Monday, January 31, 2011

Cole's New Trick

Cole’s New Trick

I love training with a clicker. There are different ways you can use it. You can reward a horse for getting something right. I do this all the time, and it seems he is getting things right more than ever!

Another way to use clicker is to shape a behavior. That is when you start with one behavior and change it to a better behavior one step at a time. I use this, too.

One more way, is to reward an offered behavior that you didn’t ask for, so your horse will want to do it again. I haven’t done too much of this, but last weekend, something happened, and I clicked it.

In the winter, I have my pockets stuffed with mittens, gloves and half gloves. I like to be prepared. Sometimes, I need a pair of gloves with mittens over them. Sometimes, I only need half gloves, but if my hands get cold later in the ride, I need to add mittens.

Anyway, in the winter, if you want to find me, you just need to follow the trail of gloves that fall out of my pockets.

That is, until this weekend. I was riding Cole, and a mitten fell out of my pocket. He wanted to look at it, and I let him. He sniffed it and picked it up. When I reached over and took it out of his mouth, I clicked him.

That was just the beginning. The mittens kept falling out, and Cole kept picking them up. I found that I couldn’t click before I had the mitten in my hand, or he would drop it to get his treat. Also, I couldn’t lean forward to get it before he had his head in his normal standing position, or he tended to drop it, then, too.

In one evening, without more than a total of a few minutes of training, I had a horse that picked up my fallen mittens and allowed me to take them from his mouth.

I didn’t tell Ellen about his trick until I was riding with her the next morning. I got everyone’s attention, dropped my mitten and told Cole to pick it up. Ellen wasn’t too impressed since she knows what is possible with a clicker, but everyone else was. It is a cute trick, and it may be useful on the trail, as I tend to drop mittens there, too. It would be great to not have to dismount to pick them up. I am trying to teach him the verbal cue “pick it up,” and I hope eventually he will only pick things up if I tell him too. It could be a problem if he tries to pick up everything he sees—like cats.

The funniest part is that if a mitten falls out of my pocket and I don’t know it, he will just stop to get it. This would also help on the trail because I will be less likely to lose things. Ellen said that if he learns to stop whenever something falls from him, maybe then he will stop if the object that falls is me!


Nuzzling Muzzles said...

That is great! Just the other day I had stuffed a bunch of plastic sandwich bags in my coat pocket for the purpose of cleaning up after my dogs when I take them for walks. I later walked outside and found the baggies all over the horse paddock. They were too slippery to stay in my coat pocket. Anyway, I've heard a lot of rave reviews about clicker training, but now I'm convinced after reading your post.

achieve1dream said...

Awwww that is soooo cute and totally awesome! Cole is so smart. A perfect example of why I love clicker training. I'm glad NuzMuz is going to try it. :D Keep up the great work!