Thursday, July 30, 2009

Playin in the Barn

This afternoon, when I got home, Peepers was kind of obnoxious, and hanging by the big picture window looking like he really wanted to go outside. So I took his lead and we headed out to the barn. It was a lovely day in the high 80s and a really nice breeze blowing. I brought the camera out with me to see if I could get a decent shot of his bottoms up behavior.
When we got out there, Peepers could hardly wait to get out of his carrier. It was great to see, and I had high hopes for the session. It turned out that he didn't want to do a lot of flying, he wanted to do a lot of bottoms up, LOL. He wanted to stay at the end of the barn in the picture, and wasn't interested in flying to the other end. I have no idea why. So we messed around, and I started trying to combine the bottoms up with the wing lift so I can get "batbird". Or maybe it'll be a thing like I shoot him, and he flips down. Either could be cute :).
I also have been having some trouble getting Peepers back in his carrier after we're done in the barn. He's generally not done when I am, and will fly off when I try to carry him close to the carrier. So I worked on this with him today, putting him in the carrier, giving him a treat, and letting him back out to fly to a perch again. I am sure I will have to keep this up for a while, I just think that as he gets more and more excited to be in the barn that it will be harder and harder to get him out of it.
I promptly got distracted by other things, so all other training went by the wayside.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Everbody wants a turn. Woo hoo!

Hi all,

I really don't know how to move into what we did today, so I guess I will just plow right into it. Hope you all don't mind...

Lessee, the first thing I did was work with Peepers and his harness. Today was an improvement again, he left his head in the loop for a few wing lifts, and even managed to hold his wings up for a second or 2 before I c/t'd.

Sparky then got a turn, and she totally rocked! Today for the first time she left her head in the loop while it laid on her neck and wings. One time she also went further in to grab a bigger piece of almond, which put the loop right in the middle of her back. She's doing so so well, and even better is that she hadn't even seen her harness for at least a week.

We moved on to retrieving fun. Peepers did really well, sometimes moving his head pretty significantly towards my hand. He also tended to stay more focused, with less droopy wings and bopping around. I would like to see more progress towards actively placing the die in my hand, but considering all the other good things happening, I think I will take it :). Sparky also was a star, she was managing to pick up the die pretty well. She did pick it up and run off once, and unfortunately she was facing away from me when she picked it up, and I wasn't quick enough to get my hand in front of her. I do think, though, that she's not trying to play with it, but kind of gets "stuck" and doesn't know what to do. I think a smaller working area would be good here, so I am thinking on how to limit the area ahe works in. I may move this to the kitchen table, which is much smaller :).

I ended with desensitizing Peepers to the hoop. Ok, this isn't a real/proper desens program, but I am trying to get him used to it. I started with the hoop against the wall, and asked Peepers to get close to it. He was doing ok, then seemed to think he was absolutely done. I tried to ask him for one more rep, but then I used a phrase that sets off one of the dogs, and subsequently sets off the others. That was too much for Peepers to handle so I decided to end there. I was surprised when I was cleaning up when Peepers leaned down towards the table with the hoop laying on it (I lay it down so that it won't fall over and startle the birds at other times), so I did another session with him. It was short, and there isn't much new here to see, but he did volunteer to get close to the hoop in the first place, so I think that he is starting to get a little curious about this big pink thing.

Sparky was squeaking for a turn, so I introduced her to the hoop. It was kind of funny, she changed her mind when we got about 2 feet away from it :).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Getting back on Track

Hey all,

This morning was very very warm and humid, and I was tired, so I didn't take Peepers out to the barn. I am going to try and do that tomorrow so he doesn't forget what he's learned so far, and he continues to get more and more comfortable there.

But... I did get back to working on the indoor stuff. Today Peepers wanted to train, Sparky still wasn't interested. Sparky did show me a little bit of what's on her mind though - she spent almost the whole time I was at the table with Peepers on her cage flapping her now growing out wings. It was great to see and I am more than happy to forego training a little bit if she prefers to flap her wings :). She also did a mini-recall today when she wanted to leave the windowsill she was on and I wasn't moving fast enough. It was a hop/flap of just a few feet, but that was huge for her since she barbered herself. I am so super happy to see it!

