Looking for harness training advice

onamom

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Has anyone here successfully harness trained your parrot?

I’ve been working on harness training Ona with an Aviator harness since about September. We have made a lot of progress but the problem is I feel we are at a roadblock and I’m having a hard time getting us over the hump. Here’s what she will do now:
  • She is not fearful while in the presence of the harness
  • She will put her head through the wing loop - and most of the time the head loop as well - for a treat.
  • She will allow me to gently lift her wings while not wearing the harness
What I’m struggling with is getting her to leave her head through the harness for any extended amount of time. She’s mostly ok with putting her head through the loop, but she snatches her treat and immediately pulls her head back out. If I attempt to let go of the harness at all while her head is through either loop she completely freaks out. I have to be holding it up while her head is through.

Here’s what I’ve started trying this week: Instead of making her treat seeds easy to snatch from my hand, I bury them in some of her dried veggie treats. She digs through the veggies to get to the seeds, therefore leaving her head through the loop longer. I’ve been doing this with the wing loop only so far for the past six days, everyday. It is helping, and maybe eventually it will be enough to progress more, but I still can’t let go of the harness at all or leave her head through without me holding it up.

She also HATES either loop rubbing against her head as she take her head out. She normally does a grumpy squeal with the smaller head loop. Maybe I need to try a treat for both putting her head in and taking it out?

Anyone have any tips to help us progress?

Edit: I should also add I’ve watched countless YouTube videos on harness training but most them focus on getting your bird to put their head through the loop. I can do that - it’s the next steps we are struggling with.
 

wrench13

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It took me a whole YEAR, or more, to get Salty totally OK with wearing his harness. We would put it all the way on maybe 1-2x a week, but every other night, I had him put his head thru the head loop and then just drape the wing sections over his body. Wing loops tightened up so they fit OVER his wings but are not floppy or get in his feets way when walking around. We do this to this day 3 or 4 times a week, as part of his training sessions. We have been doing this with him for 5+ years at least, so many hundreds of times. Wearing a harness is so foreign to parrots, I find Salty needs constant reminder of what it is and to be 100% OK with wearing it.

Its probably the hardest thing to teach a parrot to do.
 

SailBoat

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IMHO, Al is our resident expert when it comes to Harness training as his method maintains a Parrot that is comfortable with wearing it.
Again, IMHO, Parrots are hardwired to not want constriction around their body and everything about a Harness is contrary how they are hardwired.
As Al states, it practice, practice, practice!
 
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onamom

onamom

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I’ll keep trying! Thanks for the reassurance @wrench13 that it takes a while. Knowing that it takes a while I think one of the hardest things is balancing learning it with other tricks as well. Maybe I will start trying every other day as you mentioned.

You also mentioned you put the harness all the way on Salty at first - sometimes I’m torn on if I should do this with Ona. I’ve been trying really hard to not force it on her at all because I want her to see it as positive not negative. Sometimes I wonder if I did just put it on her if she’d eventually get over it. But, I’m trying to take it slow, slow, slow and keep it as positive as possible.
 
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wrench13

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I am sorry if I gave you the impression to put the harness on all the way at first. No, that end point came after months of just putting his head thru the loop and back out, months of draping over him as i described above. and only then doing the whole thing. your parrot must be at minimum OK with you at least touching and moving wings a bit. a bit of practice for you too, to learn how the wings function. You'll find you really dont need to move the wings much, after you do it with your parrot a few times.
 
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onamom

onamom

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I am sorry if I gave you the impression to put the harness on all the way at first. No, that end point came after months of just putting his head thru the loop and back out, months of draping over him as i described above. and only then doing the whole thing. your parrot must be at minimum OK with you at least touching and moving wings a bit. a bit of practice for you too, to learn how the wings function. You'll find you really dont need to move the wings much, after you do it with your parrot a few times.
Ah, Gotcha. I really want it to be a positive thing for her so the slow and steady route is what we’ve been doing too. I hope that we can get there one day.
 

wrench13

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Some things that have helped me with training of anything, with Salty.
Aside from the 3 main things, be consistent, be immediate and be patient, I suggest setting aside 15 min a day at a set time for training. Have more then 1 thing to teach, so you are not repeating endlessly the same thing. Reserve the most favored treat for training only. Verbal praise is always welcome in addition to a treat. Walk the parrot thru the trick or action with him.

One day, the penny will drop and the plateau will be surmounted!
 

dera

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Thanks @wrench13 and my apologies to @onamom for sneaking in your post.
An advice I can give as a newbe, is that sometimes you have to stop and start over.
I.e. Wizzy loves to train, for the treats and the praises, but the times that I grabbed the harness suddenly he started to walk away. Therefore, instead of trying to lure his head through the loop, I started over on letting him "taste" the harness and stay calmly near it. Maybe I rushed too much.
 
