Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Take a Bow

Take a Bow

This is all about “capturing a behavior” with clicker training. We can train a horse to do anything with the aid of a clicker. When we saw Cole stretch one morning, we thought it was so cute that we clicked and treated him for it.

I don’t know when we clicked him for it the first time, but every time we saw him do it, we clicked again. Sometimes it would be days even weeks between clicks. Last month, it seemed to be getting more frequent. We noticed he was most likely to do it when we weren’t paying attention—to get our attention. It was only in the morning when we were cleaning the stalls. We would just watch through the corner of our eyes. Anything that looked like a stretch got clicked.

Then, it happened—multiple stretches in the same morning. The stretches were morphing into a definite bow. One morning, he did it 8 times in a row! He made the connection. Now, it was time to put it on a cue. When we thought he might do it, we would say, “Bow.”

A few sessions like this, and we had a bowing monster. What he does is he stretches his front legs forward and parks out with his back legs like a proper Morgan. Then, he shifts his weight back and bows like a dog. It is adorable, but he does it over and over. A few times I had to leave the barn to get him to stop!

I have decided to only click him for mostly for doing it on command. When he does a really good one voluntarily, I can’t resist clicking that, too. The rest of the time, I am just saying “good boy.” He only does it in his stall at this time. I would like him to be able to do it out of his stall, too. I will not teach him to do it when I am in the saddle. No way.

When I get home from the barn, my little black dog, Maggie, also bows and bows and bows. I taught her without treats or clicks. She would do it occasionally when I would come home. She would stand on the top of the stairs and wag her tail. I started to say, “Bow” over and over. When she would, I would proceed up the stairs—just what she wanted. After about 10 times, she was doing it whenever I asked her—just to get me to come to her. Now, she does it all the time. I just praise her for it—better than her jumping on me or running down the cat in her excitement.

Now, all my black animals are bowing.

Oh, back to capturing a behavior. That’s what we did. Cole did something on his own, we liked it and caught it with a clicker. Then, by anticipating when he would do it, we taught him a connection between a cue, a behavior and a reward. It is like magic.

Cole is one step closer to being a circus horse.


achieve1dream said...

Oh I'm so jealous!! I want to teach Chrome to bow so bad, but he never stretches.... *pout* I want to see pictures or a video of Cole. I bet he is just soooo adorable!!

I taught Storm (my Siberian Husky) to bow without treats or a clicker. When she asked to go outside I would sometimes stop to talk to someone. She would get impatient and bow, so I started opening the door when she would bow. She learned it in no time with such an awesome reward. :)

Judi said...

It was so easy to teach by capturing. I wouldn't have a clue how to teach him otherwise.

When he parks out, if his front feet aren't even, all I have to do is tap my foot, and he will fix them. I don't know how he figured that out the first time I did it.

I think that is what I like about having a clicker horse. He thinks things through and tries to figure them out. I don't know if that is typical or if Cole is an exception. What have you discovered with Chrome?

achieve1dream said...

Chrome is totally just like that!!!!! He tries so hard to figure things out. The difference in him and a traditionally raised, non clicker trained horse is crazy cool! :D I really need to get my clicker back out. Now that he's eating timothy pellets as his regular meals I'm hoping he will accept them as a treat. It would be sooo much healthier than horse treats... which I ran out of and really didn't want to buy more of because they are so loaded with sugar. I sure wish he would eat green beans or something. I'll try the hay pellets though and see how it works. :)

Judi said...

It's so much fun having a horse that wants to learn as much as you want to teach them! I still use carrot slivers and sometimes mints when he does something great. I am hoping that since he gets so much exercise it won't matter. I bet hay pellets will work. Maggie works for plain dogfood kibbles. I often think it is the idea of getting a treat more than the treat itself.