Trailering Skills with Atty, Sessions #101-103

Since taking two five-day workshops with Bob Bailey, I have also taken some time off from training, from training with video, and writing about it. I really needed a break. I also went to Washington State to visit my parents who are now 95 and 96. I wanted to “help” my mother turn 96. 🙂

Back to training. Here are my recollections of the next three session I did with Atty and the trailer. Some time has elapsed since the sessions and “recollections” are not the same as actual notes and data collection. Such is life.

Session #101

The engine was on and the side door closed and Atty was not wearing his halter and lead, but Atty got right on the trailer, until I walked toward the back of the trailer. Then he got off again. But he got right back on and we practiced my taking a step or two and coming back to him at the side door.

I’d open the side door, click, treat, and wait for him to touch his target three times, clicking and treating each one. Then I’d close the door and walk again. He stayed on a few times and then got off, either partially, fully, or only backed up a step or two.

I didn’t want to spend all day on this nor did I want to raise criteria too soon. The next time he got off and started eating grass rather than getting back on, I ended the session.

Session #102

In this session, I left the truck engine off but Atty was wearing his halter and lead rope. He got on and we practiced my walking to the back of the trailer as we did in the previous session.

I didn’t want to raise criteria too soon; I wanted to know that he reached an 80% success rate. Instead of my usual arbitrary three reps, I chose to do ten reps. It’s easier to calculate 80% based on ten reps – eight out of ten, but not necessarily eight in a row. Just eight out of ten.

We did ten reps of my walking to the back of the trailer, eight where he stayed on. He backed off after four and again after another three. That’s eighty percent. I raised criteria to now touch a hock. He was able to do ten reps of touching a hock, although he got off (either partially or fully) twice. Again that’s 80%. But I stopped there. He also backed off on cue.

Session #103

This session was the same as the previous one. I did not start with walking to the back and just practicing that part. I went straight to touching his hock. Again he met the 80% level with two partial or full back-offs. Then I started rattling the butt bar. He backed off on the first one. Then he stayed on for all but one of the next nine. He tends to back off at about rep numbers four and seven, roughly speaking. He did back off on cue.

I could have upped the ante again, but decided not to at this point. Again I wanted to keep the session short. In real life I would never ask him to do this much.

And, now, reviewing my notes with Bob Bailey’s “Discrimination” workshop, there should have been two sessions where Atty met criteria at 80% before moving on. And one I remembered while training is the trainer should only train ONE behavior per session and only ONE criterion per session. That means that if you’re ready to raise criteria, take a break first and raise criteria at the start of the NEXT session! The things that I learned with Bob that are finally bubbling up into my consciousness! 

And, I have verified that places such as the Shedd Aquarium train their exotic animals six times a day. I’m still not sure if those animals are trained for five, six, or seven days a week, though. Places like the Shedd will spend at least six months training an animal for transport to another facility. At six sessions a day, five days a week, for six months, that’s 792 sessions! And these animals are never expected to make round trips. Ever. Much less in one day. We expect a lot of our horses!

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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