Back to what I had planned to do :). I started with Peepers and the harness. It has been a week since we did anything on it, so I just did a review to see if he could still lift his wings while the loop was over his head. that was easy-peasy, and since I really am not sure what the next step is with him yet, we quit this exercise fairly quickly. You will also see in the video that there is a hoop against the wall - I plan on teaching Peepers to fly through hoops, and this is the first time he's been asked to get anywhere close to it. I think he did a fine job of ignoring it :).

Then I decided to work on his retrieve. Once again, I planned on a review, and Peepers shows that he is right where we left off, picking up the die and moving his head very slightly to put it in my hand. The hoop is still there and he is still ignoring it.

I thought since Peepers did so well ignoring the hoop that I would see if we could start working on doing something with it (in the end, I would like him to hop through it while it's on the table, and then I will move it out to the barn). I messed this up, thinking he was more ok with it than he was. I moved the hoop away from the wall to hold it up with my hand. That seemed to freak him out a bit, and now he really noticed the hoop and was disturbed by it. So I placed it back against the wall and asked him to target around it. You can see in the video that he keeps a very close eye on it, but he does manage to target fairly close to it. I can build on this, but I took a pretty big step backward because I thought he was better with it than he actually was :(.

There's lots to be excited about from today, and yet still so much to work on. I spose I should expect it - every time we get a new behavior, there's more things to teach to get that behavior well taught. And of course, every time I push too much, then I have made a bigger project out of something than need be. One of these days I will learn...

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Best Laid Plans...

I had planned on getting some good training time in over the weekend, but I managed to sleep pretty much the entire weekend :(. I really don't know how someone can sleep for 48 hours almost straight, but I managed it. So formal training kind of went out the window, but I did discover something that I hadn't realized.

Peepers does not recognize, in any way, the "stick em up" cue when we are not in a formal training session and PB&J is on the line. He could wave, but he just seemed to be so frantic about getting his share of the PB&J that he wasn't even registering that I was giving a different cue, let alone what that cue may be. So he and I have another project that we can work on at other points in the day. And I found another potential reinforcer for him, as long as I don't mind a very messy training session :).

Peepers has also moved on from almonds and now picks pine nuts consistently as his reinforcer of choice. This kind of suits me, as he just gulps those down without savoring every bite.

Today I finally got out to the barn again with Peepers, and he enjoyed himself, although he wasn't terribly into working. He pretty much just wanted to mess around out there, so I had to back up a little bit and ask him to fly to the perches from my hand. Since he wasn't nervous I decided to raise the criteria a little bit and asked him to fly from my hand through the bars to each perch, and I also raised my enery level quite a lot (part of this was from necessity - in order to reinforce him at the perch as he landed, I needed to run to the perch right behind him). This seemed to engage him a little bit and give me a chance to make some progress with him on flying skills. He also really wanted to do his bottoms up behavior and combined it sometimes with stick em up. I think that I will try to combine the 2 behaviors into a new one - batbird! I suspect it will be a little difficult for me to keep each of these on their own cue, but hey, nothing like practice :).

I tried to train both the birds later for their harness and retrieve, but neither wanted to do a thing. I have no clue why. It's so unusual for both of them to be uninterested that I feel there must have been something "in the air" so to speak. Ah well. No biggie. We'll see what they think tomorrow. If they both decide again that they don't want to play, then I will take a closer look at the house and see if I can find something I need to change.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Using premack with the birds

Hi all,

I have been super busy this week, so although I have been taking Peepers out to the barn in the morning, and exercising the dogs in the evening, I have not been able to work on harness training or the retrieve. Peepers has been making progress in the barn - we are back to practicing the concept we were doing when we were inside, which is teaching Peepers to distinguish between a recall cue and a send cue. Peepers is still a little confused about it, and is also dealing with the fact that I have heavily reinforced sending from one perch to another, which makes it a little harder for him to think of doing something different :). He also has learned a new trick: "bottoms up!". I did this on one of our quick breaks in the barn. Peepers swings down to hang from the perch when I cue him with "bottoms up". I am also adding in the drinking sign with my hand just for kicks LOL.

