This week I started working on improving Jazzy’s flying ability. Daunting for an uncoordinated lady with two left feet? Yes, but I’ve seen firsthand how much it has helped Rueben and I want Jazzy to be able to enjoy the same benefits that come from doing what he was born to do.
There are lots of ways to teach this skill but I’m just going to focus on what has worked well for me. Here’s a checklist of things I asked myself before starting off:
- Do Jazzy and I have a good relationship built on positive reinforcement?
- Is Jazzy healthy with his flight feathers fully grown out?
- Is Jazzy comfortable stepping up on to my hand?
- Is Jazzy comfortable in the environment where we will be training?
Luckily the answer to all these questions was yes, so I knew we were ready to start training. One caveat–I titled this post “Improving Jazzy’s Flying Skills” because Jazzy can fly a little bit if scared or if he really wants something but he will only go very short distances and prefers walking. I do not have experience with a bird that is not already at this level, and for birds without this ability it could take additional steps.
Step 1: Start with an easy peasy skill–step up from a perch
Here’s what that looks like:
Step 2: Move my hand slightly out of reach and reward effort (body language that looks like the start of flight)
I definitely missed some opportunities to click and reward here because I wasn’t as focused as I should have been. However, I promised to show my training straight up so here it is. (I was distracted because this was my 3rd attempt to get this on video–the first two went perfectly but my new remote-camera-activator-thingy didn’t work).
Step 3: Reward a hop onto the hand
I was careful at this stage not to ask for too much or allow Jazzy to go too long without a reward because that would have discouraged him.