Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Charging The Clicker & Targeting

I decided to finally get off my lazy rear and start working on clicker training with Chrome. I'll admit I've been putting it off a while because I'm just so afraid of messing anything up. I know how to train a dog but this will be my first time using clicker training methods on a horse. So after a little more research and studying to reassure myself I went out to the pasture armed with clicker, treats and a target stick (a tennis ball on a wooden dowel rod).

First I worked on charging the clicker. Click, treat, click, treat. I quickly realized I was rewarding minor mugging so I quickly moved on to target training. I'm going to work on the mugging thing tomorrow, because I want it drilled into his little brain that he will not get treats for sniffing my hands or pockets. He's doing so well with the nipping thing that I don't want to encourage it all over again. He hasn't offered to nip in a while now.

Chrome caught onto the target training quick! As soon as I held it out he touched the bright tennis ball because he was curious and had never seen one before. All it took was once. After clicking I would put the rod behind my back while feeding the treat, then I would bring it out again and he would touch it immediately. I did that until I ran out of the pocketful of sugar cubes I had. I'm going to dice up an apple later and put a bit of sugar on it with the hopes of converting him to an apple lover. I just don't like feeding him that much sugar. Apple pieces would be so much easier to train with. Anyway, I kept the session short and gave him scratchies afterward. I think he really liked it. Later when I went outside he came right over to me and kind of stretched his head out looking at me like he wanted to play again. :) I think Chrome is going to be fun to train.


  1. That's fantastic, well done! I know the feeling of putting stuff of thinking you might get it wrong, "paralysis by analysis" someone once told me, lol! So I try to think nothing ventured, nothing gained now! :D I just know you and Chrome are going to do wonderful things with clicker :)

  2. Isn't clicker wonderful? Mingo learned very quickly that he had to touch the target and not my hand. The mugging went away in the very first lesson.

    We use nickel sized pieces of carrots, and sometimes I even break those pieced in half so I don't run out. When he does something wonderful, he gets a peppermint.

    Most of our training has been derailed due to his injury, but I am going to start up with in-hand work in the next few weeks. It will give us some fun things to do.

    He already knows all the basic ground training from his pre-clicker days. I still will click him if he does it really well.

  3. Sounds great!

    Does he get any grain? I find I can introduce new treats sometimes by chopping them up into little pieces and mixing them in with something else.


  4. Congratulations! Impressive that he got it in just one try!

    I've found (with dogs) that either giving a mixture of random treats or using a "grading scale" (better performances get higher value treats) can allow me to use some treats a dog may not otherwise work for. If it's not the only thing they're getting, they're willing to take it on occasion. It also keeps the training more interesting to have the reinforcement vary, even if only in the kind of food. And if you use a grading scale and your horse is a sugar cube lover, he'd probably figure out pretty quickly just what is getting him the sugar and improve his skills even more quickly (if that's possible with how fast he's learning!).


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