I have been watching a debate online that brought up a training principle that seems to be underused with parrots, the Premack principle. The basic definition of Premack is this: A principle that states that contingent access to high-frequency behaviors ("preferred" activities) serves as a reinforcer for the performance of low-frequency behaviors. (source: Basically, what this means is that anything that an animal wants to do can be used as a reinforcer for another behavior.

This is such a powerful concept, and one that rarely gets discussed on the email lists that I am on regarding parrot training. This is something many many competitive dog trainers use to get amazing results with their dogs. If we could figure out how to effectively use this with our parrots, it would give us a world of opportunities in working with them.

So, I've been thinking about how to build this up with Peepers. I was able to use going to the bars in the barn as a reinforcer for him one day, but since then he's just been bleh about the bars. I guess been there, done that :). I also am trying to teach more fun little behaviors, like the bottoms up trick, that may be able to be used as reinforcers for more difficult behaviors later. And in the meantime, while I'm doing other things, I keep trying to work out how best to structure things to use this concept to it's fullest potential.

I guess that's it for my thoughts for now :). I tend to mull things over for a while, then suddenly move on them, hopefully I will come up with something brilliant soon, so I can post about how I am applying Premack to training Peepers and Sparky.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bits of stuff here and there

Hi all,

For the past coupla days, I've been taking Peepers out to the barn to work on flight stuff and acclimating to the barn. The heat has kind of taken it out of him, so I have backed off other training. But today, it has cooled off to a lovely 95 degrees, so we were able to work on everything.

First off I guess is what's happening in the barn. Every day, Peepers is more willing to do more things he knows, but he still has a lot that he is concerned about. I can hardly blame him. Yesterday, the neighbors right on the other side of the fence were working on their RV, and today the new tenant in the garage apartment came out to say hi. In addition, there's a mockingbird nest right outside one of the big doors, and that bird does some interesting things :). We've also had model airplanes in the field behind the property, breezes that make the barn creak, and lots of other new stuff. What's great about all of this is that Peepers has continued to work with me, and tried to pay attention. Today was the first day Peepers did not want to come back in the house when we were done training, so I ended up spending quite a bit of time picking him up, walking to his travel cage, watching him fly off, and walking to pick him up. over and over and over again. There's a technique that some people use with dogs to get them to pay attention that may help Peepers in this case that I am considering - if he refuses to go in his cage, I may leave the building and walk out of sight. I want to be sure that this will be effective for him, though before I try it - if he doesn't care whether or not I am around, this will fizzle badly :).

The dogs have been interesting. Hold is coming along ok, with Bungee telling me it is IMPOSSIBLE to hold a clay coaster. IMPOSSIBLE. It doesn't matter that Sophie does it. IMPOSSIBLE. Dempsey is almost managing to sit still while holding, although I am reminding myself constantly to make sure I reinforce before he starts to wiggle. One misstep, and he's wiggling all over the place again. Sophie has turned into such a little holding pro that I wanted to take a picture of her holding a sunflower from the backyard. The sunflowers have little fuzzy spiky things on the stems, and although she would hold it, she looked like I beat her into doing it. So I didn't snap a shot . I'll try and find something else cute to do...

Peepers harness session turned out super short. It seemed to me that he really didn't want to do it, but he was sticking around like he did want to train. So I asked him to put his head in one time and we would be done. So that's what he did lol.

Sparky, OTOH, was a rock star. Today she left her head in the big loop while it touched her. Pretty big deal, IMO :). I think Sparky's progress is more typical of an adult parrot learning about the harness - she's going at a slow but steady pace, whereas Peepers started like gangbusters and has slowed considerably. I find it easier to know how much more to try with Sparky on any given session, I think because I feel like I know more about how she's feeling.

