Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How do you scare a Quarter Pony?

So far I haven't managed to do it :) Ande is just not bothered by ANYTHING. I decided some sacking out with plastic was in order for the babies and found a bright green woven plastic 50 lb. dog food bag. It was small enough for me to manipulate with one hand but large enough to stand on. I held it out to him and he sniffed it, C/T. I put it on the ground and asked him to step forward to it. He pawed it once and it flipped up under his belly. No problem. I had clicked and so he just waited for the treat. I replaced the bag and put my own foot on it so it wouldn't move. He pawed it a couple times (lots of noise!) then stepped on it with one foot. No problem. I asked for more forward and he stomped on it with the other foot. No problem. He did get C/Td for each step but there was no hesitation or concern in his eyes. I backed him off and back on a couple times and you wouldn't even have known that he hadn't been doing this for years.

So then I picked up the bag and touched his shoulder with it. No problem. Rubbed it on his neck. So what? Again, I'm still CTing so he knows that his stillness is what I am asking of him. I rubbed the bag over his barrel, under his tummy, wrapped it around his front leg, plopped it on his butt, slid it down his hind legs, draped it over his rump and asked him to walk off. The bag slid off and his muscles tensed suddenly when it hit his hocks on the way down but I had already clicked so he stopped, took his treat and walked off again after I replaced the bag.

I moved on to to asking him to step on the bag with his hind feet. This was more challenging. He still wasn't worried, he just didn't wasn't sure he wanted to step on something he couldn't see. He would pick up a hind foot and hold it up high, not quite sure where to put it down. When asking this, I didn't try to place his foot. I wanted HIM to CHOOSE to step on the bag because there would be reinforcement for doing so. So I put a little pressure on the lead (little pressure) asking him to step forward. As soon as he gave in the slightest, I would release the lead- he had responded to my request appropriately. This didn't earn a click because yielding to pressure on the lead is not new to him- I expect it and he did it willingly. He put his foot down in front of the bag- having stepped entirely over it. That was fine- it was his choice. I wasn't going to make him step on it. I asked for a small step back. Again his foot went up high and then when it came down, he stepped on a corner of the bag. Click Treat! Once we had that step, I knew he would understand that stepping on the bag would be rewarded. So we continued to work around it. If he stepped off to one side, I simply walked him around in a little circle so we were lined up again. Once or twice I had him step on it with his front feet but as this was no longer challenging, it was not CT'd. Each time a hind foot touched the bag, he was CT'd. Slowly he became more comfortable with it and I could back him onto it or put it under his belly and have him step forward onto it.

In all this, he was just as calm as could be. Ok, I gave up. Couldn't scare him so I took the lead off and left him to graze....and you can see in the photo that he dropped his head to graze without bothering to step off the bag.

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