Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ande's Duct Tape Lesson

Yesterday I decided to test Ande's Duct Tape Lesson. Basically what I was testing was his stimulus control. As defined by Karen Pryor, and copied directly from Katie Bartlett's wonderful website, stimulus control is:
1. The animal performs the behavior when the cue is presented

2. The animal does not perform the behavior if the cue is not presented (within that training session - what they do on their own time is not relevant)

3. The animal does not perform another behavior when presented with the cue

4. The animal does not perform that behavior when presented with another cue

So I wanted to see if I had all the different cues for the Duct Tape Lesson properly under stimulus control with Ande. To get the true context of the nuances of the lesson, you should really read Alex Kurland's Step-by-Step book, but this post will log what I did yesterday as a portion of the lesson.

The spots I was focusing on were: his chest to ask him to step back (you can see the way I taught this by doing a search for duct tape on this blog), his hip (the joint) to ask him to move his haunches over, the point of his buttock to ask him to go forward, and his shoulder to ask him to step over with his front feet. The ones I was most curious to see if he would distinguish were the step forward spot and the move haunches over spot. The spots are close enough that I wasn't sure if he'd get confused. I have taught him each of these cues on different days and focused on just those spots until I could get good responses from him with just a pointing of a whip at the spot. I wondered if by lifting the whip to the hip vs the buttock would be clear for him.

I began this session with the chest and just my hand as cue. I wanted to start with an "out of my space" session. I did between 5 and 10 trials and he was spot on (pardon the pun). Then I moved to the hip for haunches over. At this point I switched to a longe whip. My long term goal here was to get better control over his body on a longe line so using the longe whip just helped me stand in one place and reach the various spots and gave him yet another experience with the whip. The first time I pointed at the hip, it did require a tap, rather than just a point, but after a couple taps, he did step over for an immediate C/T. The 5+ trials after that only required a point. Then I switched to the point of buttock for the go forward cue. I was absolutely thrilled to see him immediately take a bold step forward- no question about which direction he was supposed to be going. I did several trials with go forward, then switched to hip over and he got it right away. I was careful to not to try to "trick" him. I wasn't trying to see if I could make him be wrong- that's the opposite of a clicker mentality. I tried to be very clear about where I was pointing and carried my body differently for each as well- more of a longeing position when I asked for the go forward, while I was facing more to the back when I asked for him to swing his hips.

So then we moved on to the shoulder which according to Alex's book should really be the withers but I cue the shoulder for leading purposes. Babies love to lean in to you when they are being led- they lean into each other that way all the time and push each other around. I want my young ones to respond to a light touch on their shoulder as I'm leading and step away from me. Percy is a CHAMP at this. He is absolutely too cute completely crossing his front legs when I ask him :) Ande's not quite so agile but does step away. This is also important for me with longeing because horses tend to spiral in on a circle when being longed. I want to be able to point my whip at his shoulder and have him move away, not because he is afraid of it, but because he has learned that is the correct and rewarded response.

So all in all, I was very happy with with how well he seems to understand all the different spots. Now I can go on and coordinate them all into the dance combinations that Alex suggests in order to teach him to rebalance himself regularly and find his own performance balance.

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