Then I worked on the retrieve with both of them. Peepers is doing pretty well, and is starting to move his head slightly towards my hand when he drops the die . Sparky had a big session on this - she picked up the die and started running around with it. I don't think she knew quite what she should do with it, but eventually she let go. It seemed like it was a pretty big deal in her book, so I asked her to pick it up a couple more times and we were done. Sometimes she is so silly...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Motoring along with our new tricks

Hi all,

A couple days ago, I took Peepers out to the barn for his 2nd time. We ended up out there for about 1/2 hour, taping the whole time. I certainly didn't plan on a 1/2 hour session, but a few things happened while we were out there. 1.) Peepers started out interested in flying from me to each perch, but he wanted to look around each time (adding considerably to the amount of time we would be out there), then 2.) Peepers wanted to explore the bars on one side of the barn. This gave me an opportunity to use them as reinforcers, and keep the idea that he should do things on cue. These 2 factors made for a long session, and a long video :). I am proud of what he is doing out there, and the amount of effort he is giving me under some very very new circumstances. Here's the links to the videos:,, Towards the end of the session, you can see Peepers is getting close to the end of his rope - he is finding it more difficult to pay attention, and also it seems like he is getting more emotional (very technical, I know, but I can't think how else to put it).

Yesterday I skipped the barn (it's very very hot, and my a/c is on the fritz, so I don't want him to heat up and be unable to cool off easily), and played with the harness and retrieve with both the birds. As I was setting up, Sparky was practically jumping out of her skin to get her turn, and Peepers wasn't quite as enthusiastic as her, so I started with harness training Sparky. In this session, she chose to leave her head in the loop at get multiple treats. It was fantastic! She's not ready for the harness to touch her, but she's definitely getting more comfortable with the idea of the whole thing. I made sure to end the session shortly before she was ready - I am trying to make sure I don't push too long :).

After I put her back, Peepers was more than ready for his session. We worked some more on his wing lifts with a loop. He's doing very well at this, and a couple times I got 2 separate wing lifts while he wore the loop. This might have been the key to being able to move on for him - having a much more "active" behavior to do after putting his head in. Maybe he needs a little bit of a distraction like this. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next couple sessions.

Surprisingly enough, Sparky was still squeaking for a turn when Peepers got done, so I thought I would go ahead and work on a new skill with her - a retrieve. I haven't worked with her on this before, but she has done a little 101 things before, so she had an idea of how to go about problem solving this puzzle. She did really well, getting to the point where she picked up the die. I didn't think we'd get quite this far (shaping just isn't so much her thing, offering behaviors is kind of a slow thing for her), so I was super pleased with her progress.

Peepers still wanted to work on something while Sparky was playing with me, so after she was done he got the last session of the day. I would really like for him to actively put the die in my hand, but yesterday he started messing around with me, holding the die in his foot and playing with my hand. I'll see what he does over the couple of sessions, but if this starts to become a habit, I will have to change what I am doing to make things more clear for him. He is a bit of a clown, though, and I do really like that, so it will be a balancing act between keeping the joy and original thinking and doing the behavior I ask him to.

My plan over the next few days is to play the barn by ear. I don't plan to video it until I start working on new behaviors - Peepers clearly is fine with the perches in a new location, so there isn't much to show with that concept. What I will be doing is just establishing the idea that when we are out there, we do the same things as we do in the house. In the house, I am going to continue to quit while I am ahead, and try to see if we can make some real progress with the harness. I hope that Peepers will soon work to put the die in my hand, and that I can get Sparky picking it up and carrying it regularly. This just gets more and more fun :)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Intro to the barn, and more stuff

This morning I got up reasonably early and took Peepers out to the flight barn for an introduction. It's awfully hot here, but I didn't plan on doing too much aerobic stuff with him, and the mornings are relatively reasonable.

I started out just placing him on his perch and giving him a short time to look around. I want Peepers to think of this area as another one that we go to and do our tricks, so I didn't want to let him just hang out too much. I soon asked him for some simple behaviors on his perch - target, wave and wing lift. He clearly had a lot on his mind while he did the stuff I asked, but I rarely had to ask more than once for a behavior. He did fail to take the almond from me a couple times.

Since Peepers was dealing with the situation pretty well, I decided to ask for a couple step-ups, just to get him off the perch and moving around a little bit. At first, he stepped up ok, but clearly wanted to get back on the perch. I guess that he feels safest there. Soon, though, he was ok with stepping up and going over to the other perch (you can see it further away in the video). We built up to stepping up for me, and then short flights to whatever perch we were going to. I ended shortly after that, because Peeper's feet were getting warm, and I felt he needed some time to think about what we had been doing. He's been pretty quiet in the house since - Not causing quite as much trouble as is his usual habit :).

