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  1. #1
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    Default Clicker Training Primer or resources please?

    Today I had a setback with the new rescue horse, Bill. I'll be updating the blog sometime, but suffice it to say he had a little meltdown. He's been good since arrival and it was totally my fault, I let my guard down since he has been kind of easy.

    I want to give clicker training a shot with him. So, I have broken ink pen that makes a nice clicking noise. What else do I need? I found a bunch of videos on you-tube, but I'd really like a good primer to get me started. Anyone have a clear and well-written website or a book to recommend geared towards the basics? TIA!



  2. #2
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    Feb. 2, 2003
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    Try Alexandra Kurland's site: http://www.theclickercenter.com/

    Oh, and you actually don't need a "clicker." A pen that makes that sound will work, but I click with my tongue because I can't rely on the fact that I would have a clicker on me when I might need it! They say to start with a clicker and then eventually move on to making the sound with your tongue.

    Good luck, it's been a great tool for me!
    ******
    "A good horse and a good rider are only so in mutual trust."
    -H.M.E.



  3. #3
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    http://clickertraining.com/ for Karen Pryor's site.

    If you haven't read it, her book Don't Shoot The Dog is a must for a readable introduction to behavioral training. I think it's worth reading particularly if you aren't working with a clicker trainer.



  4. #4
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    Dec. 27, 2006
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    I have one of Alexandra Kurland's books, pictures are kinda crappy but the theory and philosphy are clearly presented, which is probably more important. Just to put in a plug for clicker training as a way to change relationships with difficult horses--or, rather one difficult horse, my Sadie. When I got her she was defiant, spooky, hated me and showed it in every way except biting, and I dont to this day know why she never thought to take a chunk out of me. She did kick, rear, run away, and give hateful looks on a nearly daily basis. ONE session with the clicker got her ears forward and started her on the road to cooperation.

    She is a big ol loving pet now and although she is not perfect by any means she is MUCH more obedient, very safe, able to spook in place, and hasnt offered to hurt me, get light in front, bolt, or any of her previous dreadful behavior in well over a year. And yes, I credit two things for the turnaround, regular riding and the clicker training. I think the latter made the former possible.

    Its fun to do with dogs, too, got too border collie mix puppies that I'm working with now. The Karen Pryor site has TONS of great information for many different species.



  5. #5
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    Nov. 2, 2001
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    lots of treats....
    Quote Originally Posted by Mozart View Post
    Personally, I think the moderate use of shock collars in training humans should be allowed.



  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alagirl View Post
    lots of treats....
    Yeah, Alagirl, that's how I usually win them over, 'cept this dude's amish and he doesn't get the whole treat thing. I thought I had won him over with carrots but after 2 days of taking them reliably, he now seems to have forgotten.

    Thanks for the sites/books to check out.



  7. #7
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    Jul. 18, 2004
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    YouTube is a great resource for visually getting the timing down on the whole process. Search YoutTube for the words like clicker, training, and horse.
    Sarah K. Andrew | Twitter | Blog | Horses & Hope calendar | Flickr | Website



  8. #8
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    Jul. 18, 2004
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alibhai's Alibar View Post
    YoutTube
    A typo that's too funny to correct. Must be my Jersey Girl personality shining through, ala My Cousin Vinny.
    Sarah K. Andrew | Twitter | Blog | Horses & Hope calendar | Flickr | Website



  9. #9
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    Apr. 1, 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by meaty ogre View Post
    Today I had a setback with the new rescue horse, Bill. I'll be updating the blog sometime, but suffice it to say he had a little meltdown. He's been good since arrival and it was totally my fault, I let my guard down since he has been kind of easy.

    I want to give clicker training a shot with him. So, I have broken ink pen that makes a nice clicking noise. What else do I need? I found a bunch of videos on you-tube, but I'd really like a good primer to get me started. Anyone have a clear and well-written website or a book to recommend geared towards the basics? TIA!
    I've done c/t with dogs, cats, horses, kids and co workers.

    You need:

    1. to understand that the click happens THEN the treat happens

    2. a plan. What is your goal and how are you going to get there?

    3. a motivated horse. Food works with my girls, but it didn't always. For some horses, it takes a bit for them to understand the marker will always equal a reward and it takes a bit for some humans to get past the worry that their horses will get grabby about food. Pats and good girl/boy almost universally don't work as well as something like pellets or a small bite of strategy.

    I almost always start with targeting when I have a horse that isn't familiar with c/t or marking a behavior. It's easy to see when the horse does it, and it's discrete....meaning either they touch the target or they don't.

    Keep your sessions short, maybe 5 or 10 minutes. You can do multiple sessions per training period but take a break between them.



  10. #10
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    Dec. 11, 2002
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    I also very highly suggest Alexandra's book. And suggest that you start with target training. It is an easy way to see if the horse gets it, and for you to work on timing.

