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Pyewacket gets dressed

Eva Sargent | Sep 23, 2008


Well, actually Pyewacket is still naked.  Not oh-no-he's-pulling-out-feathers-naked; he's just without-a-harness naked.  We all know that training is a slow process requiring diligence and patience, but I want him wearing that harness yesterday. 

I'm not a patient person.  I want to be taking Pyewacket to work with me, and to the park, and to the vet, and to stylish cocktail parties with understanding hosts.  I bought the aviator harness and the accompanying video is so compelling.  If you ever get the chance, watch those macaws flying on their leashes at the end.  It is amazing and inspiring.  But the training part doesn't fit my style.  We see a macaw being rewarded for tolerating three moves that will eventually be used to put on the harness: a hand sliding over the face, wings being lifted (to slip through the harness)  and being pushed off balance (to tighten the belt).  This young bird then hardly notices when the harness is put on.  My Pyewacket is a bit more playful and full of himself, so I'm hoping to use more of a step by step approach to get him to love getting into the harness.  I took those behavior mini lessons at the ParrotBAS yahoo group, and so I know that little steps that make up a behavior are called approximations.  The idea is that I break it down into these simpler steps and then reward Pye as he learns to do each one.  Here's what I've go so far, but I'm hoping one of my readers (and you're out there, right?) will know about the aviator harness and help me with this. 

1) Pyewacket comes toward me when I show him the harness.
2) Pyewacket lets me touch him with the harness
3) Pyewacket stands still while I touch him with the harness
4) Pyewacket lowers his head and stays still while I pet his face (in the motion of slipping the harness over)
5) Pyewacket stays still while I slip the harness over his head and remove it immediately.
6) Pyewacket stays still with the harness around his neck
7) Pyewacket allows me to lift one wing
8) Pyewacket lets me pull wing through harness
9) Pywacket stands still with one wing through harness
10) Pyewacket allows me to pull other wing through harness
11) Pyewacket stands still with both wings and neck through harness
12)   Pyewacket stands still while I tighten the belt
13) Pyewacket says "Let's go!"  (okay, maybe this last step isn't really necessary)

Meanwhile, I've had an odd week with Pye.  He hasn't wanted me to touch him - turning around quickly and hitting my hand with his beak when I ask if he wants a tickle.  He's even added a squawk if I persist in trying to touch him (we humans can be awfully dense).  I was feeling pretty low about it, thinking that I hadn't been spending enough time with him.  Then tonight I put him to bed, and instead of sitting in a chair and singing to him (I can't sing at all, but he doesn't know that, and so he seems to like my silly made up lullabies), I stood by his perch and sang right to his face.  He was delighted, bopping his head excitedly and letting me pet his face (in, of course, the exact motion needed for the harness).

So it goes, one step forward and one back.  But I have a plan, and I have sunflower seeds, and one of these days he'll be dressed and ready to go out.