When you are new to the idea of clicker training your horse you might ask yourself: How do I start? What do I need? Where do I buy these things? How do I teach my horse to respond to the clicker? These and more questions are answered in this blog to help you get started. (more…)
Posts tagged ‘“end of training session”-signal’
‘My horse can’t stop throwing behaviours at me since I started clicker training‘ or ‘My horse keeps doing tricks, even when I don’t ask him to do so‘ are common ‘problems’ when
people start clicker training their horse.
Problem? No, not at all!
I have written ‘problem’ between quotations marks because it is not ‘a problem’. It is in fact a normal part of the process: your horse is getting enthusiastic about the influence he now has on his training and of course he is excited about your rewards. It is a step you can’t skip.
Have encountered this problem when you started clicker training? I certainly have! I have struggled with this for a while and I didn’t know how to handle it. (more…)
In this series I will keep you posted about the young horse I am training in order to prepare her for the next farrier visit. I will call her A. in this blog. A. is scared to let people touch her legs, especially her hind legs. She kicks out when she feels something touching her hind legs.
In my last blog I wrote how I started her training. She is now used to the clicker. She knows that a click is an announcer of good things coming her way: appetitives (in this case treats). She understands my end of session signal that tells her that there are no more treats to be earned. (more…)
Clicker training or positive reinforcement is based on a simple concept: adding something the learner wants (an ‘appetitive’) in order to strengthen a behaviour. What can possibly go wrong with a simpel concept of noticing (a tiny step towards) the desired behaviour – mark the behaviour (‘click’) and reinforce (strengthen) it by giving the learner something pleasurable?
Theory versus Practice
Like every training method there is the theory which assumes the trainer, the target animal (learner) and the environment are perfect and then there is reality…
History of the Horse
Not all horses are blank slates. It is very rare to come across a horse that hasn’t been handled by humans before he’s trained by an experienced positive reinforcement trainer.
In other words, almost every horse already has a history with humans and he has already made lots of associations with situations, humans, things et cetera. Both good and bad.
If the horse has negative associations with certain cues, tack or situations the trainer has to counter condition (make them ‘neutral’ or ‘positive’) them first.
In positive reinforcement an appetitive is added to strengthen a behaviour. When the horse doesn’t understand what he has to do in order to earn the treat or if the horse is too excited by the high value treat, he can become frustrated.
If the trainer is not noticing little signs of frustration in the horse and doesn’t respond adequately the learned behaviour can regress or the horses loses interest in the exercise. If the frustration builds up the horse can even become aggressive.
Make sure your horse understands when he can and when he can’t expect food rewards. Implement a ‘start session’-signal and an ‘end of session’-signal.
Lumping criteria (making your steps too big) or raising criteria too quickly can cause frustration. Split the goal behaviour into enough steps that you can reward.
If the treats are too distracting and causing frustration, use low(er) value treats and make sure the horse is not hungry during training. Provide a full hay net during training.
Some horses are very excited once they discover that (high value) treats or other very desirable rewards can be earned in training. Due to their excitement they can get aroused or even over-aroused. If not properly addressed the physical signs (like dropping the penis or erection) can be reinforced (unconsciously) in training.
Prevention works best but in order to prevent this you have to have a keen eye for body language and behaviour. (Over)arousal can be caused by frustration, see above.
In order to counter condition and/or prevent reinforcing physical signs of arousal, start marking and reinforcing before the arousal happens. In other words: split the behaviour, increase the rate of reinforcement and counter condition the behaviour.
Like in any other training method there are many mistakes a trainer can make. I think that is inherent to learning a skill.
Find an experienced teacher to guide you around the pitfalls. There are enough things to learn without falling into them.
Are you interested in online personal coaching, please visit my website
In clicker training you use the clicker to teach new behaviours and every once in a while to confirm established behaviours.
- Let your click always be followed by a reward, even if your timing was wrong. That’s ‘part of the deal’.
- The receiver, the horse, determines the reward. Not the trainer. We can reward our horses with money or slaps/pats on their necks, but if we want to make clicker training ‘work’ we have to figure out what really motivates our horses.
- Keep training sessions short if you are teaching a new behaviour. I often use a kitchen timer to make sure my sessions are only 5 – 10 minutes, depending of the horse and the circumstances. Or I put a certain amount of treats (about 10 -12) in my pocket. This has taught me to check my treat supply often, and if I’m running out of treats I know it is time for a break. It prevents a click with no treat to follow up.
- Give your horse an “end-of-session”-signal so you can give him a break and you can get a refill. These tips help you not to over-train your horse. You can do multiple sessions in one training. Make sure you give your horse a break in between sessions. Sometimes allowing a roll or some grazing in between is a break. Or just getting on the other side of the fence will give your horse a break. Start your session with a “start-session”-signal, like clapping your hands or giving a verbal cue.
- Start teaching your horse the Key Lessons. It will give you and your horse the perfect building blocks for all kinds of other behaviours. It will teach the trainer timing and creates opportunities to practice basic mechanical skills like: cue- wait for behaviour – click- take a treat- present treat to horse- cue again, practice working with a training plan and logbook and train your observational skills.
- Train with the end goal in mind, then divide that behaviour into as many building blocks as you can think of. Write them down.
- Keep a training journal to keep track of your successes and of your points to improve.
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