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Harness Training

Discuss the methods and techniques of clicker training, target training and bonding. These are usually the first steps in training a young parrot.

Harness Training

Postby lac575 » Thu Aug 23, 2018 11:40 am

How long did it take you to teach your adopted adult (or almost adult) parrot to accept the aviator harness so you could put it on?

Thanks! :senegal:
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Re: Harness Training

Postby Michael » Thu Aug 23, 2018 12:39 pm

Generally I can teach most trained parrots to wear an aviator harness willingly and voluntarily within a week of harness-training. Mind you, all of the requisite taming/training of the bird are separate and prior and I am experienced at training them. So that's basically a best case scenario. Deduct time for owner inexperience getting the hang of things as the training goes on. Deduct more time for difficult or abused birds. Deduct more time for African Greys. Etc.

That said, most of my students who genuinely stick it out and follow the full harness training course accomplish solid results in 3-6 months. Some take a full year. But they are also starting from scratch with no training background for them or their parrots. So I'd say it takes about 2-6 months to complete all the requisite training for a parrot to be ready to begin harness training and then about 1-4 weeks of actual harness training.
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Re: Harness Training

Postby lac575 » Thu Aug 23, 2018 5:50 pm

Thanks, Michael!

Ours is a 2-year-old male Senegal parrot named Darwin. I do not think he was previously abused but it is very likely that he was neglected. We adopted him from a couple who lived in a tiny, very dirty (sorry to say) apartment. It was on the ground floor so the blinds were always drawn (a thick coat of dust on the blinds told us that they had not been opened in a long time). He lived with 2 cats and a dog- 1 of the cats was trying to attack him which is why the previous owners parted with him. He probably had not been exposed to sunshine in a long time. His cage was in a corner of the apartment, slowly being buried in poop. He only had a desk lamp as lighting, shining straight into his cage. He bathed in natural sunlight when we brought him to our house.

Darwin is quite friendly- we are very happy with where we are with regards to our relationship in the 3 weeks that we have known each other. Except for 2 bites delivered to my husband and I each during the first few days (out of fear), we have had no problems. We can move him around our house as he steps up nicely now, he has learned a few tricks, he lets us shower him in the bathroom etc. He has not bitten us since and shows an encouraging level of bite inhibition now. I can tell that he does not want to bite.

He is still quite phobic of being touched on his body, which I think its normal for his species. He tolerates head scratches for a few seconds at a time and now he even seems to like them (only in the evening though, when he is relaxed and feeling cuddly, otherwise he turns his face upward to tensely track where our hands are going). He does love beak scratches any time though.

So my question is, how do we get him used to being touched so that we can work on the pre-harness training stuff? we ordered an aviator harness which came with a DVD. Have you seen it? do you agree with the methods used? It is stuff like placing our fingers over his eyes and handling his wings that we need to accomplish before we can harness train itself. We do not even know where to start with that stuff because we do not want to screw things up by pushing him.

Do we keep desensitizing him/exposing him by attempting to touch him? or do we just back off and let him approach us when he is ready for that? We are not fully bonded so I am not sure if we should wait until we are bonded (he completely trusts us) to work on these behaviors.

We believe that training is what has helped us bond with him as much as we have so far but it is a fine line. He likes to do things that are easy for him to learn but if we ask him to do something he does not find easy, he wants nothing to do with it and in fact then tries to stay away from us (he regressed on stepping up; he went from doing it 100% to 50%. We had to completely stop everything else and focus on step up again...he is now back to 100% with that).

We have not owned birds before and do not want to do irreversible damage to our trust with him. I do not know if that's what will happen if we work on things he doesn't like or if he will adjust and it will be a good thing that we did it.
Last edited by lac575 on Fri Aug 24, 2018 12:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
lac575
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Gender: This parrot forum member is female
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Re: Harness Training

Postby Pajarita » Fri Aug 24, 2018 9:08 am

I am sure that Michael will reply to your questions with helpful suggestions but I still think you are rushing things. Training does not create a bond although it can deepen it once the bond is formed - if done correctly. I hope from the bottom of my heart that I am wrong because male senegals are intractable birds that can be downright super aggressive when they feel they are not understood or respected enough. But then, that's the other side of the 'high intelligence' coin...
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Re: Harness Training

Postby Michael » Fri Aug 24, 2018 6:28 pm

lac575 wrote:So my question is, how do we get him used to being touched so that we can work on the pre-harness training stuff? we ordered an aviator harness which came with a DVD. Have you seen it? do you agree with the methods used? It is stuff like placing our fingers over his eyes and handling his wings that we need to accomplish before we can harness train itself. We do not even know where to start with that stuff because we do not want to screw things up by pushing him.


