Monday, April 26, 2010

Clicker & Target Training

Picture taken 1-29-2010.

I had a clicker session with Chrome this evening and it went fantastic!! This was only his fifth ever clicker session (and as my followers know they've been sporadic) and I swear he's the smartest horse I've ever worked with!! I've been reading Alexandra Kurland's The Click That Teaches and picking up a lot of pointers. Things like how to feed the treats, being careful to pause before offering the treat so you don't dilute the power of the clicker, breaking things into small steps, etc. I decided to work today on having Chrome follow the target because he's already doing really well with touching it standing still at all different heights. I'm also still working on pairing the vocal cue, but I'm not sure if he knows it yet. Once I feel he has the hang of following the target I'm going to work on duration.

So I tricked Zeppelin into going in Chrome's stall where I could shut the gate. At first he looked annoyed that he'd been tricked, then he saw the huge bucket of hay all to himself and proceeded to completely ignore us LOL. I started out having Chrome touch the target with me holding it at arm's length. I concentrated on trying to put the target behind my back (after the click of course) before bringing the food bucket from behind my back (this prevents diluting the power of the click). He only seemed momentarily confused, but didn't try to mug me.

Once he had the hang of that I started walking away from him, still holding the target at arm's length (I'm using the tennis ball on the end of a dowel rod for a target). He followed me all over the pasture touching that target. It was so cute seeing him walk as fast as he could with his head stretched out toward the target lol. I was tempted to try getting him to trot, but that would have been adding in multiple criteria at one time and would have confused him.

After we'd done that a few times I noticed I wasn't giving him enough time to chew and he was dropping a lot trying to stuff his mouth full, so I put the target and the bucket behind my back between each touch to allow him to chew. At that point he started mugging me a bit, but I just ignored him until he turned his head away. That's when I realized I was inadvertently teaching him the 'Grownups are Talking' game. I finally put the target away and worked on that by itself. He caught on quick!! He had his head turned completely away from me before I could even get the bucket behind my back again! Then of course the reinforcements were coming so quickly again that he wasn't having time to chew (I was giving him tiny nibbles of his feed for each click, but he kept stuffing it into his mouth instead of chewing and swallowing lol) so I started walking around a bit to give him time to chew. Then I would stop and he would turn his head away and we'd repeat. :)

At the end of the session I sat the bucket on the ground for him to finish it off as his jackpot of sorts and was just holding on to it so he wouldn't dump it. After he grabbed a bite he actually turned his head away again waiting for the click without me even moving the bucket lol. I clicked for him and he turned his head back and finished eating his dinner. It was so cute he had to throw in that extra one lol.

Also I almost forgot to mention. In between each touch he was lifting his nose to my face for a kiss, so it's not going to be hard at all to teach him to give kisses! In fact I'm tempted to work on that one next. If anyone has trained it and knows any tips let me know. :) Sorry I got so wordy today. I was just excited and want to share my success. I'm going to try to have my husband video tape one of our sessions sometime so you all can see how we're doing. For now you'll have to read my long winded descriptions hehe. Later all!!


  1. The Kurland book is very good, I think. Fun to read about what you're doing - it seems very suited to young horses!

  2. Well done, you guys are doing fantastic! :)

    I know what you mean about the chewing. Star is very keen to go again and often drops out bits of half chewed treats. I find I have to balance between giving her chewing time, but being ready when she is, to keep good loops. It does go to show though it's not all about the food, it's something more engaging than that.

  3. Sounds like it is going really well!! Awesome!!

    I often put treats behind my back. I like to wear jeans and put some in a pocket. I sometime use that as a way to do ten of something . I will put 10 treats in the pocket. Then I have to got and get more for the next ten, but it helps me keep count. Do you a doggie treat bag? They clip on your pants and you can put treats in there too. I have done that too.


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