Just the other day, while sitting in the kitchen watching Paco bounce around delightedly on his perch tree, a big smile slowly spread across my face as I was struck by the realization that this is everything I have been working towards. Paco is inside and not just inside, but even more importantly, he’s not freaking out and is instead, actually enjoying himself. Every training session, every conscious effort that I have made to shape my interactions positively with him over this past year has led us to this moment here. And I couldn’t be more joyful or more proud.
There are of course moments when you get down on yourself, feeling like you’re not making as much headway with your bird as you anticipated. It’s usually after you’ve just watched a You Tube video of some professional trainers’ seemingly effortless ability to cue a behavior in a matter of minutes or even some person like yourself enjoying a loving, connected moment with their clearly well-socialized bird. There are times when your training sessions are less than stellar, times when your bird behaves in ways that make you feel like you’ve experienced a major setback, and even times when you get bored (yes, occasionally) playing their favorite game with them for the 100th time.
But then there are times when it all clicks together – when you see how all of that time and energy you have dedicated to your bird has been completely and totally worth it. Training takes an incredible amount of patience but the good news is that it all pays off and the benefits to both you and your bird are immeasurable.
You can watch every training DVD that money can buy but only when you apply what you have learned do you reap the reward. It is not just one magical step that solves all of your issues, but rather all of the little steps coming together. Seemingly small things such as always paying attention to what behaviors you’re rewarding and therefore, encouraging, in each interaction with your bird adds up huge. Restraining yourself when, in your impatience for results, you feel the desire to push your bird too far, too fast. Learning what motivates your bird and recognizing when he’s at his best (and worst) is a skill that takes you far. And most importantly, remembering that your bird is a bird and shouldn’t be held to human standards of time – your relationship comes first, all else is secondary.
The time I have committed to Paco, Paz, and Pepe is all starting to pay off. That’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed the journey but I knew they wouldn’t be able to live their happiest life until I was able to train them to this point. Paz and Pepe, now a bonded pair and sharing one enclosure, seem contented to have the companionship they have never experienced before and the ability to fulfill their need to mate. Paco coming indoors is a big step in him being able to spend even more time with me and enjoy the togetherness that he so desires. It also allows him more space to explore and foster his insatiable curiosity. There is still much more for us to work on to advance to the next level in our relationship and their socialization, but what we are enjoying now is marked progress for us and definitely something to drink to (papaya juice only, of course 😉 ).
I would like to express my appreciation to the Bird Tricks training program for providing the know-how and to Jamie Womach for all of her support and encouragement. I feel so fortunate to have found their company in those early days of searching for a way to get Paco to stop attacking me. Their training program is so accessible, fun, and easy to apply, truly anyone can do it if they put their energy into it.
Now it’s time for new goals to set my sights on to further my bond and continue to enrich the lives of the Three-Cans. But this time there will be one big difference – I will no longer have doubts that I am reaching too high or that I’m lacking as a trainer. This time I will be confident in my future success, in whatever form it may take. Whether it be with your own birds or other aspects of your life, I think it’s important that we all take time to recognize and celebrate those moments when all of our hard work has come to fruition and we can see that it was well worth the sacrifice and striving it took to achieve. I have found that life with birds can be draining and difficult, or it can be the best, most satisfying times of your life – it’s all what you make of it and for me, training is what makes all the difference.