The ultimate goal of treat training is to get the glider to sit on you to eat their treat while you are in motion. This is a good training to do ahead of “stay with me training” or even concurrent with it.
Some gliders won’t need training for this trick, others will take months of patience to work them through it. Most gliders start somewhere in the middle. Treat training can take a day or a year, just go at the gliders pace and try it a little each day.
Gliders love live mealworms. Other treats can be used too, such as taro brand fish sticks or yogurt drops, but none will be as effective as live mealworms. With yogurt drops, you get about 2 or 3 max before the gliders stop taking them, so they are best for short training sessions.
If you have a glider that is treat trained and another that is not, let the trained one show off in line of sight of the untrained one as often as possible. They learn to trust you by watching other gliders be rewarded for trusting you.
Phase 1 – Give them a treat
You hold a treat, they come take the treat and run away with it. For some gliders, this is amazing progress in and of itself, but for this training exercise its where we are going to start. Some gliders are super skittery, will dart at the treat many times before taking it, or will purposely bite your fingers trying to make you release it. Meet this with stoic unflinching commitment, occasionally blowing in their face whenever their bites get offensive. Slowly, calmly follow the glider around looking for opportunities to gently offer the treat up nearby. Don’t shove it in their face if they are moving away from the treat. Ring the bars or click your tongue to bring their attention toward the treat often. Be exceedingly patient, slow, calm, and unreactive to their antics.
Phase 2 – Hold their treat while they eat
You hold a treat, they come take the treat, you refuse to let it go and make them eat it while you hold it.Prepare yourself for nips, clawed paws grabbing your fingers insistently, and tug of war pulling, I have dropped a million treats to each of those. Some gliders are clever and bite the worm off where I’m holding it, the smart ones are always the most difficult to train.
Phase 3 – Lure them onto the back of your hand
Hold the back of your hand out as a platform for them to walk on, make a loose fist to hide sensitive fingertips, hold a treat over the back of your outstretched hand, offer the treat to the glider and slowly pull it back over your arm to force them to step onto your hand before they can reach the treat.This is usually a multi-step process. First they will brave one paw, maybe two, and do the long stretch. Then you will likely get three feet on you and a safety foot latched onto their escape plan. Eventually coax them to give you all four feet before letting them have the treat.Once they are to the point that they will give you all four feet, take the treat and run, I suggest dwelling in this phase for a while to cement the idea that they can come and go under their own control and you are not attempting to trick them into capture. Moving too quickly into the next phase has ruined many of my training sessions, while drawing this phase out always makes the next phase easier.
Phase 4 – Lure and hold
Hold the back of your hand out, lure the glider onto your hand until you have all four feet, let them eat the treat while you hold it firmly. Do not allow the glider to run off with the treat.In this phase, you are holding the treat while the glider eats it out of your fingers while sitting on your other arm. This is where the training often gets a little bit dicey. Some gliders get nervous after a bite or two and will panic leap off you upon realizing how vulnerable they are. If this happens in a secure location, let them go, do not chase them, just wait them out for five minutes and see if they come back for the rest of the treat.When lure and hold works even once, I lock into this phase and insist upon it for a while. A few days where the only treats they get are the ones they eat from my fingers on my arm does a lot towards making this training permanent.
Phase 5 – Walk around
Lure glider onto arm, give and hold treat, start walking while they eat the treat.Some gliders get pretty spooked when you start moving, others just ignore it and focus on the yummy. Wearing long sleeves that they can grip well helps with stability, and you may want to wait a few days after a nail trim.Ultimately, you should be able to lure the glider up to your shoulder, give them a treat, and walk short distances while they eat the treat without them leaping away in panic. This is a good point to flow into Stay With Me Training to extend the duration they will stick to you when you’re on the move.