Trailering Skills, Session #123, 12-2-13

Yesterday, I set things up to be exactly as the day before: After breakfast, treats including Stud Muffin in the hay bag in the trailer, ask Atty to walk out with at liberty, through the paddock, paddock gate, and to the trailer.

However, he did seem quite distracted – head high, looking off toward a back pasture. I’m sure he was hearing something I couldn’t and it was a very still and quiet day. Overcast, but very quiet with no wind. Then I heard something that made me think it might be the dog. I called the dog to me and Atticus settled down.

And everything went according to plan. Yay! Atticus walked out with me, we passed the pedestal, and he walked with me toward the trailer. I would wait a second or two for him to initiate a walk step, then I’d CT. I really want him to offer to walk toward the trailer.

He loaded and I went to his door, did our routine, and walked back. He did back off here. But I just waited him out until he found there was nothing very interesting to eat. He loaded again and I did our routine again. While I don’t want to build a behavior that Atty thinks is “load and get a Stud Muffin, so unload so I can load again and get another Stud Muffin”, I do want to reward getting on. I did give him another SM.

Then back to the routine – touch the target three times and get clicked and rewarded each time.

I went to the back and touched a hock. Good he stayed on, he gets a “routine”. Go back and rattle the butt bar. Good he stayed on, he gets a “routine”. Go back and hook up the butt bar, go up front and do the routine. Then I closed the back door and did the routine. Then I walked up to the truck, turned on the engine, did the routine. Then I walked up to the truck and turned off the engine, came back and did the routine.

At some point in this session, he was very alert to something I couldn’t hear while he was on the trailer. After a few minutes, I could finally hear what he was hearing – sirens. Once they were clearly heard by me and I didn’t react, he calmed down. I don’t know why that coincides. I only know that once we could both hear it clearly, he seemed to accept the sound.

Then I worked in reverse – open the back door, routine, drop the butt bar (he stayed on!), routine, go back to cue off. It took three tries to get him to come off, but I’m okay with that.

We took a short break and walked down toward the pedestal but came back right away. I wanted to see if he would willingly load again right after having been on the trailer while the truck engine was on.

He did load again and we repeated the whole scenario all the way through to turning the engine on again and off again. However, when I went to unhook the butt bar, he back up two steps. I let it stay hooked and waited a few seconds. Then I went up front and did our routine again and I gave him an SM, so that might get the idea that staying on paid and paid well. I do try to remember to sprinkle in SM in different places, not just for loading.

As we went through the unloading routine, which he did very well at each step, and then not getting off right away even though I cued the back off. I’m still okay with this. I’d rather have that than having him rush off.

From here we played with the pedestal and it’s so fun to revisit something you thought was already trained only to find that there are ways to get it even better, cleaner, clearer, more refined.

From the pedestal, we went back to the paddock and the hay box where I released him with a handful of treats.

Then I refilled my pouch so that I could come back and clean his feet while he was at the hay box. He has been reluctant to stay in place while I do that. Probably because I really hadn’t trained him to have his feet cleaned wherever I choose to do it. Clear CT works wonders! He stayed in one place while I cleaned his feet there.

We’ll play some more today.

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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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