Improving Jazzy’s flying skills

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Jazz

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.

 

Click here to learn more about clicker training. Click here to learn more about the technique of shaping.

 

Rueben takes a bath

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Rueben

The first time I saw Rue take a bath I thought he was having a seizure! Now that I know better I find it fascinating to watch all the bobbing, wing flapping and shaking involved. Watching video of your parrot engaging in normal activities is a great way to improve your body language reading skills. Not to mention Rue taking a bath is just plain cute.

Jazzy’s new tricks

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Jazz

I’ve been working with the boys quite a bit lately but something always seems to go wrong with my video. Luckily, things have been going much better with the Caiques than with my technical skills. Jazzy in particular has made great strides. His focus has improved leaps and bounds. Here’s a rundown of what we’ve been working on:

Stepping into a backpack carrier

Jazzy is scared of the carrier so I’m using my arm as a bridge and rewarding him for taking small steps towards it on his own. It’s really important that he calls the shots and gets to go at his own pace. I also have Avicakes in the cup holder inside so when he does venture in he finds some yummies right away.

Birdie basketball

What I love about this skill is that it helps Jazz with two of his biggest challenges: moving away from me/rewards and focusing on something other than me/rewards. We are really making progress!

Pushing a shopping cart

This one looks easy but in the beginning Jazzy wanted nothing to do with the shopping cart. Next step is to work on getting him to push it farther and for longer periods of time.

 

Happy training!

Rueben goes on a field trip!

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Rueben

The first year that I adopted Rue, I used to take him on field trips regularly. Over time I started taking him with me less and less. The past couple of years we’ve only gone somewhere together during trips to the vet. Not ideal. So when the opportunity presented itself to take Rue with me to visit a friend I hopped right on it. Since Rue hasn’t been on an outing in awhile I asked myself the following questions before deciding if I should take him with me:

  • Do we have a good relationship built on trust?
  • Does Rue enjoy going into a carrier?
  • Is Rue comfortable riding in a car?
  • Is Rue comfortable experiencing the types of things we’ll encounter at our destination? For example, new places, people, sounds, dogs, objects, etc.

Since the answer to all of these questions was “yes” I loaded Rue into the car and off we went.

rue-car

Rue has his seat belt on and is ready to go!

When we first arrived I let Rue get acclimated to his new surroundings while safely in his carrier. After about 40 minutes had passed, and it was clear he was comfortable, I opened the carrier door.

rue-at-vs

Rue decides to come out of the carrier on his own and earns a tiny piece of walnut

Rue happily hopped right out of his carrier and then we practiced some of his tricks (wave, spin, and flying to my hand from a close distance). My friends were impressed and Rue acted like he had lived in their home his whole life. I was most proud of how comfortable and happy he was somewhere new.

rue-at-vs_2

Nigel, my friend’s superbly trained adolescent Collie, politely watches from a safe distance

At the end of our visit Rueben easily hopped back into his carrier and we said goodbye. I was one proud momma. Here’s video of him loading up just before we departed.

 

For more information on how outings can benefit your parrot, check out the awesome Barbara Heidenreich’s webinar titled “Solutions for Parrot Behavior Problems Related to Hormones.”

Jazzy is starting to hang out!

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Jazz

Today is the first day that Jazzy has ever explored and played on one of his play stands. It took all my self-control not to cry out “OMG!” “OMG!” “OMG!” Instead I kept telling myself “be cool, be cool.” Here’s what that looked like (caution, video contains images that are more boring than they appear 😉