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  1. #1
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    Jun. 11, 2004
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    Default Spinoff: Treats - how to stop mouthy behavior

    I read the treats thread with great interest as the use of treats greatly accelerated his learning both on the ground and under saddle. The downside is that he can be mouthy now, asking for treats. I'm quick to reprimand, as he only gets a treat for a correct response/behavior. However, with others he sometimes seeks treats which can be annoying.

    How have those of you who give treats extinguished the pushy behavior?



  2. #2
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    I taught both of my overly "friendly" young horses to turn their head away before they get their treat. No treat until they turn their head slightly away from me. They both got it amazingly fast. Training is easy - its just a matter of timing.



  3. #3
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    I'll second the above. You might want to google clicker training for horses--clicker training is all about the timing of the reward. My horses beg for treats sometimes but have learned that "nothing doing" means just that. they learn to be polite very quickly.

    However, if other people let them get away with being mouthy, they'll work those other people for all they are worth. I sometimes ride with a lady who my horses know darn well they can sucker for a goody. They are easier to train than she is.



  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by millerra View Post
    I taught both of my overly "friendly" young horses to turn their head away before they get their treat. No treat until they turn their head slightly away from me. They both got it amazingly fast. Training is easy - its just a matter of timing.
    Would you mind describing how you did this? Did you use a clicker?



  5. #5
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    Feb. 28, 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by millerra View Post
    I taught both of my overly "friendly" young horses to turn their head away before they get their treat. No treat until they turn their head slightly away from me. They both got it amazingly fast. Training is easy - its just a matter of timing.
    exactly. its very easy to teach.

    Stand by your horse and fetch a treat from your pocket, etc., Make it very obvious that "a treat is coming..." so your horse gets all excited and goobery. Hold the treat in your closed fist, ready to offer but not quite... stand patiently and allow him to mob you all he wants, don't reprimand (but not biting, biting I would swiftly punish, everything else is ok though, stand your ground and don't get knocked down!)... the *instant* he turns his head away, "GOOD BOY!" and give the treat. It may take a good long while, and a lot of annoying mobbing before he turns his head, but eventually he will do it. You will be AMAZED how fast he'll learn to politely turn his head

    Also, dont' do this on the xties or anywhere where his head is restricted, teach it at liberty in a stall or paddock. He must have full range to find the answer on his own. Its important to let him do all the mobbing and not get punished for it... this way it is CLEAR that mobbing doesn't work, but there IS a right answer to get the treat.

    after they get this, I quickly advance the lesson to "stand at arms length and turn your head" 'cause my mustang will turn his head politely but stand on your toes whilst doing so


    The conundrum with feeding treats and punishing mobbing behavior is that its awfully confusing for some horses. By hand feeding you are rewarding the invasion of your personal space bubble, but then punishing it at other times. Some horses find this very frustrating and become snappy, bargey and irritable etc. The best way I have found to deal with this is to not punish pushy behavior, but train a good response (like above) and 'discourage' the mouthiness. I discourage a mouthy horse by being incredibly annoying when he invades my space... if he sticks his big fat schnoz in my face and starts to beg, I grab his head, snuggle his muzzle roughly, stick my fingers up his nose, play with his lips and tongue, etc, etc, etc, I do this firmly and in a non-threatening but very non-pleasant way... I be *really* annoying until they remove their heads from my space.

    For years I hand fed my first horse, who was dangerously mouthy, and for years I had to constantly punish his mouthiness. I tried every kind of punishment, some of them rather awful, and now I look back and feel so stupid for having punished my horse for doing something I was essentially rewarding him for. but we moved on.



  6. #6
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    Thank you! I'm on the way to the barn and will give this a go!



  7. #7
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    Nov. 9, 2005
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    treats - remember treat also make a bad behaviour ten time worse as your rewarding them to do so.
    treats cause most mouthy problems and problems later ie around gates turning out or bringing in they see you but want whats in your pocket also cuases lunging over stable doors and biting and nipping

    if you eant to give treat then there a time and place ie in his dinner bowl as extra reward

    if one is asking the question how to stop mouthing then dont feed it treats as it will make that behaviour ten times worse



  8. #8
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    I think the best idea is to stop feeding treats, in that situation.

    Some horses can 'handle' being fed by hand, and some cannot. if they can't, don't feed from the hand.

    We have a very quiet old horse that takes treats very well (he always did). We have a pony who does not.

    With some horses, they get so excited about the treat they even forget what they were learning. IN this case it is counter productive.

