I’ve trained Rueben to do a lot of tricks but desperately needed help teaching him to hang out on play stands instead of my head. I don’t want to gloss over how much Rue likes to fly to and hang out on my head because it is a real problem. Is there a head-obsessed anonymous group he can join? When he wasn’t getting much out-of-his-cage-time because of this undesirable habit I decided to seek out help. Luckily my internet searches led me to the awesome, Pamela Clark. She started coaching me on how to improve not only Rue’s behavior but my own. The rest is history.
Rue has improved tremendously since we started working together but we always have goals we are working toward. And, since the one person who actually reads this blog is probably dying to know what they are, here you go:
- Introduce him to his foster brother, Jazz so the two can spend time out of their cages together. If we reach this goal we’ll officially adopt Jazz!
- Reduce his aggressive body language when I approach his cage. I’ve always ignored this problem because he usually goes all Mr. Hyde when in his cage and Dr. Jekyll when he is out. Recently, Mr. Hyde is starting to show his face a lot more when he is out of his cage, causing me to realize we need to work on this.
- Continue building duration on how long he can stay out of his cage without flying onto my head. Right now he can go a good 45-minutes before he begins to look for my not-naturally-blonde-locks. I’d like for him to be able to stay out for 2-hour time-blocks without searching for my noggin. Not sure if this is reasonable.
- Expand his trick repertoire to include: putting toys in a shopping cart and pushing it, birdie dart board, pulling a birdie wagon, color discrimination and painting.
- Teach him husbandry behaviors like taking liquid from a syringe, being wrapped in a towel, stepping onto a scale, having his feet handled and his nails trimmed if necessary. I cringe every time I think about how long I have let this go because this is not a “sexy” area of training. Shout out to Laura Monaco Torelli who has done wonders bringing the concept of cooperative care to the field of dog training and for inspiring me to work on this with my feathered guys.
For the moment let’s focus on Rue’s aggressive body language when I approach his cage. My first step was to find a way to deliver a treat that did not cause aggression while protecting my fingers. Here’s some video of that process.
Epic fail #1: No salt, no sugar peanut butter on a tongue depressor.
Slightly-better-but-not-great fail #2: Safflower seed in a 1/4 teaspoon.
Success! Tiny piece of walnut in a 1/4 teaspoon.