Agility training: the tunnel

Rusty was taught the basic tunnel command about a year ago when we were attending agility classes during the autumn, and then after the classes stopped I received a tunnel as a Christmas present so was able to continue practising with her.

Over this past summer Rusty and I have put a lot of work into our jumping skills, but I decided recently that the tunnel had been neglected a bit, so brought it out again at the weekend. It is fair to say that Rusty was a little rusty (if you’ll forgive the pun) and we had a few slip-ups in our session, most of which have been included in the video at the end of this post.

To begin with I calmly walked her to the tunnel entrance – this was just to refresh her memory and get her used to running through the tunnel again.

Tunnel

Then I added a jump directly in front of the tunnel, which encouraged her to gain speed towards the tunnel. As Rusty is less confident with the tunnel she hasn’t quite begun to ‘lock’ onto it in the same way that she does with jumps, so this exercise was also intended to help her with that.

Straight line tunnel

Once Rusty had got the hang of running to the entrance in a straight line, I added a bit more challenge to the sequence by placing two jumps curving around towards the tunnel. She still found this relatively easy although I found that I had to be much closer to her to guide her to the tunnel entrance (when we are just working over jumps I can handle her from a greater distance which makes our routine much smoother).

Jumps and tunnel

From here I added a jump next to the tunnel with a sharp turn into it – I like including sharp turns in our training as it teaches her that whilst I want her to be independent and to work away from me at speed, she must also continue to listen to what I am telling her to do and not just zoom off in the direction that she wants to go in!

Turn into tunnel

My final exercise was asking a much greater question of her – I incooperated a 180 degree turn between a jump and the tunnel, linking in our previous training sessions (see my blog post from October on this subject). As she prefers to stick nearer to me when the tunnel is involved, this was tricky for her to complete and I really had to lead her round to it.

180 into tunnel

Her lack of confidence here resulted in some moments of confusion where she skips along next to me unsure of where to go next, but we figured it out in the end!

Tunnel 14

There are some clips from our training session in the video below.

 

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A friend for Captain Beaky

Due to the fact that I will be leaving home in just under a years time, I decided that it would be a good idea for Beaky to have a friend (as my mum will be looking after him when I leave and she won’t have the time to spend giving him companionship).

As he has been living alone for five and a half years, introducing a new bird would be a risky process and initially I was unsure of what species I could get – however I eventually made up my mind and a week ago I bought a rosella.

His name is Rockhopper (Rocky) and he is an Eastern rosella (Platycercus eximius). This particular colouring of his feathers is referred to as ‘rubino’.

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Rocky is only six months old and is currently moulting, so does look a little scruffy at the moment: in the spring time he will become a lot neater! He has not really been handled and is a little wary of humans, often heading to the far corner of the aviary, although he is showing interest in us when we are nearby which is a promising sign.

My main aim at the moment is to gain his trust and also to introduce him to Captain Beaky, who is temporarily living indoors. The following photographs show our progress so far.

For the first couple of days when I entered the aviary Rocky would panic and flap about, falling off his perch and then crawling into the corner to hide.

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Whenever this happened I offered him the perch which I sometimes use to pick up Beaky, tapping him lightly on the tummy with it until he stepped up. Then I could move him to a higher position where he would feel safer. Gradually he has learnt to step up every time that the perch is offered to him, and now does so quite willingly.

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I have also tried feeding him from my hands a few times; mostly this has been unsuccessful but he did take some dandelion leaves from me! This is an area that I will work on once he is more used to me being around him.

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Captain Beaky has been paying a visit to the aviary each day in his travelling cage so that the two of them can take a look at each and meet with a barrier between them. For the most part this has been absolutely fine, there was just a tiny bit of hissing from Beaky during their first encounter when Rocky got too close.

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Today I made the decision to be brave and as they were both so relaxed I let Beaky out into the aviary with Rocky. They kept a bit of distance between them but otherwise they were both quite relaxed – Captain Beaky became bored within the first few minutes and began tucking in to Rocky’s food!

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Hopefully it won’t be long before they’re living together permanently 🙂