    I would also suggest that you work on timing in other aspects of your day to day work with horses. I am not at all inferring that you don't have good timing. Just suggesting that you make yourself aware of that in your day to day. For instance, take note of how you lead your horses. When you take a feel of the rope and step off, and the horse follows, do you let the rope slack? Or are you one that keeps the rope taught? Train yourself to give that immediate release and reward.

    Don't worry about one meltdown. Really, it was probably bound to happen. You have a horse that does not understand what is expected of him. You find things going along pretty well, and you kind of forget his past. And whoops.......
    Nothing you can't gain back. Just think of breaking down what you want into little teensy steps and rewarding each step.

    Thank you for being the kind of human that cares enough to try
    I\'m not crazy. I\'m just a little unwell.



  11. #11
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    Thanks everyone for the resources and tips. I updated Dan and Bill's blog finally.

    So far I think I'm doing OK. Sobriska and 3dogpack, the timing thing is something I've really been thinking a lot about. A couple of times when Dan has been really pushy, I've thought about it and those are probably times when he has been a little hungry. From here on out with him I'm making a conscious effort to work with his feet and work on his ground manners when his belly is full. I've already noticed a difference. I feel dumb for not thinking of it before.

    With Bill, I also tried to use timing to my advantage. I waited until his dinnertime when I knew he'd be hungry and then went out armed with my grain and clicky pen. He came to me pretty quickly, which was rewarded and reinforced with the click/grain. I've watched some Youtube vids and I think I have the timing right. Session 2 I held the halter in my treat hand. My plan is to build to where the halter is the target that he has to touch to get his treat, and then eventually to get him to put his nose in the halter. This is definitely going to take some time and work, but so far, knock on wood, he's getting it.

    The hardest thing for me has been to make a window in my day where I know I won't be rushed. With a toddler and shiftwork, I often fall into the mindset of, "OK, I have exactly 20 minutes to get absolutely everything horse-related done!" Fortunately I don't have any close neighbors who would wonder why I was out in my paddock making clicking sounds at 11pm.

    Thanks for the help, and feel free to keep the tips coming.



  12. #12
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    Just bumping in hopes of additional feedback/input. In case I'm doing this all wrong.



  13. #13
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    Alexandra Kurland's book is an excellent resource, and really makes you think about the timing issue.

    If you have a dog, you might consider going to a clicker-training class with the dog, and then transitioning to the horse as well.

    Also, look at Kickin Back Ranch's website; they have a good in-depth clickertraining section: http://www.kbrhorse.net/pag/train.html

    Have fun.
    "The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky



  14. #14
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    OOh, good resource Posting Trot. Thanks!

    Their site says they turn wild mustangs out on their large acreage and then bring them back in no problem. If anyone knows how to do this, I guess they would!



  15. #15
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    May. 13, 2008
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    Stable manners, lifting feet voluntarily, learning to enjoy a bath, clipping, blanketing, loading, deworming, etc. I don't think there is a better, less stressful, or faster way to teach these skills than clicker training. It absolutely shines in that area. Due to a health situation I have never been able to progress to using it for riding, etc. but I have had excellent success with teaching everyday handling skills. (and some "not so everyday skills") Having my horses eagerly cooperate when I need to do any of these things is something that money can't buy.

    I would like to recommend that you add head lowering into your training sessions, if you have complete control of the head it will help to use it in conjunction with teaching him to put his head into the halter.

    I have 4 of Alex's original VCR tapes that I would be happy to loan to you. Just send a PM if interested. Do people even own VCR's anymore?? There is a lot of good stuff in them.

    Sharon
    Last edited by li'l bit; Oct. 14, 2008 at 03:33 PM. Reason: punctuation



  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by meaty ogre View Post
    Just bumping in hopes of additional feedback/input. In case I'm doing this all wrong.
    I went to the blog and read it, then added comments. I will put you on my blogroll and follow it so that I know when you post updates.



  17. #17
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    Thanks for the reply and additional tips. I have a lot to learn.

    I am trying hard to forget the fact that when Bill first arrived I was able to handle, bathe, lead him etc. I am pretty sure he was just shell-shocked. He is perfectly content to stay as far away from the 2-legged variety as possible.

    Bill is so tricky. He's not motivated by food. No suprise there as I'm sure the amish aren't big on treats. Based on his first reaction to grain I'm not even sure that was part of his past. That's why I incorporated the making him work when he retreats from me, because he is definitely one who gets the rest/reward connection. I started last night's session close to feeding time again hoping he'd be interested me and my grain, but I didn't get any response until I approached him. He turned to step away, so I chased him off. I dropped my pen, and as soon as I turned around and squatted to pick it up, Bill stopped and walked right up to me. I think by sheer dumb luck I must have channeled Monty Roberts and accidentally given him a "join up" signal. At any rate, the session ended well with me being able to rub the halter on his muzzle, and he did touch it with his nose to which I responded with the clicks and then the treat. After 3 times I quit there because I felt like it was a big deal for him.

