harness training problems

bidiknme

Regular Member
Hello everyone! I hope you guys are all safe and doing great.

today i am gonna tell you about our journey of harness training. its gonna be a long post, sorry in advance :)

So to recap: i adopted Bidik, a 4 years old male galah, from his former owner who did not harness train him and tbh did not even get him outside of his room at all for 4 years. when I was 18, I would watch BirdTrick videos non stop and always dreamed of having a bird who is free to go outside with me and fly as he pleases in a safe way.
So after I adopted bidik, one of my main goals was to harness train him. why: cuz i want him to be with me always. when i go shopping, when i meet with my friends, when i go for a walk or cycle, i want him to be on my shoulder watching the world, and not be alone at home, waiting for me to come back. so i read about the subject, and started the trainings 1 month after i adopted him. cuz after a month he was already very bonded to me and allowed me to touch him etc.

first, we did recall training, cuz if he flies away or leash breaks, i want him to be able to come back. 10 minutes every day.
second, i started desensitizing him to outside world by placing his cage next to the window, and then taking his cage outside for an hour each day, and release him to a floor to roof windowed balcony. we have been doing that for 6 months now and i think he is pretty desensitized.
third, i would give him treats as he would let me grab his wings. it was going great for a while but then he got sick, and i had to give him antibiotics with a syringe, and since he hated that i had to hold him in my hands, which made him scared from my hands. its been a couple months now and he now trusts my hands again, but not completely.
finally, i got the aviator harness from parrot university website, and we started harness training. step by step, first when he looks at the harness, i give him treats. then as he approaches the harness, then as he touches, then as he gets his head inside the harness and takes it off. it took us 2 days to get to this step, he was very eager to learn. i was super happy too. but one day, i was tired and he wanted to train, and i made a mistake by starting a training session while i was tired and at one point he couldnt get his head out of the harness, i didnt realize that he was panicking, and he flew away in the house. the harness was partially on him. he went crazy, he was so scared he smashed on the window and the walls several times. when i finally grabbed the end of the harness, the stopping force from my grab made him turn towards me but he got it wrong i believe and attacked me. i did not care for it, i talked to him calmly and got the harness off. when he was finally free from it, he flew on his cage and did not move or make a sound for an hour. i talked to him calmly but did not push him, i wanted to give him space to calm down. also, i was very sad that this happened.
the day after that, as you can all expect, he was scared even from the sight of the harness. i did not know what to do but i thought i shouldnt give up cuz if i do give up now he will always be scared from it like a traumatised kid, but if i show him there is nothing to be afraid, maybe he'll get over it, i thought. so i started the training from the point of introducing the harness and giving treats as he shows signs of calmness. but he did not calm down and in fact, i think he was not scared of the harness but more of me holding the harness. he would fly next to the harness to reach the treat box if im not around but if i am touching the harness, he would avoid to get closer to it in any way he can.

so eventually i sort of gave up. although i was still dreaming of a day when he would forget all this and we could start again.

about a month passed and while i was at home there was an earthquake in my city. It was huge and unfortunately about 60 buildings collapsed, many injured and deceased. it took about a minute, and i planned to run away from the house cuz i was sure it was gonna collapse or at least have a crack since it felt huge (it was 7.1, its a huge one for Turkey cuz we suck at constructions' safety). but i did not leave the house cuz i did not know how to take bidik with me. i did not wanna leave him and i couldnt think of a way out so i decided to just hide in a safe corner (but i couldnt cuz it was shaing so hard i couldnt walk..). i live alone with bidik btw. so once the shaking was over, i put on clothes and ran downstairs, took bidik out of his cage (he seemed very scared with his wide open beak and shaking wings), and put him in his bag without hesitation. he hates the bag but i had no choice. and we left the house and spent the day in my car cuz many more earthquakes happened that day.
while i packed my bag i also put his harness inside. when i met with my aunts family, who have a summer house close to my place, at an open field, i stayed in the car cuz i did not wanna leave bidik alone. but they were worried that i was still inside something, house or not, they wanted me to be outside. i couldnt think straight i guess, with all the news I read and i decided to stay outside with bidik by putting the harness on him. I did put it on, it took me about 10 minutes to get it on even though it felt like ages cuz he did his best to not let me put it on, and once he had it on, i stepped out of the car right away to get him distracted from the harness and see the upside to all of this torture. but he did not care for anything other then the harness. he spent 20 minutes trying to get it off. i tried my best, i gave him treats talked to him calmly, sat down on the ground and put him down to ease him but no. nothing worked. then all of a sudden he realised he was outside, and enjoyed the world for 4 full minutes, looking around, talking, whistling. then again, he remembered the rope around his belly and went crazy once again. he would fly away and once the leash pulls him, he would stop flying and drop on the ground :/ it was so horrible to watch. i went back in the car and took the harness off. in the end, he was tired, scared, and i was feeling guilty, and had many cuts on my fingers, just for 4 minutes of joy. I decided it was not worth it. I spent the rest of the day in the car with bidik. and went back home once i was brave enough.
the following days, the earthquakes continued. and everytime i would find myself in the same dilemma, should i run off without bidik and come back for him later? and every time, i would end up staying where I was thinking about that. harness is not the answer for this, but i didnt know how to get him out quickly, and couldnt leave him. although many birds came out of the ruins alive, even big dogs were saved, i guess they are better at finding ways to survive even under ruins. so i put him next to an open window with a closed cage, hoping if the ceiling drops down on him the cage will break and he would fly from the open window, thats all i could come up with.. its been a month since the last earthquake happened, so now the windows are closed, and im avoiding thinking about this subject cuz i was also very scared. I work in the emergency room and that week was like hell, most of the survivers caught covid, people lost loved ones and homes.. But i should eventually learn what to do with a bird during emergencies.

