Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Orlando, FL Shown: Toco Toucan "Rocko"
During the in home January consults it became apparent to talk about how every trainer has a training fault; a weakness. Something they are prone to doing that sabotages their own success.
For my husband Dave it's definitely over training. He pushes a bird's threshold which gains the utmost success and literally, he creates miracle steps with birds. But sometimes when you push like that, you can go backwards too and have to regain what you already did. However, most of the time, Dave succeeds, which is why he has such amazing success. It's all about reading body language of the animal and knowing when to stop. When he's at the "that was great, now just one more!" phase, he always has to remember to stop.
Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Ormond Beach, FL Shown: Blue throated macaw "Jinx"
For me, I'm not so cautious. I've taken Bondi my cockatoo outside to fly in 20 mph winds before. She didn't have the skills for it and struggled hard to get back to me fighting that kind of wind. She coasts a lot, and has a different flying style than our other birds who can handle that kind of wind like our macaws and my other cockatoo, Bandit. Dave had told me she wasn't ready and I had persisted that she could handle it. Seeing her struggle was the way I learned about my own fault.
Fellow trainer and presenter Heather shared hers with me; she often gives treats to her performing parrots on accident without even thinking about it. Without even meaning to. I see people do this a lot, they have no idea they're rewarding whatever behavior their bird just did, which they don't usually recognize or recall.
The only reason I'm so aware of when people reward their bird is because I'm not usually making eye contact with the people, but always watching their bird and I've also done the whole 'preshow' thing where the birds meet people and you have to be so careful about what body language you reinforce in such a chaotic environment.
I think it's important to admit and recognize fault to help each other. Once you know yours, you will make leaps and bounds of more success by not letting them get the best of you and being more aware of them.
Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.