    After reading your response on my blog 3dogpack, I agree that I am weakening the click/treat connection by using too many clicks. I also agree that maybe the negative reinforcement of making him work upon retreating from me isn't ideal, but because he isn't well motivated by the treats/grain I think I kind of need a boost to get him started? This is definitely a work in progress and I'll be evaluating and retooling as I get to know him. I would like to get rid of the moving him around part, but because the rest seems to be his best reward right now, I just don't know?

    As an aside, I did some clicker work with my TB Sunday and Monday, and he is a highly motivated soul anyway and really seems to get it. He picked his feet up well to start with, but in 2 clicker sessions I can get him to lift and hold his foot up unassisted by me. He is so much easier though because he will turn himself inside out for a peppermint. I think working with him, because he's easier, will help me with my timing and technique for Bill. Bill, he could care less about a peppermint, apple, carrot, alfalfa cube/pellet, grain, dumors....I can't find anything that he reliably seems to like. Other than resting.



  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by meaty ogre View Post
    Thanks for the reply and additional tips. I have a lot to learn.

    I am trying hard to forget the fact that when Bill first arrived I was able to handle, bathe, lead him etc. I am pretty sure he was just shell-shocked. He is perfectly content to stay as far away from the 2-legged variety as possible.

    this is incredibly common with rescues. They suppress ALL behavior when they don't know what to do, because they don't know what to do. This is also what most people want. They don't want horses, or dogs to offer anything not asked for.

    Bill is so tricky. He's not motivated by food. No suprise there as I'm sure the amish aren't big on treats. Based on his first reaction to grain I'm not even sure that was part of his past.

    My mare did not know what apples were, how to take treats nicely (still isn't good about that), what beet pulp was, what alfalfa pellets were. My suggestion to you would be to give him something for free a few times. Put a small amount in a feeder to see if he will at least taste it. If he will eat it out of a feeder, it's not the food, it's how it is presented.

    That's why I incorporated the making him work when he retreats from me, because he is definitely one who gets the rest/reward connection.

    Based on the suppressed behavior and the fact that he is leery of people, I'd say that the fact you make him run is NOT making the connection you think it is. He simply gets tired quickly enough that he can't keep going. There is a thing called a behavior chain that I would not want to put in place. I would not want him to say person with grain=run away=stop eventually=get grain. I would want to eliminate that run away totally. What will you do as he improves in body condition and stamina? Will he run away longer? Will he not come to you at all? This is why I want my horses to come to me without it. It can be a misleading thing to assume we know what he is thinking. As Sue Ailsby put it, her husband is the same species as she is with relatively the same experiences and she does not always know what HE is thinking.

    I started last night's session close to feeding time again hoping he'd be interested me and my grain, but I didn't get any response until I approached him. He turned to step away, so I chased him off. I dropped my pen, and as soon as I turned around and squatted to pick it up, Bill stopped and walked right up to me.


    I would think that the squatting down was what drew him in. I would use that. Rather than chase him off, I would squat down by the feed tub, as he approached (maybe before he even got to you) click and drop a very small handful of food in the tub and then retreat. If he is as leery of people as he seems, that is a double reward. Food and retreating.

    I think by sheer dumb luck I must have channeled Monty Roberts and accidentally given him a "join up" signal. At any rate, the session ended well with me being able to rub the halter on his muzzle, and he did touch it with his nose to which I responded with the clicks and then the treat. After 3 times I quit there because I felt like it was a big deal for him.


    Excellent. I also would quit 1) on a good note and 2) before he decided to quit the game.

    After reading your response on my blog 3dogpack, I agree that I am weakening the click/treat connection by using too many clicks. I also agree that maybe the negative reinforcement of making him work upon retreating from me isn't ideal, but because he isn't well motivated by the treats/grain I think I kind of need a boost to get him started?

    all animals need to eat and drink. That is why food is considered by most advanced trainers as a primary reinforcement. Most of the training we do is actually conditioning responses till they are habit that the training subject does not even think about (as in I don't even think about stopping at red lights now....I am conditioned to do so). I would use food at feeding time, in the same place, with only positive reinforcement. I would remove the food source if I did not get the response I wanted.

    I am presently training a nearly feral kitten. She has access to dry cat food all the time. But, her access to soft or canned food is limited. She must now take that off the spoon in order to eat it. That is not where I started about 6 sessions ago. Where I started was to put the food on her target eating area, then back off far enough she could come and eat. I then gradually counted my steps till I could stand next to the feeding platform. That took several days. Now my criteria is for her to eat off a spoon, but I still will not touch her, as she is not THAT confident yet.