    Rather than trying to teach him to turn his head away, which I think is confusing and unfair, and likely to not work when someone other than the owner is passing by, as well as being dangerous with a more aggressive horse, we just don't feed him treats from the hand. They go in his bucket. He knows it. he stands by the bucket and waits for the treat. Everyone is happy, no one gets bit or knocked over.

    I think of treats as 'highly optional'. If it's not working to feed the horse by hand, don't do it.



  9. #9
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    Mar. 4, 2007
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    My mare received treats from her previous owner, but never from her hand. Always in her bucket. The previous owner would say, "go to your box" and mare would head over there where she was promptly rewarded.

    Mare is nearly 14, and I've had her nearly 2 years. On rare occasions I will hand-feed her a treat. It's always at the end of our time together, usually just before or after I slip off her halter. Most of them go into her bucket with her grain.

    I don't think she would develop mouthiness, but I'd rather not find out.



  10. #10
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    Feb. 4, 2002
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    Ditto to this

    My horse learned in about 5 minutes how to behave!

    Quote Originally Posted by millerra View Post
    I taught both of my overly "friendly" young horses to turn their head away before they get their treat. No treat until they turn their head slightly away from me. They both got it amazingly fast. Training is easy - its just a matter of timing.
    ~* Life is the dance you choose *~



  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by slc2 View Post
    I think the best idea is to stop feeding treats, in that situation.

    Some horses can 'handle' being fed by hand, and some cannot. if they can't, don't feed from the hand.

    We have a very quiet old horse that takes treats very well (he always did). We have a pony who does not.

    With some horses, they get so excited about the treat they even forget what they were learning. IN this case it is counter productive.

    Rather than trying to teach him to turn his head away, which I think is confusing and unfair, and likely to not work when someone other than the owner is passing by, as well as being dangerous with a more aggressive horse, we just don't feed him treats from the hand. They go in his bucket. He knows it. he stands by the bucket and waits for the treat. Everyone is happy, no one gets bit or knocked over.

    I think of treats as 'highly optional'. If it's not working to feed the horse by hand, don't do it.
    Yep! Some horses really can't handle it.
    Luistano Stallion standing for 2013: Wolverine UVF
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IZPHDzgX3s



  12. #12
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    Feb. 4, 2009
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    It's a common misconception that food motivated horses "can't handle" treats. It's those horses that are the fastest to learn what earns a treat and what doesn't. Grabbiness/mouthiness etc are very common pitfalls to avoid.

    The very first thing I teach is 'treat taking manners'. I, like Buck22, teach the horse to turn her head away to receive the treat. I started working with my mare from outside her stall. She had a dutch door that was open on top. When I first got her, she had no concept of my personal space, and was a confirmed biter. (and that's WITHOUT ever having received a treat). Starting with her in her stall was a safety measure for me. I used clicker training, pairing the click sound with a treat. I would click the instant her nose went an inch away from me. After several repetitions, she started ducking her nose back behind the door to get her click and treat. This evolved into being able to do the same exercise with a stall guard, then without any barrier. Once there was no barrier, I would click/treat the 'nose away from me' behavior, then walk slightly into her space to give the treat so she'd weight shift back, to take a step back to be fed.

    Once your horse has this down, its important to follow the rule each and every time the horse is given any kind of treat. My horse now has very good manners around food with me, or anyone else. She automatically backs up if you're coming in with a bucket of grain, and stays out of your space until you invite her in.

    The other rule that is helpful, is that I ONLY offer treats if we're in a training session using click/treat. No click, no food. That way she is never expecting food out of the blue, and she never mugs pockets etc. looking for food. Horses do what works. If mugging NEVER works, they stop doing it. No need for smacking.

    If a horse gets 'out of his mind' excited with food around, consider other rewards. A reward meaning something the horse will actively work for - not just something WE think he should like. You can also consider 'less exciting' treats. I use Blue Seal Hay Stretcher for training treats, and sugar free mints for extra-special efforts.

    It is a myth that some horses can't be rewarded with treats, but it is true that some PEOPLE should not use food, as they are too inconsistent. ("Oh, look, he's nudging my pockets - that's so cute - I'll just give him one treat")

    Try clickryder.com (a yahoo group) if you're interested in how professional trainers use food for positive reinforcement.

    Good luck,
    m



  13. #13
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    Jan. 1, 2008
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    I generally follow what mjmvet mentioned although I do not use clicker training. The concepts are similar. Horses receive a treat for doing something I wish to reward, not every time they exhibit a certain behavior. They do not know when it is coming. Therefore, they do not get mouthy and expect a treat because they never get one under these circumstances. I do not allow mouthy behavior so I would never give hand-food to a horse being mouthy. Treats can be a powerful tool when training horses and dogs. People as well.



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