Random Thoughts: Horse, Cat, Dog, 8-1-2019

https://codexplo.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/thought_bubble-random-thoughts2.png?w=560A collection of random thoughts about training:


With Diamond the pony, most of my issues have to do with chaining extraneous behaviors in with the behavior I want.

For example, I want to clean out her feet.  There is definitely a problem with the right front.  Diamond must think she’s doing the Hokey Pokey because she shakes it all about.  Since she’s neurological, I put some of this behavior down to her not really knowing where her hind end is and, therefore, having some balance problems.  But as I continue to work on it – thin slicing more, raising the Rate of Reinforcement (RoR) – rather than just trying to get through cleaning it, the better she’s getting at keeping it still.  Maybe half a point for me.

Then I move to her right hind and things have gotten kind of weird again.  Recently, she started really raising that right hind out to the side and high and reaching around with  her head and neck as if she’s trying to scratch her head or something.  What the heck is going on?  My back is to her, so I can’t see what she’s doing when.  Barefoot Horse Blog: Hoof Reading 3

Looking over my shoulder or under my arm, I noticed that, when I walked back to her hind end, she took a step out to the side and a bit back with the right front.  She’s trying to follow me!  Why she put in the rest after that is beyond me, but the job is to clean up the behavior so that she keeps that right front planted in place and doesn’t try to follow me.

The behavior of following me is, as Peggy Hogan says, a way to stay in “feeding position”.  That is, she wants to stay in relative position with me to facilitate my feeding her.  I feed her, usually, when I’m at her shoulder.  Therefore, she needs to keep her shoulder near me!

Okay, it’s back to peeling myself off her shoulder.  We practiced that for a bit so I could clean out her foot.

Some time after that while grooming, I went to brush her tail.  She started turning to the right again to bring her right shoulder to me again!  We went a few circles and then she found the right position in the wash rack, I clicked, and reinforced.  However, for this girl, if she does it a second time, that means that she’s baked the accessory behaviors into a chain and I’ve inadvertently reinforced them.  Back to just reinforcing the position in the wash rack and moving to the tail without her trying to follow me.  Thin slice and reinforce more often.


Ebony the barn cat is another interesting puzzle.  I’m trying to shape him into going into the cat carrier.  He’ll go in for his food, especially for wet food.  But, for some reason, I wanted to shape him to go into it on his own.  We did have that until I actually had to take him to the vet.

Maybe my life isn’t complicated enough?https://i.pinimg.com/736x/46/e5/bd/46e5bd5e45ed7987ad72217c02ad03f4--bombay-cat-cheese.jpg

Anyway, I just find it interesting how things develop in a way that I didn’t envision.  My goal is for him to enter the carrier.  But as to the many little steps in between, I didn’t imagine.  Then he shows me a refinement that I hadn’t thought of.  Cool.

One was eating a treat and keeping his head forward.  Cats don’t chew all that much, so I had to be on my toes to click before he looked at me.

Then one day, I accidentally touched his ear (or he touched me) and he freaked and fled.  Now he anticipates that my hand will go past his head and he flattens his ear to avoid touching me.  I just love it.


Finnian is a new dog (to me) who is a 14-month-old Golden Retriever.  Within three days, he figured out that the mudroom door led to the outside where I threw tennis balls for him.  He gets excited about that and rushes the door.

But it’s also the door we humans go out of for lots of other reasons that don’t include Finnian.  And that makes it hard to get out the door.  Teaching a stay helps.

The other door he goes out of means he gets put on a 30-foot tether.  He gets to play with a toy and have my husband accompany him or work next to him.  It’s still boring compared to chasing tennis balls.

Now a good two or three weeks in, I’ve finally realized that I’m also associated with chasing tennis balls and he gets really excited to see me, expecting that I’m the fun one and hubby’s the boring one.

I’ve changed things so that he goes out the mudroom door to a different longe line on a zip line.  He can go farther and still play with toys but I’m just going to sit in a chair and watch.  He can get to the horses while on this tether and I don’t want him to so I have to actively watch what he’s doing, sneaky boy.Golden Retriever Pictures and Information | Dog Breed ...

The point, however, is to make that door and me boring!

I swear the dog is smarter than I am!

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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