Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Clicker Training Fun – Cole’s New Tricks

Clicker Training Fun – Cole’s New Tricks

Some of Cole’s best tricks are the ones that I don’t train him for. (Silly walk, parking out, bowing.) He is always trying to learn something that will get him a treat.

When I first started cleaning Dante’s stall, if he was in it, he would keep playing with the wheelbarrow until he ended up dumping it. Ellen solved the problem by giving him a little hay to nibble on while she cleaned. This is what we do with Cole to keep him out of the way, too. Of course they love it. I decided I would try teaching Dante to stay away from the door with clicker training.

First, I taught him to back up away from the door. Of course, I clicked him. The next step was to teach him to stay away from the door. I clicked him for it and in about a week, he did pretty well. I would click every 3-4 shovels full. He didn’t get consistent, but he didn’t dump the wheelbarrow anymore, either. I had to reset him, a lot. Ellen didn’t do it, so if I didn’t clean his stall on a regular basis, he would get rusty and we would have to start all over. There was one side effect. He wanted to back up all the time whenever Ellen was doing something with him. Mounting became a problem. (Which Ellen fixed admirably with clicker training so he now lines up with the mounting block perfectly.) Cleaning Dante’s hind feet in his stall was sometimes a problem because he would back up to the wall. Ellen wasn’t too thrilled with me.

I was playing around with Dante for a few months before it occurred to me to try it with Cole Train. Wouldn’t you know it; he was perfect from the very first day. I just backed him away from the door and told him to stand. We do it this way most of the time, now. He just stands and watches me. Sometimes, he will park out, and now and then he will throw in a bow. Just like with Dante, I click and treat every 3-4 shovels full. Typical Cole—he seems to just love it. Actually, I’m not sure if it is the treats or the attention. Cole loves attention almost as much as he loves food.

I have spent a lot of time outside the stall reinforcing the “Stand” command, so it should be no surprise that he could do it in his stall. I guess the real surprise is why it took me so long to give it a try.

His second trick caught me by surprise, too. I have often clicked him for picking up his feet. When I first got him, he wasn’t good about it and gave my farrier a very tough time. I decided to use clicker to improve his hoof handling, and the next time the farrier came out—he was perfect. Since then, if I have some carrots at the end of the ride, I often click and treat him on the last hoof. He doesn’t need the clicker to do it—he is wonderful with his feet—I just do it to be nice.

All my life, I have always said, “Up” before lifting any hooves. I guess I do it to tell them I will be lifting a hoof up, presently. A few weeks ago, I said it and was slow in touching Cole’s leg—and he lifted it up before I could. I was surprised. I then tried it with the other three legs, and on each one, he lifted up his leg with a verbal request only. I clicked him and gave him carrots on the last one. Ever since, if I just say the word, he lifts his foot. He learned to anticipate my request. You can be sure I will save him carrots for hoof cleaning for now on.

What trick will Cole teach himself, next?


Camryn said...

Love it. We just rescued an Austrailian Cattle Dog. I noticed he'd "crawl" when he wanted to get to something when on lead. Sooooo, I've been building on it teaching him to "crawl" on command :]

Judi said...

Isn't clicker training wonderful? The best behaviors are the ones you capture when they volunteer it! I use it with my dog, too. If it wasn't for clicker, she would have been out living with the coyotes by now.

Hannah said...

Nice! Clicker training truly is fantastic.