To fix Carson’s overgrown beak, we pulled on leather welding gloves last week and restrained the Red-tailed Hawk for a trim. These routine procedures are necessary for healthy birds even though it is stressful. I worried that Carson would hold a grudge after her beak trim and choose not to participate in training sessions. I couldn’t blame her. We spent months building a relationship built on trust: trust that she would be safe and rewarded every time she came out of the mew. I broke that understanding by restraining her.
Bird trainer Steve Martin compares a trust account with an animal (or even another human) to a bank account. Each positive interaction is like a deposit, while negative experiences act as withdrawals. Carson and I have gone through countless rat, mouse, and quail tidbits: each one a deposit in our trust account. I wondered if the withdrawal during beak trimming would erase all of our hard work and slip us back in the red.
The next day, I started out with an easy training session in the mew. Carson didn’t skip a beat. Two days later I tried to take her outside again. Without hesitation, she stepped on the glove and waited patiently while I attached her leash. We stepped outside and she happily swallowed a mouse. It appeared that our trust account was large enough that the beak trimming withdrawal was relatively small. That doesn’t take me off the hook, though; we’ll continue making deposits, one rat tidbit at a time.