My bird is afraid of the harness, what can I do?
It all comes down to how we approach our birds with a new item. Just like introducing a new toy, introduction of the harness can take many days or weeks to be successful. Being patient will be rewarded with your bird’s confidence and trust that this new item is safe. If we try to place on them a scary new toy without first letting them explore and understand what we are doing, they are likely to become afraid immediately. You may understand the benefits of using a harness, but your pet bird has no idea what is going on.
It is important to acclimate your bird to the sight of the new harness slowly. We highly recommend having your parrot target trained prior to introducing the harness. Having your bird trained to move and to touch an target will allow you to request them closer to the harness. By having them trained to target, you can encourage them to be confident around new objects. With patience your bird will learn that being near and even touching the harness means positive things, such as treats.
Once your bird becomes confident enough to get near the harness you can pick up the harness, place the harness over your arm, or place the harness on your shoulder. You are looking to change where the harness location but not change what it is doing to the bird. If your bird continues to target with no hesitation then you can continue. These steps can happen in a series of minutes or weeks, you need to go at the pace your bird is comfortable.
Once your bird is comfortable with the harness being near, going near it, and even touching it on a table you can try some of the next options. Place your hand through a loop of the harness and offer treats, slowly decreasing the distance from your hand to the harness. You can also do this with target training, slowly decreasing the distance of the target till your bird is placing his head through the loop. Try this first with a large loop, such as making a loop with the leash, then slowly make the loop size smaller until your bird places their head through the collar loop.
What skills does my bird need before using a harness?
We highly recommend having your bird target trained prior to harness training. Having your bird be eager move towards and to touch an target will allow you to request them closer to the harness. By having your bird target trained, you can encourage them to be confident around new objects. When you have target trained your bird you are able to speak the same language as your bird and let it know what you are asking! Using lots of praise and treats also helps let your bird know they’re doing well.
We also suggest having your bird trained to have their wings lifted. Some birds you may need to start with simply touching the wings and then rewarding them for not moving away. Young birds will often let you grasp their wing gently and move it. You always want to reward your bird for staying calm while you do this. Initially this may only be for short, couple seconds, touches. But slowly you can train your bird that picking up their wing is okay.
Finally we suggest that your bird be willing to be touched around the head and neck. Very few birds have ever had an object go around their head, and this can be very scary at first. Try first simply touching your bird with new objects, eventually try to have them be calm when you touch them along their head and neck. If they are comfortable with this then try making a large loop with the leash of the harness and having the bird take a treat from within the loop. You might have to hold the treat away from the loop initially, and slowly decrease the distance to the loop, but eventually it will be completely normal and your bird won’t second guess the new item.
How do I know what size to order for my bird?
For each listing of Aviator harness we have three ways to determine sizing:
- Weight range for each size
- A list of suggested species of bird that is likely to fit in each size
Just like humans, not all individuals of a species are the same, so a smaller or larger individual bird may need a different size. An example would be the Blue and Gold Macaw with a weight range of 800 – 1,600 grams. Over 90% of all Blue and Gold Macaws are under 1,000 grams so we have this species listed as a size large.
We realise that choosing the right size can sometimes be difficult, so we offer a guaranteed fit policy where exchanges are free and easy if you need to change sizes. However we advise customers to please contact us if you are unsure of the size before making a purchase.
After watching the training video on our website and beginning to work with your bird you should be able to easily determine if the size is correct. During the training process you would progressively put the collar further and further onto your bird's head, so it would become clear if it was too tight long before it was slipped on all the way.
What do I do if my bird is chewing on his or her harness?
It can be difficult to teach some birds what they are allowed to chew on.
The Aviator Harness is made from a high quality woven nylon strap material. However, it can be damaged. Our challenge is to use materials that are strong and damage resistant, but not too heavy or stiff that it becomes dangerous for a bird to wear.
Most birds do chew a bit at first but then learn not to. Unfortunately there are a few that will never stop. Just like we train our dogs, we need to train our birds what is not appropriate to chew on. Everyone is successful at teaching our birds not to chew our clothes so we know it is possible if we have the right attitude. We have tried every sort of terrible tasting chemical and witchcraft that has been suggested to no avail.
Most parrots are accidentally taught to chew on everything. All of their toys and entertainment items are made from the same materials that are similar to other things we use every day. The fear of reprimanding and accidentally enforcing negative behaviour causes even the best parrot parents to fall short of managing this behaviour.
Work on teaching your bird what it is, and is not, allowed to chew on and this knowledge will extend to the rest of your house. You will be one step closer to maintaining a lifelong friend. We know the idea of a parrot harness is new to most of us. This is why we have so much information in the package, and on our website and YouTube. Training a bird to wear a harness for the first time is a process that takes time to make sure the bird understands all that is happening.