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Flying off during training

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Flying off during training

Postby Michael » Mon Oct 12, 2009 10:06 pm

A problem I've been running into in training Kili lately is that she will fly off during training sessions. I fully understand that this is something you have to deal with when working with a flighted bird but would like advice on how to handle it. Even if she seems motivated and training sometimes she'll fly off or fly past me on a recall. And I know that she is doing this intentionally.

The issue is not to reward this behavior of course but there is only so much I can do about ignoring it without jeopardizing training all together. If I ignore it, sometimes she comes back but a lot of the time she doesn't. If I go and manually fetch her, she will often continue her tricks so it is not that she is too tired or doesn't want to train absolutely. Sometimes this will happen right in the beginning of training session so I do not see a connection.

This is a dilemma. If I left her fly off and then walk over to get her, it's easy for her and reinforcing. If I don't get her but rather try to recall her back, that reinforces flying away to get recalled. If I do nothing, she may come back to me in 5 minutes but I don't have time to waste because I am usually training her in the evening and racing the clock. Because as soon as it hits 10, she hands in her workboots and goes to cage to eat. So I know that if too much time gets wasted, she will quit on me. Also, letting her get away with flying away then coming back, shows her that she can set the training schedule which clearly is out of the question.

Another option is that if she flies off, she gets put back in cage. The problem with continuing to negatively reinforce her by caging her for flying off will eventually teach her to try to fly away from me and make it all the harder to catch her. So in the long term that solution cannot work and can only cause problems.

As far as I can tell this leaves only two possible choices. Abandon training all together (or do the minimal amounts she'll participate in before getting annoying, but allowing that would make it worse) or to starve her. I exaggerate when I say starve of course but I guess it means I will have to go back to weight management for a while and see how that helps. Before I revert to that, anyone have a better solution???
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Re: Flying off during training

Postby Kathleen » Mon Oct 12, 2009 10:50 pm

Maybe you could try covering the cage with a sheet while you train. Or, maybe you could try to figure out some other way to move the cage around or figure out some other way to block access to it.

I know this is really inconvenient for you but it might remove the temptation for her to just fly away from you to go there. I dunno what is more annoying to you? Moving the cage out of sight so she can't fly there or you making a lot of effort to set up for training and spending time toward it with her flying away from you and it being counterproductive.
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Re: Flying off during training

Postby greatgriffin » Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:52 am

Sure this is something that sounds familiar to me :)
I guess we simply have to accept that the birds are individual personalities and they simply have different moods. Sometimes they are more cooperative sometimes less.
And certainly being well fed does not help cooperation. If you are stuffed with brownies would you crave for some more chocolate?

So in our case, I try to give the bird just as much food as suffices and do not oversupply her. This way she always has a fair amount of appetite to feel motivated to get "rewards" after tricks. But despite this, noticeably, some days tend to be more productive than others. I don't think I could introduce a strict "training schedule" even if I tried hard.

I always observe the bird's mood and if I can see she is ready to play then we do, otherwise I let her forage as she likes.
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Re: Flying off during training

Postby Mona » Fri Oct 30, 2009 12:22 pm

This is a good topic.

On the subject of flyoffs, I think you want to train the bird to fly to you and not to fly away from you. This is really for the bird's safety. If you are ever in an unfamiliar environment and your bird startles, you want them to reflexively choose to fly back to you. This will decrease the risk of losing the bird.

Because I take my birds to fly days and to retirement homes, there is always a risk of a startle flight. This is one of my biggest training challenges. Phinney and Babylon both fly back to me but Kiri is still a work in progress for me. I know this can be trained, but it does take time, patience and you have to be willing to train in new, safe environments. way to remedy this is to work on reinforcing "fly to Michael" and do not reinforce "fly to cage'. Once Kili flies to you, you can reinforce the behavior "fly to Michael" and put her back into a comfortable trick training scenario. Have her do a behavior she likes and then put her away for the day. For example: If the bird is not cooperating on more advanced tricks, I usually go back to a "wave" and say "Beak"....reinforce cooperation....and then quit with the training for the day.

Sometimes, you have to widen your "training lens" from just reinforcing discrete behaviors and look at reinforcing the larger, placing or setting behaviors that are just as important. If you want to train the bird to stay in one area, you have to widen your lens and look at strategies to keep the bird in that area. Work on reinforcing "stay in this area" and then go back to working on the discrete (trick) behaviors. Does that make sense?

If you don't want to spend that much energy on it....then you can look at time of day (What time of day is Kili most interested in tricks?) and train during that time frame. For example: I find my birds are usually most receptive around 4:00 PM because they are fed in the AM so they are not full, and they are also very eager for interaction at that time of day since they were caged.

If you have multiple birds, sometimes you can set up a "competitive scenario". You have to be careful not to reinforce aggressive behaviors and reinforce cooperative behaviors, but you can up the focus on training and response with more experienced birds by setting up a little competition with another bird. I do this all the time with my flock.

Finally, I set up "play scenarios". If Phinney is bored with tricks, I will often just get out a paper airplane and let her chase that around. My strategy is to reinforce having fun where we do tricks....and to reinforce cooperative flight behaviors......and to have a good laugh.

Babylon (Senegal) very seldom flies away but Phinney (TAG) has days when I get no cooperation from her whatsoever. Some days Phinney is spot on and some days she just is not. It's not too big of a deal, I just put her away and we try another day.

Mona in Seattle
Phinneous Fowl (aka Phinney) TAG
Babylon Sengal
Doug (spousal unit)
Jack and Bailey (Gremlins)
Kiri (CAG)

youtube: Avian Flyers
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Re: Flying off during training

Postby Manziboy » Sun Nov 29, 2009 3:39 pm

Manzi will sometimes run away. Usually this happens if he is learning a new trick. He will begin to get frustrated or whiny and then try and make a run for it. When this happens, I bring him back and ask him to do something easier. Once he does an easier trick and reward him and end the session. If I end a session early like this, I will try again either the next morning or later that day. Since you are training in the evening, you might just try it the next day.
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