Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hurray for clicker!

The warm weather over the weekend only made the ice at the barn worse. Alas, I can’t even turn Cole out outside to play. I did try to lounge him, first, but after a couple minutes, he said it was ridiculous. I said, “Great—more time to ride.”

The wind died down, and the barn was quiet, so it was a much better ride than I have had in about a week. I was a little nervous on the scary end of the arena since we haven’t been there for a while, and likewise, Cole was, too. So my boyfriend said he would walk with me. In no time, we both relaxed, and I was able to trot him. When he head went from the scared position to the relaxed position, I clicked and treated. Next thing I knew, he was doing his big, beautiful trot over there. It was great.

My boyfriend is in awe with the big trot, too. I sure wish I could see it. Cole gets almost as many compliments on his trot as he does when I ask him to pick up my dropped mitten. He really steps under himself and rounds up underneath me. I am sure we are on the right track of something good. For a while, it felt like he was getting behind the bit, so now I will only click him when I feel light contact, so he has improved with that, too. I will also give with the reins when he takes some contact as well as the clicking. That seems to be helping, too.

The first time I tried to trot out of the corner on the scary end in the direction of our barn door, his head went up and he went squirrely on me. I couldn’t get him to turn or stop until we were nearly at our door. This was not good. I went back to walking over there. By now, my boyfriend left to start watering. Once he was walking relaxed, I clicked. I then started trotting from the halfway point to our door—making the turn and clicking. Each time, I started further from our door. The first time I started trotting out of the corner, I stopped him about 5 strides in, and clicked. Then next time, I was able to trot down the wall and around the corner. I quit on that good note.

Thanks to clicker, he has an amazing stop, and all I need to do is say the word. He also understands stopping from a rein cue and from a deep exhale. My problem is he is not really good at going from a trot to a walk. He just wants to stop! That’s my Cole—always the over achiever. That is something we have started to work on recently when we are cooling down. I think I can master it in just a few rides on the trail—when he doesn’t want to stop so eagerly!

We had no spooks at all. I hope it is quiet in there tomorrow, so we can build on our success. He is willing to listen when he knows what I want, and clicker training is a perfect way to explain it. Clicker training isn’t good at getting a horse to stop doing what you don’t want him to do—but it is perfect to get him to do what you do want him to do. It is a whole different mindset.

Update on Dumb Dog—she will now sit quietly while I hook up her leash—all for a single, tiny piece of dry cat food. I am sure I can eliminate that soon, since she really, really wants that leash hooked up since that means she is going for a walk. I believe that will be reward enough.

I truly thought she was retarded when I bought her a Kong Wobbler toy this weekend, and it took her all day to figure it out. I’m glad to say she now knows how to get the dry dog food out of it and loves her Kong toy.

It is going to be warm enough to leave her outside for a while this evening, so I hope to do some clicker training with Thunder. When I try to work with them together, Thunder and I only manage to do the basic things like target and sit up because she is in the way. I really want to get him started back on his obstacles. I got him some new treats that he loves!


Susan said...

Love that your Cole picks up dropped items as well. My friends felt click training was a waste of time. That is until one of them dropped something. I told her to remain saddled, and had Camryn pick it up for her. Now their in awe :)

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I'm just starting to study clicker training. When you treat him from the saddle, do you just reach into a pocket or saddle bag and hold the treat by his neck, so that he can turn his head around to take it?

achieve1dream said...

Good job Cole! He's so smart! If you can you should get your boyfriend to video tape the trot so you can see his trot and so we can too!! :)

I'm glad Maggie figured out the Wobbler. It's really sad that people get dogs and leave them in the backyard and ignore them. I'm glad you rescued her so she can learn to be a real dog and learn to play. She'll figure it out. I promise. Give her time. I'm glad she's doing so well on having the leash put on. Keep up the great work.

If you have a video camera or can borrow one I would love to see some of Thunder's tricks too. I don't think I would have the patience to teach a cat lol.