    My point to this is you have to start where he is, not where you want him to be and you must be patient. Fear goes when it goes. Trust builds very slowly.


    This is definitely a work in progress and I'll be evaluating and retooling as I get to know him. I would like to get rid of the moving him around part, but because the rest seems to be his best reward right now, I just don't know?

    again, I would point out that the rest may become part of the behavior chain you don't want later. Many horses find it highly reinforcing to run or to make you chase them. how many times. have you seen a person following their horse around the pasture trying desperately to catch them? I personally don't want to work that hard, I want my horse to come to me.

    As an aside, I did some clicker work with my TB Sunday and Monday, and he is a highly motivated soul anyway and really seems to get it. He picked his feet up well to start with, but in 2 clicker sessions I can get him to lift and hold his foot up unassisted by me. He is so much easier though because he will turn himself inside out for a peppermint. I think working with him, because he's easier, will help me with my timing and technique for Bill.

    this is excellent for you. I would continue to work with your TB, honing your skills and also use this time to define your criteria and your training plan. What you want (and what you get) from your TB may be very different from what you get from Bill.

    Bill is a lucky lucky boy. He has a new owner that is willing to explore training methods and options. He has an owner that is willing to work to find a ways to communicate with him.


    Bill, he could care less about a peppermint, apple, carrot, alfalfa cube/pellet, grain, dumors....I can't find anything that he reliably seems to like. Other than resting.
    Many times (and especially with rescues) I've found that I must condition food to be something they want. My mare didn't like sweet feed, still does not like peppermints, had to learn to like apples and carrots and has a VERY limited palate as far as what she will work for. But with time and exposure to new foods, she has come around to a small handful of things she will eat and work for. Bill will get there, but it is going to take some time and some patience on your part.



  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by meaty ogre View Post
    Thanks for the reply and additional tips. I have a lot to learn.

    I am trying hard to forget the fact that when Bill first arrived I was able to handle, bathe, lead him etc. I am pretty sure he was just shell-shocked. He is perfectly content to stay as far away from the 2-legged variety as possible.

    Bill is so tricky. He's not motivated by food. No suprise there as I'm sure the amish aren't big on treats. Based on his first reaction to grain I'm not even sure that was part of his past. That's why I incorporated the making him work when he retreats from me, because he is definitely one who gets the rest/reward connection. I started last night's session close to feeding time again hoping he'd be interested me and my grain, but I didn't get any response until I approached him. He turned to step away, so I chased him off. I dropped my pen, and as soon as I turned around and squatted to pick it up, Bill stopped and walked right up to me. I think by sheer dumb luck I must have channeled Monty Roberts and accidentally given him a "join up" signal. At any rate, the session ended well with me being able to rub the halter on his muzzle, and he did touch it with his nose to which I responded with the clicks and then the treat. After 3 times I quit there because I felt like it was a big deal for him.

    After reading your response on my blog 3dogpack, I agree that I am weakening the click/treat connection by using too many clicks. I also agree that maybe the negative reinforcement of making him work upon retreating from me isn't ideal, but because he isn't well motivated by the treats/grain I think I kind of need a boost to get him started? This is definitely a work in progress and I'll be evaluating and retooling as I get to know him. I would like to get rid of the moving him around part, but because the rest seems to be his best reward right now, I just don't know?

    As an aside, I did some clicker work with my TB Sunday and Monday, and he is a highly motivated soul anyway and really seems to get it. He picked his feet up well to start with, but in 2 clicker sessions I can get him to lift and hold his foot up unassisted by me. He is so much easier though because he will turn himself inside out for a peppermint. I think working with him, because he's easier, will help me with my timing and technique for Bill. Bill, he could care less about a peppermint, apple, carrot, alfalfa cube/pellet, grain, dumors....I can't find anything that he reliably seems to like. Other than resting.
    one more question, do you want me to comment on the blog or keep the discussion going here or both?



  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by meaty ogre View Post
    Today I had a setback with the new rescue horse, Bill. I'll be updating the blog sometime, but suffice it to say he had a little meltdown. He's been good since arrival and it was totally my fault, I let my guard down since he has been kind of easy.

    I want to give clicker training a shot with him. So, I have broken ink pen that makes a nice clicking noise. What else do I need? I found a bunch of videos on you-tube, but I'd really like a good primer to get me started. Anyone have a clear and well-written website or a book to recommend geared towards the basics? TIA!
    this is an EXCELLENT blog to follow. I followed the links from Judy's post to your blog. This shows clearly how there is give and take, good days and bad as well as how quickly Little Man began coming around.

    http://clicker-training-little-man.blogspot.com/



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