The DVD include with the harness isn’t particularly methodical. It’s more about just which way to orient the harness and how it goes on properly. My Harness Training DVD is about how to use positive reinforcement training to teach a bird to wear a harness voluntarily. The manual that comes with a car may tell you how the car operates but doesn’t teach you how to drive.

Now this harness training DVD presumes that you know how to train your parrot, your parrot knows how to train, and the parrot has been desensitized to being touched and handled. How to get to that point (and lots of other things) are covered in my book, The Parrot Wizar’s Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots.

Now as for “bonding”, this happens in its own in an unexplainable way. And it either happens or it doesn’t. You can’t necessarily know why or to whom or if it will at all. However, training ensures that the bird can at least learn to tolerate and behave appropriately with you and others. Also, and more importantly, when you follow the proper training methodology that I teach, it also prevents you from making dumb mistakes (like punishment for example) and ensuring that the bird is uncomfortable with you and doesn’t bond! This is why it’s never too early to start at least some light training and the bird does not have to be bonded beforehand.

By the end of September I am starting my next weekly webinar course on harness training (which starts from zero training knowledge) and goes to a fully voluntarily harness wearing parrot in about 3 months. It runs weekly Wednesday at 2:30PM EST for most of the fall and helps maintain the proper training pace. Let me know if you’d like an invite to this. DVD is on your own pace and the webinar series is a structured and guided pace of training exercises. Depends how you prefer to learn.
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Re: Harness Training

Postby lac575 » Sat Aug 25, 2018 11:04 am

I understand what you are saying about the DVD. I agree. I also agree that a bird does not have to be bonded to start some light training, at least in my experience so far. Is it a paid Webinar or is it free? How long does each session go for? I live on the West Coast so that will be 11:30 pm PST for me. Is the training hands on so that I would need to have Darwin with me? I would love an invite! I just need to decide if it is feasible for me to attend.

In a turn of events, I think Darwin did bond with me yesterday. The first of many bonding moments I hope.

I came home from running errands and took Darwin out of his cage for some one on one time. He was happy to see me and soon settled down on my shoulder. Up until this point I have only been able to scratch his head and beak for a couple of seconds at a time (he tolerated it but did not seem to like it). Anyway, the settling on my shoulder turned into snuggling (he got very comfortable) and then he started asking for scratches by lightly pushing his beak into my hand and then turning his cheeks toward me as if asking for pets. I started off by scratching his beak and to my surprise, he let me really scratch his cheeks, his chin and his head! he was making cute little noises and looked like he was really enjoying all of it! I couldn't believe how he was suddenly accepting me and trusting me, as if a light switch had flipped! I could just feel the awesome energy between us. It may not sound like a big deal but it almost brought a tear to my eye. This had to be the moment people talk about!

I think this is so great and can help us with harness training. We would love to take him out and show him the world, in time. I ordered your book and DVD. Wish me luck haha. :?

Thank you!
lac575
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Gender: This parrot forum member is female
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Types of Birds Owned: Senegal parrot (Poichephalus senegalus)
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Re: Harness Training

Postby Michael » Sat Aug 25, 2018 12:16 pm

The webinar is actually hosted by a German Aviator Harness Club so it's 8:30PM in Germany when it runs. I present in English and then pause for them to translate. But I demonstrate live on my parrots exactly how to accomplish the training. It's only 10 euros to join the club for a year and several courses run each year and open to paid members. The website is a bit awkward because it gets automatically translated to English by google but hearing my presentation in English is genuine. Here's a link: https://aviatorflightclub.com/

The plan is to eventually run an English only course for worldwide audiences but for now the Germans are better organized at running this stuff than we are. So mostly I'm just teaching their club how to get their parrots wearing harnesses so they could do their outdoor activities with the parrots.
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Michael
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