There are many ways to built on ‘duration’ in behaviours you train with positive reinforcement. I will give an example of building duration in stationary behaviours and building duration in moving behaviours. (more…)
Posts tagged ‘timing’
It was 1999 when I heard about clicker training for horses. I knew dolphins were trained with a whistle and fish to reward them, but that was about everything I knew. I decided to try it out with my 21 year old pony Sholto. I learned about learning theory during my study Animal Management, but no one could tell me how to start with Sholto. So I just started…
How I started clicker training
I can’t really remember what my thoughts were at the time, but I do remember I started with some really difficult trick training exercises: touching a skippy ball, Spanish walk and a Classical bow. The skippy ball became a ‘target’ and it was really hard to change ‘touching’ the ball into pushing the ball. That didn’t take my pleasure away, though. The Classical bow was a coincidence and I was lucky to ‘capture’ that behaviour. I can’t recall how we got to a Spanish walk.
What I learned using R+
When I started clicker training I had no idea what impact it would have on my future and my whole training approach. The most remarkable changes (in hindsight) are:
- I learned to ‘listen to my horse‘ by studying his body language
- I learned a lot about learning theory.
- I love to approach behaviour now as a matter of motivation: is the horse moving away from something or moving towards something? Is something else (than the training/trainer) more enticing? By looking at the motivation of the horse, I can now skip the whole ‘leadership’ and ‘dominance’ discussion in training.
- I learned to think out of the box and became more creative in training. I now have so many different ways to elicit behaviour and put it on cue.
- Shaping. I learned the power of shaping, a wonderful tool in training.
- The power of using a marker to mark (a step towards) the desired behaviour.
- Planning and the power of keeping a journal.
I truly believe that I wouldn’t have grown so much as a horse trainer if it wasn’t for positive reinforcement. One of the best changes is that I learned to focus on what goes well instead of what went wrong! A change that bears fruit in all facets of my life!
How about you?
What are your most remarkable changes since you started using positive reinforcement for your horse? How did clicker training influenced you as trainer, horse lover or in your personal life?
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When I started clicker training I thought it was a pretty simple and forward concept: ‘You bridge (click) the wanted behaviour and give the horse a treat. Make sure your timing is right. That’s all you need to know.’
Bridging and getting your timing right are both very important and it was an excellent start. I have been training horses with reward-based training since ’99 and I still learn so much every day. It helps that science is coming up with new discoveries, too. And that other trainers (horse owners as well as professionals) are sharing their experiences over the internet.
Of course timing is important. In clicker training we say: ‘You get what you reinforce.’ So if the horse is displaying some unwanted behaviours, that means that the trainer has a question to think about: Did I bridge or rewarded this behaviour in any way or is this be self-rewarding behaviour? In self-rewarding behaviour the horse found a reward which motivates him to do it again.
The timing of the bridge (click) and the timing of giving the reward are both important. Those two moments are reinforcing the behaviour of the horse at that time. So, if you click for a wanted behaviour and your horse is doing an unwanted behaviour (pinning ears, snapping, pawing) at the moment you give the treat, you are still reinforcing something you might not want. It might not show directly, but it will show sooner or later.
You are not only training just the behaviour but there can also be an emotion attached (associated) to that certain behaviour. In the beginning I never paid conscious attention to Sholto’s emotions back then, while I clicker trained him. I didn’t notice unwanted or dangerous emotions (rage, fear, over-arousal). To be honest I don’t think my pony experienced those during clicker training. He seemed very engaged and eager to work with me if I was preparing to do some clicker training.
Looking back at my training sessions using Natural Horsemanship this aspect was less important. The horse was required to fulfill his task regardless of his emotional state.
In clicker training it is much more a two-way communication. You have to be aware of your horses emotional state because it is a part of your training. When you click you click for all aspects of your horse at that time, his physical stance and his emotional state.
My current horse, Kyra (see picture), did express a lot of fear in the beginning and I started to take her emotions into account while bridging certain behaviours. I’ve learned that you can strengthen the a certain behaviour by reinforcing that behaviour.That behaviour might be very much attached to an undesired emotion. Now I pay a lot more attention to horses emotions when I bridge a behaviour and I can use this information to my advantage.
There is much more I can tell you that I have learned over the years. I am really excited every time I discover a new use for an old tool or approach. To me my journey to the reward-based training method still is very exciting.
What was one of your eye openers on your journey?
Read here part II of New Uses for ‘Old’ Tools in Clicker Training
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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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