a strange thing happened though. the day after the earthquake, bidik would tangle himself to my hair on purpose, and scream like he did when he had the harness, and tried to get out of my hair, and when he finally did he would start singing. and then repeat the same thing. that was super wierd, is he trying to resolve his trauma? or coping with a bad memory by turning it into a game? or trying to learn ways to get out of things for the next time i might put harness on him? i dunno its just wierd in a cute way. gives me a false hope..

anyways, as i said, this realy turned out to be a loooong post. thank you for reading. I feel very guilty for forcing the harness on him, some say you should desensitise that way and some say its wrong. I know I cannot watch him suffer like that ever again. I would love to hear your thoughts on what i did wrong, and what I should do in the future. take care guys!!
 

DizzyBlue

Administrator
Staff member
Admin
Think you need to build up the trust again before you attempt any more last thing you want to do is loose your birds friendship for ever.
will tag Roz she will have some tips to regain trust.
@Roz
 

Roz

Elected Forum Trainer
Regular Member
You and Bidik have been through a lot with all those awful earthquakes. You've had to force Bidik into the bag which he didn't like and it seems he has had a lot of adverse exeriences with the harness.... and they outweigh the good.

What went wrong? You went to far too fast. With desensitizing and shaping you need to go as fast or as slow as the bird is ready for. You can push a little, but it sounds like the steps became too big too fast and you started forcing him to accept the harness when he wasn't ready, which you already know. You need to start again. From desensitizing him to the harness, and then progressing to shaping his relaxed body language as you begin to work on putting it on (and off) again. It might even be worth getting another harness in a completely different colour in order to start again, although they are expensive, I know.

Instead of the bag could you get an ordinary travel cage which is more "open" which he might like better?
 

bidiknme

Regular Member
You and Bidik have been through a lot with all those awful earthquakes. You've had to force Bidik into the bag which he didn't like and it seems he has had a lot of adverse exeriences with the harness.... and they outweigh the good.

What went wrong? You went to far too fast. With desensitizing and shaping you need to go as fast or as slow as the bird is ready for. You can push a little, but it sounds like the steps became too big too fast and you started forcing him to accept the harness when he wasn't ready, which you already know. You need to start again. From desensitizing him to the harness, and then progressing to shaping his relaxed body language as you begin to work on putting it on (and off) again. It might even be worth getting another harness in a completely different colour in order to start again, although they are expensive, I know.

Instead of the bag could you get an ordinary travel cage which is more "open" which he might like better?
thank you for your notes. I thoughtof that too and i checked my local petshopsbut none had a proper sized with wide enough cage door. I also checked online but couldnt find any in my country, i think i should check again maybe i’ll find it online this time.
And yes, i think my attitude is a problem. I get excited and too eager, and miscalculate training pace. Thats why i decided to do nothing on the subject before consulting.
 
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bidiknme

Regular Member
You and Bidik have been through a lot with all those awful earthquakes. You've had to force Bidik into the bag which he didn't like and it seems he has had a lot of adverse exeriences with the harness.... and they outweigh the good.

What went wrong? You went to far too fast. With desensitizing and shaping you need to go as fast or as slow as the bird is ready for. You can push a little, but it sounds like the steps became too big too fast and you started forcing him to accept the harness when he wasn't ready, which you already know. You need to start again. From desensitizing him to the harness, and then progressing to shaping his relaxed body language as you begin to work on putting it on (and off) again. It might even be worth getting another harness in a completely different colour in order to start again, although they are expensive, I know.

Instead of the bag could you get an ordinary travel cage which is more "open" which he might like better?
i thought of changin the colour of the harness myself by finding a chemical free dye, or use bleach etc
 
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