One of the things that's noteworthy IMO is that Peepers did all of this in the morning - he had eaten any breakfast he wanted, and he is unused to doing any training this early. Training has always been an afternoon/evening thing for us. But he was definitely willing to do his tricks, and stayed engaged in what we were doing, and I think that makes things a lot easier for me.
I set up the grapevine perch I have with a bunch of dixie cups this afternoon and put almonds and pine nuts in them. You can see a pic of Peepers at the top of it. He enjoyed that very much (Sparky was interested in it, but didn't fiddle with it too much). Shortly after he was done, I decided to try and do the table top training with both the birds. Peepers flew right over to the table for his session, and stayed engaged, but we didn't get much done. After just a couple of reps with the harness, I tried the retrieve, and after a couple of reps with that, I just lost patience with Peepers. He was just bopping around regurgitating, and offering wing lifts, and mostly screwing around. So I ended when I got one more rep so we could end on a positive (for me, I think he was having a fine time).
Then I tried to get Sparky. She didn't want to train at all, which is kind of odd. I guess she wanted a day off. So I don't have any video of her for today. Ah, well. We all need the weekend :).

Some movement in the right direction

Hey all,

Yesterday I did something silly - in the heat of the day, I went out to the flight barn and cleaned it up. Earlier, I had talked the guys that are fixing up the apartment here to do the coupla things that I couldn't do by myself in the barn. So, when they did that, I now had super motivation to get the rest of the clean up of the flight barn done. I lost my mind, and went out there in the middle of the afternoon. It was 103 yesterday! I'm a complete moron sometimes lol. I got the extra aviary wire moved, and cleared out the boards that are going in the trash this week, and then swept up. By the time I was done, I had overheated myself. Again. I was sick as can be the rest of the day. But, the building is done and ready for action! I am very excited about this - it's a very good space for training flighted stuff, and the birds can have supervised play time in there too.

After I had recovered at least somewhat from my silliness, I decided to play with Peepers and Sparky. I thought I would try and do harness stuff with Peepers first, and finish with flighted stuff, thinking that sequence would give me more enthusiasm and motivation for all of the things we would want to do. So, I got Peepers first, and started right away with the harness. The goal was the same as the previous 2 sessions - get Peepers to do a wing lift while the loop was over his head. He did it! A couple times even. He still is trying to offer wing lifts either before or after his head is in the loop, but he is starting to try and do it while the loop is over his head. What a good bird :). he also managed to get caught up in the loop again in this session. I'd have to watch again to see exactly how it all happened, but all of a sudden the loop was over and through his left wing. I think his left foot was also involved somehow. I think he ran out of range of the camera while he was working on getting it off, but in the end, instead of holding still for me to help him out, he reached back and gently (!) took the loop in his beak and lifted it off his wing. I would speculate that being able to just remove it like that had to make him feel better about the whole situation. He really stayed calm for this, and continued to use his noggin, which I really like to see. After that, I set up the loop again, and he came running back to where I was. He was a little hesitant about sticking his head in there, but once he did, we got a couple more wing lifts and then I made us stop.

Sparky was a little eager for her turn, and had even tried to fly to the table while Peepers was working (woo hoo!). So when I set up for her, you can see that she was squeaking and croaking, and clearly eager for the target stick to come out. I thought I would see if she would stick her head in the loop if just my hand was there (of course, I was holding a pc of almond, so it should happen, but you never know what they're thinking). She stuck her head in there like a champ! She continued to do it throughout the session, although in the middle there she tried walking around the harness to my hand to get the nut. Nice problem solving! Too bad it didn't work :). I didn't try wing lifts at all, because it looked like she was having an issue with a pc of almond again. I am starting to wonder if I am using exactly the wrong size pieces - too big to just swallow, too small to encourage taking appropriate sized bites. We'll see I spose.

