Clicker training

el406

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Oct 11, 2008
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I have played about with training my horse with the clicker technique. He passes me his headcollar or a ball and will touch a cone. I want to teach him further things but I am getting increasingly frustrated as soon as i start with anything he gets over excited about the food. Teaching him the basics was easy and he understood very well what was expected of him but now he just reaches for food all the time.

any advice?
 

Bay Mare

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Jun 21, 2004
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The second thing that he needs to learn (after getting him to understand the meaning of the click/treat) is how not to mug.

I prefer to use a bum bag for treats rather than pockets so I would rattle the treats so that he starts to mug. Ignore his behaviour and don't treat under any circumstances. When he gets bored and stops then click and treat. Repeat until he's got the idea. You can then go on to ask the horse to 'look away' so that you give the command and when they look away you click and treat. I've found that very useful with my previously very muggy mare!

They need to learn that mugging doesn't open the vending machine, nor does banditing by trying behaviours that you haven't asked for. They may, for example, do a good curtsey but if you haven't asked for it then you shouldn't click/treat.

Also look at what you're using for treats. I avoid anything sugary and on the rare occasions that I've had to (or elected to) use polos I always chop them into quarters or, preferably, use sugar free. I tend to use lucienuts for most things with chopped up carrots for teaching new behaviours or for an outstanding response.

Once the behaviour is established you need to move onto a schedule of reinforcement so that you don't click and treat every time they do the behaivour. There is a fixed schedule where you click/treat every so many behaviours (you might click/treat after every three for example) but they can learn to predict when the treat is coming. What I prefer is a variable schedule, a bit like a slot machine, so that they get a treat every now and then but he doesn't know exactly when. This makes them keep on trying for the treat so the behaviour doesn't tail off.

There will become a time when you don't need to click/treat certain behaviours as the behaviour is established. I would always click and treat every try for new stuff though.

There are lots of good books out there, Karen Pryor (Don't Shoot the Dog), Alexandra Kurland, Ben Hart etc and an excellent book on how horses learn coming out early next year, it's not specifically on clicker but looks at the different types of reinforcement/punishment, why they work and what are the pitfalls.

HTH x
 

el406

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Oct 11, 2008
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thats brilliant thanks il try that 2 stop him mugging me! :D Also, do you find that the horses come to learn the meaning of certain words and understand what you are asking for or do u need to prop them by moving etc.?
 

Bay Mare

www.maggieslaw.co.uk
Jun 21, 2004
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No, they definitely learn to associate certain words. We can use the word 'back' to back her up or just a wiggle of the finger. We can't even talk about the 'c' word (canter) in the school as madam starts cycling with her back legs :rolleyes: She loves canter!

You can also teach them to copy as well, Saff will copy jambette, Spanish walk, crossing the legs and curtsey.
 

wundahoss

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May 7, 2008
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Yes, teach him that the treats come to him when YOU decide. Teach him that it NEVER works when he tries to get them from you. I teach all my horses to stay at arm's reach unless invited into my personal space. I also teach them to say 'please' by taking a backward step & tucking their head(how I teach them initially to 'collect' too). My horses will run to me, but stop & take a backward step to 'ask' for a treat. This behaviour is sometimes reinforced.
 
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