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Harness Training Your Parrot

So many people want to train this behavior. And for many parrots this is a very difficult behavior, and for trainers a behavior that can try your patience. However this doesn't mean a caregiver should give up on positive reinforcement to get there. It just means preparing to take some time, maybe a lot of time.

We have a tendency to take for granted that our parrots should do things we want, when we want. Especially when it comes to behavior we accomplish easily with other species such as our dogs. 

I implore people wanting to train this behavior to take a moment to pause and relax and say "it's OK if it takes me two years to train this behavior" It probably wont take you that long, but it will let you calm down and not feel pressured to get the behavior done right this second. Go at the pace your bird dictates works for him. 

I often tell people what if this was a lion or a porcupine....what would you do if that animal did not want to go in the harness? : ) (I mention the porcupine because at one zoo where I consulted we did work on training a porcupine to wear a harness) Force will likely cause aggressive behavior or an animal that wont come near you. And as has been mentioned before, our goal with positive reinforcement is to create an eager participant and in turn continue to foster that wonderful relationship we can have with an animal. 

I too have been working on this behavior. I started maybe 1 year ago with one of my amazon parrot's and have worked on the behavior off and on. I went through a lot of experimentation. Different harnesses, different shaping plans, etc to try to find the easiest methods. I have also worked on this behavior with the two young parrots currently at my house. One has mastered the behavior and one is still learning. Once everyone (and another one I want to start on this behavior) is trained I will have a comprehensive teaching tool for this behavior. However here is a sneak peak to get people started. It doesn't have all the steps outlined, but it may help you get some ideas. 

The bottom line is that difficult behaviors require small approximations, using high value reinforcers, training when the animal is most receptive to those reinforcers, going at the animals pace.....and time. Be patient. You have many years ahead of you with your parrot. PS The harness I am using is the Aviator Harness. 

Source: Barbara Heidenreich Copyright Good Bird Inc 2009

Have you tried harness training? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!

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