Quote Originally Posted by davids View Post
I kind of do what you have suggested when approaching her on a kill. It took me a couple of lessons though to get the measure of her.
She actually seems worse on a Carrion Crow, which is a mighty customer to deal with. I presume her adrenaline is elevated somewhat.
I had meant to point out that as you establish trust in her that she can manage your behavior, the distance will decrease that you will need to stay away from her without a serious reaction.

Basically, aggression on a kill comes down to trust. She does not trust that you will not steal her prize, and she is willing to fight you to defend it.

Although I have seen a similar reaction in some of my goshawks where they were not happy with how long it was taking me to get the trade off meat ready and they decided to latch onto me as motivation to hurry things along....

I saw on a video the new owner posted that he would call her to the fist and then pocket the Day old chick without giving her a reward.
No doubt there were other mistakes made!!!
I do that all the time, without a negative response. Although.... I do not ever ever call to the glove for food until there are several kills that have been made and the hawk is not showing overt aggression when on the glove.

As for her behaviour in the mews, when I went to pick her up she would row her wings at me and threaten me. I would then turn around and walk away.
I did this throughout the day and eventually she figured if she was going to get fed that she had to let me approach.
Now I can approach her and pick her up but sometimes she gets the hump with me and stamps down on my arm and leans over to bite the hell out of my forearm.
Once she comes out the mews she is still aggressive but she settles and stops biting and footing me. I'm guessing she is trying to bully me into feeding her and is aggressive due to frustration at not getting fed.
When we are out hunting she isn't aggressive until she is on a kill.
I was hoping that she would have calmed down now that we are out hunting and she has been catching stuff.

Thanks again.
That sounds like you are right on track.

As I mentioned previously, none of this is directly tied to the theories of Operant Conditioning - but if you establish a Conditioned Reinforcer it can and will speed up the process because you can clearly communicate with her when she is doing what you want. Once established, the CR becomes a very clear "YES!!!" which is very powerful.

The myth that we all operate under is that you cannot use punishment to train a hawk, and it is very good to keep that as a base theory of operation because while goshawks are quite social creatures, they and other hawks will not respond well if you lay on hard punishment with them. The core theory of Operant Conditioning is to keep things as positive as possible, and that is by far the best. But there is still a place for punishment if very carefully thought through.

You leaving when she is acting aggressive is a clear example of that - its what would be termed a negative punishment (you punish by taking something away that they wanted - your presence). You are leaving her thinking "!@#$!@#@!! That is not what I wanted!!" as you leave, since what she really wants is for you to feed her.

I have found that establish a negative Conditioned Reinforcer can take the communication even further. It becomes a very clear "NO!!!". There are a pile of scientific papers on this concept, as it was the theory in vogue when Skinner developed Operant Conditioning. While it has been all the rage to focus on positive only training and positive only communication, the reality is that each word you add to your lexicon increases your effectiveness to communicate exponentially.

I usually establish a +CR and a -CR, and the goal is to never be using the -CR any more than 10% of the time. If I do, I figure out a way to restructure the interactions so it stays mostly positive.

One thing that I have found that can really help is to find ways to reduce the tendency for aggression and the severity of that aggression some before trying to work with the hawk.

For example, my previous goshawk had a really strong aggressive streak in her. If I knew she was going to be particularly aggressive, I would slyly slip her a small meal (15 grams or so) to take the edge off her hunger before I interacted with her. I would have to be very crafty to deliver this in a way that would not trigger aggressive posturing because I did not want to reinforce that at all.

As another example, my current goshawk has not yet been entered on game, and I have had to temporarily drop her weight down a bit to get her to focus and chase hard which has resulted in an angry edge to her behavior. This gets much much worse after the sun goes down, so when I can manage my work load so that I can get out in the field earlier in the day and end our session long before the sun goes down it is not an issue. Hard to do, because I will play the game of trying to get "....just one more slip......" until the owls come out.