I then brought Peepers back to work on his retrieve. It went ok, I managed to get my hand under his beak before he dropped the die a few times, so I would call the session a success, more or less. Throughout the session, though, Peepers was a little excited, and spent a little too much time bopping around and regurgitating. I'm thinking about putting some kind of end to that behavior, cuz it really distracts from the training. So I will be thinking how best to deal with it and will let everyone know what my plan is when I think of it.

This morning I introduced Peepers to the barn, and videoed it. I'll post about that in a bit, when I have the video converted, split and uploaded :).

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

So, I was going to post a bit about what happened yesterday, but I really don't remember the details and all I was thinking. I do know that I started with flight stuff with Peepers, and my impression is that it went well, with more work of course to be done with discriminating between cues. I also have decided to try and separate the flight and harness/table sessions a little bit because I think the flight stuff seems to interfere with Peeper's interest in the harness stuff.

In any case, I did Sparky next. Her video is here: At the end, I did try to start the wing lift the same way I have done it with Peepers. She seems pretty offended by my efforts, so I will have to play it by ear.

Peepers got his turn. I thought I would try and get him to just leave the big loop over his head and do a wing lift. I think this may be a good way to get him to understand he can do things while it's on, and give him a little more confidence in getting out. You can see his solution to the problem of what to do when I cued the wing lift while the loop was over his head here:

Today, I did the flight training about 2 hours before my planned time for harness stuff. Peepers was pretty good, but I did find an area where he was very confused about whether to fly to the perch or come to me. He has been doing either successfully on cue from other areas of the room, but this one spot had him just befuddled. I'm not positive what it was about this one spot that caused so much problems for him, but we worked on it. I suspect that it will still be a problem tomorrow, so I plan on working with him on it then.

I also played with the dogs a bit, something I really need to do more of. Bungee seems to have decided it is actually possible to move while holding something, but he mouths a little bit while he's doing it. He also is learning to target his foot, which I will build up to a "go to" target. Dempsey is still learning to hold. He's so so fidgety while he's got the dumbell in his mouth, but before I have taken it from his mouth. He taught me (again!) today that I really need to take the dumbell BEFORE he starts to fidget if I want to have any hope at all of teaching him to stay still. It made for some really rapidfire reps, but I think that if i keep that in mind, he will have it down in no time. Sophie has reminded me that she, in fact, is the queen of all things and will hold anything I hand to her if there's cheese involved. That's a girl that never forgets what she's learned :).

I started the 2nd parrot session with a new fun skill for Peepers - the retrieve. I spose technically it's not new, as he did learn it about 8 years ago, but he hasn't been asked to do a retrieve for at least 5 years. So I decided to start over and shape it again. I used a die because I wanted something relatively easy to carry but not too interesting to fiddle with. And, I wanted it to show up on camera decently. The beginning of this looks much like 101 things - look c/t, approach c/t, touch c/t, etc etc. Peepers enjoyed it very very much - he's now regurgitating while he works on some things, and this was one of them.

Then Sparky was squeaking for her turn, and we worked on her harness stuff again. She has started exploring the harness a little bit more, and was putting her head fully into the loop to target the stick. I think she's starting to figure this isn't a big deal, and maybe we'll be able to make some more progress on this.

Peepers was a total pest during Sparky's turn, so I thought he'd be pretty up for one more turn, this time working on the harness. I am still thinking that a wing lift while the big loop is draped on him will help Peepers a lot, so I continued to work towards this today. He's kind of funny, offering the wing lift before he sticks his head in, and after he takes it out, but he still isn't quite up for doing while the loop is across his neck. It's ok, because he's more willing to try this than he was to put his head through the small loop. I like that I am getting back the willingness that I was starting to lose.

One thing that I am not to happy about is my inability to quit before the parrots do. Today, Sparky swallowed a pc of almond wrong, and needed to stop. For some silly reason, I asked her to do one more rep before quitting. I know better. And Peepers is starting to leave the session earlier than I plan on, which is so so bad. So, I am going to try and make sure I don't ask for more than they are willing to do. And I will be giving myself a think on the head if i fail to do it lol.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Boy titles are hard to come by...

Yesterday was pretty cool with the birds - Peepers had a great time working on flight stuff, and Sparky showed me she could work under some very distracting conditions.

