Friday, January 28, 2011

Taking the clicker on the road . . .

. . . and it didn't go so great. I mean it wasn't exactly bad or anything, but not great. We're having two problems. One, he's getting grabby with the treats again. It's like he doesn't know how to just lip them up out of my palm. He has to open his whole gaping mouth and try to inhale my whole hand. What to do? What to do? Two, he gets too excited and has no focus (probably because he's not even two years old).

This was his first time with the clicker while walking on the roads. It went okay, but I really don't think he's quite ready for it. He was completely distracted and unfocused. It was as bad as last night when he was spooked and couldn't pay attention.

I went out onto the lease land to get him and while we were walking back to the house we worked on following at my shoulder and stopping with my hand on his chest as a cue. He does the stops well when I'm on his right side, but not so well on his left. We need to practice more on that.

Before taking him out of the pasture I worked on head lowering again, which he did perfectly. We haven't built any duration in yet, but he's going almost all the way to the ground.

Then we went out onto the road. I clicked him for walking through the mud puddle in my drive way and for walking by my side on the road. He gets excited and wants to walk ahead of me (which is my fault because I've let him for so long so that I could take pictures) so we worked on stops some more. Once again he did well on my left, not so well on my right. We just started working on them though so I'm not worried about that.

I noticed on the road that he wasn't really listening to the click (which is how I know he wasn't paying attention), but instead would stop when he saw my hand with the treat, then he would inhale my hand and the treat. Somehow I managed not to get bit again. I've got to teach him to take treats politely but I don't know how! He's not mugging, he's just opening his mouth too wide. I'm wondering if feeding him his regular meals in a large flat bucket would help because then he wouldn't be able to bite down into it and would have to use his lips more. Any suggestions?

I made it halfway down the hill by my house when the UPS guy stopped so I turned and trotted back to the house. Then we went the other way because that's the way we've been going and I was hoping he would be calmer. Unfortunately Zep was following us along the fence in the lease land and that wasn't helping with Chrome's focus. I should have kept going down the main road instead of the dead end road but it was getting dark.

I worked on stopping a bit more and I also clicked him any time he put his head down while walking. He figured that one out fast!! Eventually I decided to go back because I was getting low on treats and it was getting too dark to see. When I got back to the pasture I worked on head down again, but I only clicked when he angled his head away from me (because he has a tendency to put it down real fast and then swing it back up toward me for the treat - I'm trying to only feed it to him with his head away from me though).

After that I called it a day because it was dark and I had a long day at work. To hear about how Zeppelin did tonight check out my main blog for details. :) Sorry I didn't get any pictures.


  1. Kate, at A Year With Horses, has had two nice posts recently about leading and leading exercises. I've found them a nice review of some stuff I already knew, as well as good info about some new things to try. You might find some interesting ideas in there for Chrome. I think they're good exercises for getting the horse paying attention and stopping/starting when we do.
    Basic Leading:
    Leading Exercises:

    As for grabbing at treats, I have several who have this problem. I find this is often related to stress, frustration or confusion.

    Sometimes this is related to the environment or what we're working on---we're working on something the horse finds complicated or working in a stressful environment.

    Sometimes this is handler error on my part--some of our horses need me to be really predictable about treat delivery and good mechanics. I find it is easiest for the horse to see and find my hand if I use the hand that is away from the horse. (like in this video clip:

    With Tex, I've been making him back up a step or two to get his treat. This has cut down on the lunging forward to get a treat, which is one of the things he was doing. This also helps me be more predictable for him, which I think helps him stay calmer.

    I think grabbing for treats can also be learned behavior--that is, every time my hand comes at the horses' face, he knows he gets a treat. With Tex I've been doing a lot of reaching toward his face, touching his face, and offering my hand with out a treat. At first he was grabbing toward me anytime I did any of this. My hand had become the cue, rather than the click.

    I don't think that was an answer, but maybe it will give you a few things to think about or try for food delivery?


  2. I have had the same problem with Cole with the wide open mouth treat grab. It finally started going away when I started dropping the treats by accident when he did it to protect my hand.

    Now, if he tries it, I take the treat away. I figured out that if he does it, and gets a treat, I am actually training him to do it that way, again. If he only gets a treat when he takes it nicely, he has a big motivation to take the treat like a gentleman.

  3. With both the dogs and the horses, we say, "Easy" or "Gentle" while slowly moving the treat in our hand toward them. As soon as they start to snatch, we pull our hand and the treat away. We usually only have to do this three or four times before they get the idea. They get a lot of praise when they take the treat gently. Bombay and Gabbrielle are really good about plucking treats off my palm with their lips. Gabbrielle is so gentle that she could be a pick-pocket. I don't even feel it. However, Lostine has been more of a struggle. We had to remind her to control herself every time.


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