"Doesn't that train the horse to bite?"
and "nothing you train that way is useful"
or "sure, you can train some TRICKS that way"
are all pretty common reactions to the clicker when I bring it out.
I use the clicker a LOT with ground manners, but ever since reading Karen Pryor's "Don't Shoot The Dog" I've been using it a lot more under saddle.
|Can you spy the treat pouch and clicker here?|
I have a lengthy discussion of dressage + clicker training that I'm going to bring out over the next few days, but I'll use the above gelding as an illustrative anecdote. His rider is a confident rider but she's quite small. He had a habit of bulling out over the shoulder and running away from jumps.
Now you can approach solving it in a lot of ways, so we first lowered the jumps, revisited what the outside rein means through serpentines and turns on the hindquarters, worked over trot poles, did some conditioning, checked saddle fit, gave him more time, used funneling placing poles... All of which helped. It really did.
But not to the point that I ever really felt he understood that his job was to go over the jump. Perhaps even that is too anthropomorphic. Those tools never got him to the point where he was consistently under stimulus control with jumping anything 2' or higher.
Until we introduced the clicker. A few sessions in the barn (less than five minutes) to get him familiar with the clicker as a bridge cue, then we threw the tool to the sharks, so to speak, and just clicked for jumping. We built a positive association with jumping.
Now I would argue he's a quite confident jumper, having shown at two facilities and schooled cross country without trouble.
There were other ways to accomplish this, yes. But this is how I went about it.
There are two sets of very important information that I'm going to steal directly from Pryor's book before I launch into my further discussions of clicker training and why I think positive reinforcement is an important tool to keep in mind.
First: 10 Laws of Shaping. (I feel that most of this applies to training using ANY method, so this is an important list.)
- Raise criteria in increments small enough that the subject always has a realistic chance for reinforcement.
- Train ONE aspect of any particular behavior at a time; don't try to shape for two criteria simultaneously.
- During shaping, put the current level of response onto a variable schedule of reinforcement before adding or raising the criteria.
- When introducing a new criterion, or aspect of the behavioral skill, temporarily relax the old ones.
- Stay ahead of your subject; plan your shaping program completely so that if the subject makes sudden progress, you are aware of what to reinforce next.
- Don't change trainers in midstream; you can have several trainers per trainee, but stick to one shaper per behavior.
- If one shaping procedure is not eliciting progress, find another; there are as many ways to get behavior as there are trainers to think them up.
- Don't interrupt a training session gratuitously; that constitutes a punishment.
- If the behavior deteriorates, "go back to kindergarten"; quickly review the whole shaping process with a series of easily earned reinforcers.
- End each session on a high note, if possible, but in any case quit while you're ahead.
Second: 8 methods of eradicating behavior
- Method 1: "Shoot the animal." (This definitely works. You will never have to deal with that particular behavior in that particular subject again.)
- Method 2: Punishment. (Everybody's favorite, in spite of the fact that it almost never really works.)
- Method 3: Negative reinforcement. (Removing something unpleasant when a desired behavior occurs.)
- Method 4: Extinction; letting the behavior go away by itself.
- Method 5: Train an incompatible behavior. (This method is especially useful for athletes and pet owners.)
- Method 6: Put the behavior on cue. (Then you never give the cue. This is the dolphin trainer's most elegant method of getting rid of unwanted behavior.)
- Method 7: "Shape the absence"; reinforce anything and everything that is not the undesired behavior. (A kindly way to turn disagreeable relatives into agreeable relatives.)
- Method 8: Change the motivation. (This is the fundamental and most kindly method of all.)
Pryor, Karen. Don't Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training. New York: Bantam, 1999. Print.
Do you have any familiarity with clicker training? Do you resonate with any of those methods of eradicating behavior? What about the guidelines for shaping behavior?