Just Feeding the Chicken, 11-7-13

11-7-13, Trailering Skills Session #113

Bob Bailey: “If your criteria are too low, you’re just feeding the chicken.”

Yesterday it was raining, not terribly hard, but a steady, light rain. Atty does not like rain coming down on the trailer while he’s in it.

I brought everyone into the barn to start and then had Atty follow me to the trailer by carrying his food bucket. He did follow me, but only as far as the gate from the paddock to the lane where the trailer is. Then he turned away. I put his food in the trailer and the opened the gate again and showed him the empty bucket. He came through the gate then but wandered around a bit. I stood by his side door, dropped in a Stud Muffin, and asked him to come on in. He did get on and then I left. I think he only took one mouthful of breakfast and then got off again.

I left him there with the trailer and fed the other boys and let the chickens out. It seemed that he would get on to get a bite and then get off.

I thought I might try using a mat to make it more clear for him as to what he’s supposed to do while in the trailer. I brought out a sheet of plywood that I have that is about 3×3 feet. I put it down near the trailer and clicked and treated for his standing on it. I asked him to back off (CT, of course) so that I could move it. He stepped on it immediately! Not helpful, though! I asked him to back off again (CT) and then I stood between him and the board so that I could move it without his trying to stand on it again!

He offered to stand on it and I CT’d. Then I moved it again, but all the way in the trailer near the front. He got on the trailer and I wanted to CT for his standing on the mat, but I’m not sure that that was clear to him. I clicked when he got to it and stood on it (in the trailer), but he had to wait until I got up front for the treat.

He seemed distracted and bothered (I assume by the sound of the rain) but he offered to target the boat bumper, so I CT’d that. He’d stay for a few and then back off. I waited and asked him from the front if he’d come back on. He would, stay for a bit, and then back off. However, the length of time he stayed on seemed to lengthen with each try and I delivered treats one at a time almost constantly.

Still, by the end of our session, I kind of felt like I was “just feeding the chicken”. But in reality, I don’t think so. I think that that was all he could offer me that day.

11-8-13, Trailering Session #114

Today, the weather was clear and crisp, but Atty seemed distracted again. He kept looking off to the field or beyond to the trees. There was an odd noise coming from that direction, but I don’t know what it was.

To start, I brought Atty’s food bucket through the paddock to have him follow me through the gate. He had to chase Ollie off a couple of times (resource guarding), but he still did not want to follow me through the gate until I put his breakfast on the trailer and came back with an empty bucket. This is strange to me. Why would he come for an empty bucket but not a full one?

I used the mat again and brought it out of the trailer to get a few more tries with it outside the trailer and build some reinforcement history. He readily offered to stand on it. I backed him off and I moved it one foot closer to the trailer. He stationed on it again. Then I put it inside the trailer right at the edge at the back. He put one foot on it and I began shaping the behavior – one foot on, tense the muscles to lift up, stand up and put the other foot on, and so on. Then he just got all the way on. I went up front and CT’d and did our routine.

I asked him to back off and I moved the mat one foot farther in. He repeated the behavior slowly so that it could be shaped. But once he got two feet on, he just got all the way on. This time when I backed him off, I moved the mat all the way to the front, and he got all the way on.

From here, again I tried to click and treat for standing on the mat, but I’m still not sure that that’s what I was CT’ing him for. So I just went back to our routine, but I was doing nearly everything from the far side of the trailer as I had two days ago.

I still wouldn’t say that it was our most promising day of trailering skills practice, but I’m sure it wasn’t wasted time either.

We used the “mat” again. I brought it

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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3 Responses to Just Feeding the Chicken, 11-7-13

  1. Lisa Rossman says:

    Laurie, I love reading about this journey with you and your boy. Thank you for posting 🙂
    Lisa Rossman-your roomie in Nashville


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