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Clicker Training: Challenge Accepted

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        02-14-2013, 12:35 AM
      #21
    Yearling
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by PunksTank    
    JillyBean - I'm very impressed - I'm loving reading about why and how all of the things I do work xD I know how to do it, but not how or why it works.
    Thank you so much! This is clearing up so many questions in my mind.

    I just wanted to add - to be clear to anyone reading this thread, with all the statements about reinforcement schedules - this Still Applies with pressure+release training without a clicker. Even if all you use is pressure+release, the schedules still take place. This is why when someone has heavy hands with slow or no release of pressure (holding heavy contact all the time) horse's develop 'hard mouths'. The horse's mouth isn't getting tougher and you don't need a stronger bit - you need softer hands and better timed releases of pressure, where the release is significant enough to make the horse desire it.

    So the concepts of schedules work for every reinforcer. I just didn't want someone to read this thread and think "well why bother teach CT if you just have to wean them off it" - well (this is my bratty opinion) why bother use something that you need to reinforce All the time? ;)
    Don't get me wrong, personally I use a mix of all 4 - Just making a point. :)
    Yes, and it's an excellent point! In explaining all this, I sometimes forget to explain that all of this theory relates to ALL behavior, even if you're not intentionally training anyone or anything. All "training" does - no matter what method you're using - is utilize the principles of behavior in order to shape it. So while I'm explaining this in the context of clicker training, it applies to anything you do and any method you use.

    *I highly doubt that this was required education for my psychology major because they wanted me to be a good horse trainer - I'm sure putting that degree to good use!*
    Skyseternalangel likes this.
         
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        02-14-2013, 01:52 AM
      #22
    Weanling
    Nice thread
    jillybean19 likes this.
         
        02-14-2013, 09:03 AM
      #23
    Yearling
    Do I have to use a clicker and treats?

    No!

    First the clicker:
    The purpose of the clicker is to provide a "bridge" between the behavior you're trying to reinforce and the actual reward. This enables you to "mark" specific behaviors by clicking simultaneously with them when it would be impossible to give them a reward for the behavior right then.

    A clicker works very well as a bridge because it is a distinct and consistent sound that creates a strong, clear association between behavior -> marker (the clicker sound) ->reward. A sound works better than any other type of reinforcement because it will pretty much always be noticed and recognized.

    However, any sound that is distinct and consistent will work for "clicker training". For instance, I know some people use the caps from Snapple bottles (they click when you push them in) and PunksTank uses a smooching sound and doesn't even have to carry a clicker device! The key to a good "marker" is making sure that it's always the same and always associated with your reward. For instance, if you make a smooch noise for a cue, then a smooch noise will not be an effective marker since it's not clear what you're indicating when you make the noise. Moreover "good boy" or "good girl" is usually a poor marker choice because you're likely to make the same words or even just the sounds in other contexts and confuse the horse, and even our best efforts to say this the same way every time will likely fail since things like emotion will affect how we say it. Personally, I don't trust myself to be consistent enough with any verbal cue, and so I have my clicker permanently attached to my wrist with a high-quality elastic wristband and it's just one of the pieces of tack I grab when I intend to work with my horse. If I can grab a halter and lead rope, I can grab my clicker :)

    Now, the treats:
    Once you understand what a reinforcer really is, you can decide what you'd like to use as your reinforcer. As long as it motivates the horse to work, it is a reinforcer! Preferably, you want a reinforcer that the horse will work for over a period of time as well. Does your horse work for a scratch behind his ears? If you'd like, you can use that instead of treats! However, treats are often the most convenient reinforcer for a number of reasons. First, most horses are food-motivated simply because it's a basic need, so we can exploit it. Not all food will work for all horses - for instance, one of my horses only likes a few bites of grain and then loses interest. Grain would not be a good reinforcer for him, while it probably would be for most horses. I like using "cookies" because I believe they're healthier and I don't have to worry about him getting too much. Plus, I can change flavors to keep him interested. I try to find the smallest ones I can so that I can give a small reward without feeding too much each time.
         
        02-14-2013, 09:20 AM
      #24
    Yearling
    Clicker Emergencies

    I'm going to call this "clicker emergencies" to distinguish between this and clicker training. Though these examples aren't intended actually teach the horse anything, having a clicker trained horse does come with a few side benefits that I've found very useful.

