Atty Cliff Notes on Trailer Loading, Session #90, 6-16-13

This clip is of the very last three minutes of an 11-minute session. This shows the behavior fully formed – get on, butt bar goes up, doors close. Then the reverse all in one go – back door opens, butt bar goes down, cue to back off.

To clarify what I do in practicing this chain of behaviors and what I’ve done almost throughout the process is this:

* Atty loads and he is rewarded, either by there being breakfast, treats, and/or a Stud Muffing in the hay bag or I click and treat when I meet him at his side door.

* I let Atty initiate the process by letting him target his boat bumper three times. I click and treat each one.

* I throw in a small handful of treats as I move to the back of the trailer.

* The things that I do:

+ I walk one or more steps toward the back of the trailer,
+ walk to the back and look in,
+ or touch a hock,
+ or rattle the butt bar,
+ or pretend to hook the butt bar,
+ or hook the butt bar,
+ or partially close the back door,
+ or fully close the back door.

* If we are successful, I walk up front, click him for looking at me out his side door, and treat him. Then the initiation with targeting the boat bumper begins again.

* If he steps back, I freeze in place for three to five seconds and then I walk up front again. I do not click or treat him. I wait for him to initiated the process again by targeting his boat bumper.

In the past, I’ve done many repetitions of each step. As he gets more comfortable and solid with one step, I move on to the next. As he is getting more comfortable and solid with the whole chain, I repeat each step fewer times. I had gotten down to three or four reps before moving on to the next step in the chain.

The last couple of days I’ve been able to do only two reps, or maybe even only one rep, before moving on to the next link.

This clip shows that I’ve tested to see if he could do the whole chain with no intermediate CT. And, YES, he CAN! 😀

Something that I had to emphasize for him was the targeting the boat bumper. To really make this salient for him, I started using Stud Muffin pieces for targeting, not just for loading. I would also use Stud Muffins, or pieces, for standing still for the particular link in the behavior chain we were working on.

Another bit is that I tried to mix it up with the Stud Muffins AFTER I thought he was getting the point of standing still or targeting. Sometimes he got Alam cubes and sometimes Stud Muffin pieces for either of those behaviors (targeting or standing still). Being flexible about the payment is a good thing!

One thing I want to point out is that it occurred to me that perhaps one of the reasons he is a bit sticky about coming out on cue is this: Throughout this whole process, one of the things I’ve really rewarded is his staying on the trailer and standing still (no backing up or moving around). How does he make the transition to staying on the trailer and backing out on cue?

I decided that part of my cue to back off is where I stand. I try to stand to his left when I’m doing other things, but stand to his right when I’m going to cue the back off. I also wait for him to look at me over his right shoulder before giving the cue. You’ll notice that he continues to look for me on the left, out his side door. When I’m not there, he looks for me over his right shoulder and I give him the cue again for backing off. Success!

Something that I had to emphasize for him was the targeting the boat bumper. To really make this salient for him, I started using Stud Muffin pieces for targeting, not just for loading. I would also use Stud Muffins, or pieces, for standing still for the particular link in the behavior chain we were working on.

Another bit is that I tried to mix it up with the Stud Muffins AFTER I thought he was getting the point of standing still or targeting. Sometimes he got Alam cubes and sometimes Stud Muffin pieces for either of those behaviors (targeting or standing still). Being flexible about the payment is a good thing!

One thing I want to point out is that it occurred to me that perhaps one of the reasons he is a bit sticky about coming out on cue is this: Throughout this whole process, one of the things I’ve really rewarded is his staying on the trailer and standing still (no backing up or moving around). How does he make the transition to staying on the trailer and backing out on cue?

I decided that part of my cue to back off is where I stand. I try to stand to his left when I’m doing other things, but stand to his right when I’m going to cue the back off. I also wait for him to look at me over his right shoulder before giving the cue. You’ll notice that he continues to look for me on the left, out his side door. When I’m not there, he looks for me over his right shoulder and I give him the cue again for backing off. Success!

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About Laurie Higgins

I play with clicker training - with my horses, dogs, and cats. I also attempt to grow vegetables with the hope of one day being able to feed my family from my garden. My daughter and I are learning ballroom dancing. Well, we were. But she left me for a paying horse job, so now my husband and I are learning ballroom dancing. I'm also now helping Peggy Hogan, of Clicker Training Horses (and The Best Whisper is a Click) to teach people how to train their own horses using "clicker training".
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