April 30, 2012

Leash & Leisure for Vinny

Today is Queen's Day in the Netherlands, an official holiday that brings fun for all ages. And today is also the first day of actual nice weather. A comfortable 75 Fahrenheit (over 20 Celsius), nice sun, light breeze, couldn't be better and what a coincidence that we got this today! Actually felt like spring and we even got a little sunburn.

Even better, because this morning we went out to the 'Vrijmarkt' here in Groningen, which is basically a big open free flea market in the streets. We got lots of new cheap toys for Vinny at an average of 60 cents a piece. Vinny will be so happy!

Since the weather was so nice, we decided to do a nice picnic in the neighborhood park and give the Aviator a run for its money. The Aviator is basically a harness on a leash especially developed for parrots. They come in various sizes for different types of parrots and it's very well designed and made. Based on this alone, we think it's an excellent product. We bought it online from Avonturia, a store in the Hague, the Netherlands.

So we went out on our bikes (only a few minute ride), Vinny in a carrier and already in the Aviator harness. You have to understand that, aside from twice in the back yard, this was Vinny's first day out! Since the weather has been bad over the last few months, we didn't really get the chance to try this before, but today was definitely the day.

Here's a little tip, in case you are considering getting the Aviator, or already bought it: watch the instructional DVD that comes with it, and/or read the manual. IT people use the term RTFM (Read The Fricking Manual) regularly. Well, it definitely applies here as well. When you go through the whole loop of getting your parrot used to it gradually (like we did), you will be rewarded! It'll be easy to get the Aviator on and off your parrot, especially if your parrot is used to being touched on the head, back and wings.

Vinny was perfectly fine on the way over in his specially prepped carrier, he even made some cute sounds. Oh yeah, about the carrier: We use your basic plastic cat-carrier, but put a (natural) perch in, leaving some room at the bottom to slide a sheet of paper in.

Anyway, when we arrived in the park, we set out our blanket in the shade and unleashed the beast. He was somewhat anxious at first, but soon got used to being outside, to the big sea gulls flying over, and crows shooting through the canopy. He got settled in for sure when he got some food as well, although he wasn't too sure about hopping through the grass or even our blanket. He did seem to want to sit on our shoulders more than normal (I guess it is his safe spot).

The Aviator did its work perfectly. He flew off a few times, but got gently pulled by the elastic cord and was able to stay in the air, doing a few circles before landing softly on our hands or on the ground. At least it made him more comfortable with the grass and at some point he even rolled around in it 'for funzies'!

We even did some starter recall training and we found out that praise is a very good motivational thing for Vinny's training. Works even better than treats. What a perfect bird!

We did figure out one drawback of the Aviator though. Vinny was picking on the harness a lot. Of course this was a first time that he was wearing it for more than 5 minutes, but he didn't seem to be able to get comfortable wearing it. At some point he even loosened it up himself by pulling the strap from the clasp! Not just a perfect bird, also a very clever bird! We did double check if we put it on correctly, of course, but maybe we still got it twisted or something. Hopefully next time he'll be better about it (or we, for that matter).

All in all we had lots of fun, and so did Vinny. After getting back, he flew to the top of his cage and fell asleep in a matter of minutes.

Do you ever take your parrot out? Do you use some kind of harness or is your bird perfectly trained to fly back to you when you call him/her? What are your experiences with the Aviator or similar products?