In this series I will be sharing 6 interesting facts I didn’t know about when I started using positive reinforcement in training animals. This is part 1.
Some of these are common misunderstandings people have about clicker training while others are facts most equestrians don’t know at all.
The goal of this blog is to help more people understand how well positive reinforcement (R+) works in training our horses. I want every one to know that clicker training offers more great benefits besides training your goal behaviour. Positive side-effects you won’t get in negative reinforcement (R-) based training methods (traditional and natural horsemanship). I wish I had known these benefits earlier in life.
#1 The purpose of clicker training is to teach new behaviours or retrain undesired behaviours
People often get the wrong impression about equine clicker training. They think you need to keep clicking and feeding for ever. That’s not true at all!
I think it is because there are so many videos out there about teaching our horses new behaviours. If you see a lot of those videos you indeed can get the wrong impression and could be mistakenly thinking that we clicker trainers never stop clicking and are always giving treats.
Once the horse understands the new or more desirable behaviour, the marker (click) and food are faded out.
We still reinforce the behaviour once in a while with an appetitive (treat, praise, scratches or with other reinforcing behaviour), but we don’t keep clicking and feeding treats for the same behaviour over and over.
If we would do that, it would decrease the goal behaviour rather than it would keep it’s quality or increase it.
Part of the power of positive reinforcement is that there is a chance of getting a reward once the behaviour is trained. That chance can also involve to do other behaviour (one that they really like to do). That will make the horse always want to perform his best.
After the first few sessions of clicker training the horse starts to pay attention to the click and his behaviour at the the time of the click.
In clicker training he focus shifts pretty quickly from the food to the click and their own behaviour.
If people make videos about clicker training their horse, they are usually filming behaviour that is in the process of being taught, not behaviours that are already well trained and established. Therefor the horse is clicked and reinforced a lot in those videos.
The clicks and treats are faded out after the goal behaviour is trained.
Stay tuned. Read here part 2 of 6 Things You Might Not know About Clicker Training.
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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I help horse owners get results in training they really, really want. Getting results with ease and lots of fun for both horse and human is important to me. Win-win!
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