I started with flight work with Peepers, flying between perches on cue, and I started work on discriminating between a recall and send. I decided to get started on this because Peepers has been starting to go to the perch no matter where I was or what I was doing. My cue for flying to something is to be facing in the direction of it, with my inside arm (the one on the side of the bird) held out. My cue for come has me facing directly at Peepers, with my arm held in front of me in position for him to land on it. There's also verbals, but I have learned doing agility with the dogs that I can easily use the wrong verbal, but the correct body cue, and the dog will follow that. I think the birds will be more or less the same, so I am teaching both verbal and body cues for most behaviors. In any case, Peepers struggled a little bit with the idea. At first, he would fly to the perch if I was off to the side of his flight path, no matter which way I was facing. But he was enjoying the lesson so much, we worked for what must have been a 1/2 hour on it, and by the end of it, he was doing the correct behavior when cued. Of course we will need to work further on it, but it was a really good start. Peepers wanted to keep going with this, but his feet were so so hot that I thought he really needed to take a break. My sister has volunteered to come over and tape some of these sessions, so hopefully soon I'll be able to show everyone what's going on.

Sparky got her turn next, and while I was setting up, some people showed up to work on the apartment that's on the property. They parked right next to the doors that open on the bird room, and started unloading, setting the dogs off. As i was trying to get them to quiet down, I also asked Sparky to work a little and she did, really with no problem. She has started to put her head a little bit into the harness, I think for her this is going to take a little while.

I tried to come back to Peepers and his harness training. I've decided to back up a little bit because Peepers is a little hesitant to work with it now, and I want him to be confident with this step. So, my plan was to just lay the harness nearby and ask him to do other things near it. He came into the session still worked up over his flight training and also a little put out by the people outside. Coupled with his not so positive feelings about the harness right now, it wasn't a very good session. He did very few behaviors, mostly stomped around and messed about. What he did do, though, which I was pretty pleased with, was continue to do his cued behaviors even when he stopped taking treats. I ended the session on one of those reps, because I really wanted to be able to effectively reinforce what Peepers was doing, but I didn't know exactly how to do it in this situation. I'll figure something out I am sure for the next time this happens :).

On another good note, the flight building is now wired in, and I have cleared out the innards of the chicked coop. All I need to do is get rid of the outer walls of it, and fill in the hole, and it is ready for use. I am very excited to have this opportunity to not only teach Peepers some more skills that need more space, but to be able to offer it to anyone who would like to give their parrots the opportunity to fly in a larger area, and potentially with other parrots. I can't wait until I can post that the building is ready for fun and games!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Progress in a new direction

Well, today was a lot of fun for the birds and I. I started the session with Peepers' flying stuff, teaching him to fly from one perch to another on cue. I had changed the setup of the room, and in order to fly from one perch to the other, he had to fly between both cages and past the table we train on. Sparky was on her cage, so he wasn't terribly inclined to go there, but he was quite confused about where he was supposed to fly when I cued him to "go". He was pretty much just going anywhere - his cage, the table, my shoulder. I wish i was set up to tape this session, because I think he had a watershed moment. On one rep, he was flying from the perch to his cage, and I put my hand up in the way. Just as he began to turn to go to the perch I had directed him to, I clicked, and after that, we had no issues at all. He was so into this, and got very very hot, so I also worked on wing lifts and waving in between reps to try and help keep him cool. He really enjoys the flying work, so I guess I need to hurry up and get his flight building fully functional :).

After that, I moved onto Sparky while Peepers cought his breath and cooled down. Sparky had a great session, she actually put her head into the large loop of the harness a couple times and was super sassy. You can see on the video where she took issue with one of the dogs getting too close to her table LOL. Usually she ignores them, but I guess today was her day.

When Sparky was done, I brought Peepers back for some work on the harness. The past couple sessions, I have been trying to not move the harness onto him, making sure that he puts his head through, that I do not do it for him. Naturally, since I am thinking about it, I am moving my hand more, and more often, making the situation worse. Nothing like being aware of doing something totally wrong lol. So this session is pretty much a "what not to do" when asking your parrot to do something it's uncomfortable with. Tomorrow, I vow to have more self-control.