Friday, January 20, 2012

touch game

I read about a mentally stimulating game from Laz and his owner, Kristen at sweet horse's breath. This seemed to be just what Shyloh and I needed! After a couple of emails back and forth on how to play this game, I headed out to the barn. But first, I grabbed my clicker.

I decided to try clicker training with Shy. I thought she would do very well with it. She is smart and she is able to quickly make associations, as evidenced by her waving whenever she feels she needs a treat, even without being asked.
Trying out a wave to see if that gets her a treat.
When I got to the barn, I loaded up on treats and got Shy out of her stall. I worked on getting her accustomed to the clicker and what it means. I would click and treat, click and treat. My first thought was that I need to find some smaller treats that have less calories and sugar for clicker training.  

When I felt Shy may have started to make the association between clicking and the treat, I waited until she was not paying attention to me. Then I clicked. Shy immediately looked at me, expecting a treat. Smart pony! I did this a few times until I was satisfied, then I moved on to the next step.
Touch it!
I used a Jollyball for the object to touch. I held out the ball and said "touch." It took a minute for Shy to get interested in the ball enough to touch it with her lips, but eventually she did and I clicked.

Whoa! Shy was not expecting that and ran off! I approached her and gave her the treat. Then I repeated the same steps and got the same results. By the third time, Shy realized what was going on and was not startled by the click any more. We worked on touching the ball while I was holding it in the same place until I felt she understood.
Got it!
Next I asked her to "touch" when the ball was held out to my side. This was a whole new concept! Shy walked around me, but then approached and touched. Click and treat. I held the ball in a few different locations around me and each time Shy touched it. Click and treat!

Shy seemed to be enjoying herself. She was engaging with me, so I pushed on. I put the ball on the ground, asked her to touch and she did! Click and treat. Shy was really using her noggin! We ended on a positive note and before Shy got bored with the game.
Fun and easy!
We worked on touch again a few days later. She remembered what I was asking and touched the ball. Click and treat. Kristen provided a valuable suggestion of cutting a carrot into thin slices or using grain, a few pieces at a time instead of treats. I used grain. 

I discovered that Shy will touch the ball in any position, except up high (which really isn't high, it is just barely above her eye level). Not sure why, but we will work on it later. I can even roll the ball away, say touch ball, and Shy will go and touch it! Pretty cool! We worked on touching different objects in the arena; cones, a muck bucket, a hose, the walls of the arena, and poles. 
Shy can touch this, too!
Shy stayed engaged and interested the whole time, even though I pulled her from her stall while she still had hay left. She had free reign of the arena and only went to the doors twice, and that was when I was asking her to touch the ball when it was held high. When I lowered it, she came right to me and touched the ball.

On our third day of working on touch, Shy recalled it right away. I then tried a new word, "take." It took her a while to open her mouth and take the handle of the Jollyball, but eventually we got there. My next step will be to get her to keep the ball in her mouth for a longer time. The click and treat is very effective for Shy. We are building our bond and spending some time together having fun.
Shy is learning so much!
I am open to any other mentally stimulating games for me and Shy to try!

14 comments:

  1. Oh, wow! I want to do this, too! Thank you for the detailed, step-by-step explanation. It's really helpful. Pippin... you are gonna love this!!!

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    1. Pippin will love it. . .mainly for the fact that it involves treats :)

      But it is fun, too!

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  2. Camryn here:
    Cool beans. Now maybe we can start a Hafy basketball team??? It'll be such fun. Your Mom can use the click/treat for mounting block too!!!

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    1. For sure! I just need to get Shy to keep the ball in her mouth, then work on dropping it in a muck bucket/basket. But we will get there!

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  3. You're making me want to do clicker work with my own horse! He already does a big slew of tricks, but the possibilities seem endless here! Very cool. Good breakdown.

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    1. Thank you! It is fun and a good motivator. Shy really keeps her interest and engages well with it.

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  4. Sounds like great fun and a real bonding experience!

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    1. I think it was even better than I realized at the time!

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  5. How fun! Looks like you are a great teacher and have a very smart little student!! :) It's amazing HOW FAST they learn!!! xo

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  6. Awesome!!! I'm so excited that you're using clicker training. :D I absolutely love clicker training as I'm sure you know from my blog lol. I look forward to seeing what else you try. If you make a target stick like mine (dowel rod with a slitted tennis ball on the end) you can teach her to follow you, work on whoa, lowering head, backing up, etc. Some people even teach them to spin circles, but I haven't figured that one out yet lol. I like to use the target to have him trot next to me with his head low so he uses his back. It's also great for targeting them into scary places like horse trailers or tight spots. There are endless uses for it. :) I've been trying to think about the next trick I want to teach and I think I'm going to teach him to say yes. Should be fun! If you have any questions feel free to email me. I'm not an expert, but I have been using clicker training with my dog for four years and Chrome's been doing it for over a year. Have fun!!

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    1. I do need to make a target stick. . .maybe I will work on that today. And I will be taking you up on that email! I will be needing help soon!

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