traumatizing tangling experiences followed up by days where she was very unmotivated. I would say it's best to end early. At 15-20 minute sessions, you're pushing the upper limit of Sir Kermit's attention. Birds have an incredible ability to pick things up pretty fast, but generally do not excel with giving their 100% for long periods of time. Remember, there's no rush or timeline to get him to wear a harness so taking extra time with shorter sessions will be well-worth the effort. You could also try shifting gears to some fun trick training after a harness training session, which Lady Kermit really enjoys. I'm also considering doing multiple, shorter training sessions throughout the day as this seems to be some advice I've heard.
 
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