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onamom

onamom

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@dera at least I’m not alone in my struggles! I 100% agree about starting over sometimes. With harness training specifically I’ve sometimes had to backtrack with Ona when something makes her uncomfortable.

Totally agree with your training tips @wrench13. Ona gets safflower seeds exclusively when training and I aim to do a short session with her almost daily. She really enjoys running through her trick routine. Some of the ones she knows really well like basketball we do less often. I think her favorite tricks to do are “fetch” and “basketball”.
 
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onamom

onamom

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@dera @wrench13 I just did a session with Ona and thought I’d record to show where we are:


I took out the audio so you don’t have to listen to me saying “good bird” over and over. You’ll notice I’m doing only the wing loop here and this is a perfect example of the backtracking. Though she has done the head loop in the past right now I’m just trying to focus on duration of her head through the wing loop. I also keep messing with the treats in my hand because I’m doing the technique of burying the seeds in other, less interesting treats. She did get up to about 10 seconds or so through the loop today! So I suppose it’s working. But without the treats there in front of her there is no way she’d do it.
 

wrench13

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Its a shame they dont make the small and extra small harnesses in thinner material, that webbing will stop a macaw from flying away! She looks comfortable using the wing loop, I'd try gong back to the head loop and work on that for awhile. SHe looks eager for her session!
 
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onamom

onamom

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Its a shame they dont make the small and extra small harnesses in thinner material, that webbing will stop a macaw from flying away! She looks comfortable using the wing loop, I'd try gong back to the head loop and work on that for awhile. SHe looks eager for her session!
Oh yes she gets very excited to train and just loves it. Hm maybe I will try the head loop again. I think part of why I keep getting stuck is when we go to the head loop she tends to get very grumpy because her head won’t come free as easily. She hates the sensation of the loop rubbing the sides of her head as it comes off. Then she gets grumpy to the point where she won’t do the head loop any more for that session. So I’m always torn on just continuing to try it or back tracking to the wing loop with the hope that it will make her more used to it.
 

wrench13

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Honestly I don't know if Salty would go for multiple times of putting the harness on in one session. We do it once, then move on. It is by no means his favorite trick in training sessions, and he will sometimes refuse it, which he always has the right to do so with any trick.
 

dera

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@onamom thanks for sharing, I'll try your technique with the wing loop. The head loop is really thigh :-(
Another thing I do with the things Wizzy doesn't like is count down the time, i.e. when I pick his wing I count 3, 2 1 and then I give him the treat.
 
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onamom

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We had a harness training blunder today. Ugh. I offered the head loop which she did but immediately snatched out of it instead of staying through for treats. So I decided to try something different and in the process rushed more than I should have. Ona is very comfortable with me touching her so I cupped my hand around her back and started lifting the harness up to her head with my hand gently around her. It was going fine so then I started gently putting her head through rather than waiting for her to put it through herself. I got her head through the loop which she seemed somewhat ok with - but then I lifted my hand from around her back. She freaked out! jumped off the t perch, wiggling around like crazy, and got a bit tangled up. She was moving around so much she put her wing in the wing loop on her own. So I’m just trying to get her to be still and calm long enough to get the thing off of her. Finally I did but it scared me too because I was afraid she would get hurt.

Thankfully I have the sweetest, most forgiving bird of all time because she is not mad at me at all. And the whole struggle she didn’t even bite me that hard (though she did bite a little). Ugh. Luckily she’s not totally terrified of at least being near the harness but I’m betting she won’t want to put her head through it any time soon. The most frustrating thing is I think she would have been fine if I would have just kept my hand over her back. I only removed it to try to get her out of the head loop. She just flipped before I had a chance to. :(

——-

Edit: I think I may try something like this with the wing loop: I really feel like she isn’t going to progress until I can get her used to the harness touching her without me holding it up. And I’m thinking I’ll stop doing harness training on the t perch and try a more flat surface like in the video linked above - that way she can’t jump down and get all tangled. That is after we take a short break from all things harness after today’s incident.
 
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wrench13

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If you want to see a real harness disaster, check this one out. I should call it "How Not to Put a Harness ON".


It's almost painful to watch!! This was made 5 years ago, so we had just completed basic harness work. But notice how calm he is, how much i manipulate his wings and stuff and it does not faze him. You need that level of confidence and calmness with you and your parrot.
 
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onamom

onamom

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If you want to see a real harness disaster, check this one out. I should call it "How Not to Put a Harness ON".


It's almost painful to watch!! This was made 5 years ago, so we had just completed basic harness work. But notice how calm he is, how much i manipulate his wings and stuff and it does not faze him. You need that level of confidence and calmness with you and your parrot.
He was so patient through all of that! I need a practice parrot dummy to get good at getting it on fast :LOL:
 

Cottonoid

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@wrench13 that was a delight to watch! It's a great example of how much trust the two of you have! I won't be attempting this technique quite yet 😜
 

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