    One example is for when you need your horse to do something new and there's no time to actually train the behavior. For instance, my colt needed somewhat urgent hoof care when I purchased him. He'd never been worked on by a farrier before and had a terrible flare and a few other issues I wanted to attend to right away, especially since it seemed like he was having strange bone development in order to balance himself on his hooves. By the time the farrier came out (about week into using clicker training), Flash knew what the clicker meant, but we didn't have time to work on picking up much less holding his feet for the farrier. My dad, a skeptic about my clicker training, came out to help me hold him for the Farrier. Flash was not happy and didn't participate, and I could tell my farrier was exercising a tremendous amount of patience. It wasn't long before I told him I could go get my clicker and that would probably help. My dad said the farrier probably didn't want me messing around and giving treats, but the farrier said to go ahead and do anything I thought might help. Out came my bag and the clicker! Normally, I would practice just picking up feet, then holding feet for a second, and then holding them longer and longer to actually train the behavior. However, there was no time for that. As soon as the farrier picked up Flash's foot, I started clicking and treating constantly. If he pulled his foot away or put it down, the clicking and treating stopped. It took him one try to figure out the game and then he was the easiest 18-month-old you've ever tried to work with! Again, this didn't teach him to hold his feet, but it got us through a nearly-impossible hoof trim. In addition, simply feeding him wouldn't have worked since it would have just created a mouthy and impatient horse trying to get more snacks. With the clicker, he knew he had to earn the treats and that they wouldn't just be given to him for no reason. (Since then, we've done a lot of work to train him to be good about his feet, going through the process I describe above of asking more and more from him in order to earn the click, and I can now work with all his hooves without any problems and without the aid of a clicker or treats)

    My second example of where the clicker has helped in a tight spot is to get a horse's attention in a critical and urgent situation. For example, last fall I was leading Flash back from a ride and he got excited and took off loping and bucking home, pulling the lead rope out of my hands. However, the place I was boarding was off a main road with lots of 50-60mph traffic and there was a good chance he would run right out on the road if I couldn't get him stopped. I yelled "woah" and "Flash!", but he was headed for home! Then, almost by instinct, I started clicking my clicker furiously to get his attention - And he stopped immediately! Hey, he wasn't going to miss out on a treat! He stood still and waited for me to catch up to give it to him - At this point, I started clicking about every 5 seconds to tell him he was doing what I wanted (standing still) and keep him standing there while I caught up. Crisis averted!
    Skyseternalangel and jmike like this.
         
        02-14-2013, 10:56 AM
      #25
    Started
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jillybean19    
    Once you understand what a reinforcer really is, you can decide what you'd like to use as your reinforcer. As long as it motivates the horse to work, it is a reinforcer! Preferably, you want a reinforcer that the horse will work for over a period of time as well. Does your horse work for a scratch behind his ears? If you'd like, you can use that instead of treats! However, treats are often the most convenient reinforcer for a number of reasons. First, most horses are food-motivated simply because it's a basic need, so we can exploit it. Not all food will work for all horses - for instance, one of my horses only likes a few bites of grain and then loses interest. Grain would not be a good reinforcer for him, while it probably would be for most horses. I like using "cookies" because I believe they're healthier and I don't have to worry about him getting too much. Plus, I can change flavors to keep him interested. I try to find the smallest ones I can so that I can give a small reward without feeding too much each time.
    Continuing to love your posts JillyBean!! I was wondering if you could explain one more thing about food rewards (if you were already planning too sorry for jumping the gun :P). I hear so many people say "horses don't think like predators, their food is at their feet, so they don't know how to work for food" - While I disagree with this, seeing my horses dig in the snow for the little grass underneath, and seeing other horses who have learned to kick walls or whinny for food. But I was wondering if you could explain it for people who believe that?

    I have to add - CT has saved me in an emergency very similar! My pony rolled close to the fence and rolled right under it - he was half way across my yard and heading for a busy street as well - I grabbed my target and ran out as fast as I could - Calling his name he saw the target and doubled-back and ran right up to it!! I wonder what the neighbors thought - my target is a crop xD
    I also had to use it similar to your hoof trimming for one of our old rescues who got cast in the snow, clicking and treating while he was still, so we could dig him out. :)
         
        02-14-2013, 12:16 PM
      #26
    Yearling
    But horses aren't predators!

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by PunksTank    
    Continuing to love your posts JillyBean!! I was wondering if you could explain one more thing about food rewards (if you were already planning too sorry for jumping the gun :P). I hear so many people say "horses don't think like predators, their food is at their feet, so they don't know how to work for food" - While I disagree with this, seeing my horses dig in the snow for the little grass underneath, and seeing other horses who have learned to kick walls or whinny for food. But I was wondering if you could explain it for people who believe that?
    Excellent question and one that I've also seen come up a lot.

    Bottom line, every living thing needs energy and usually devotes the majority of its life working to obtain it by consuming food in some way/shape/form. Horses are no exception. It is a simple fact of life: horses need food to survive and so they work for it - whether they're in the wild and searching for grazing grounds or domesticated and chasing the rest of the herd off their flake of hay. Since horses work so hard to obtain their food simply to stay alive, it's an easy thing to exploit as a reinforcer/motivator in clicker training, especially if you use something like enjoy eating and don't get all the time.

    Where predators are concerned, I'd actually be more worried about using food with them than I would non-predators. Most predators, like dogs, are fine being given treats. However, there are a few (snakes come to mind) that like their prey to be alive and lose interest in meals that aren't moving. If you were to clicker train an animal such as this, you'd have to find something that motivates them. If squirming meals were the only thing that motivated them to work, you'd have to use that as your reinforcer!

    Herbivores, on the other hand, actually need more food than predators to function and that is why they are ALWAYS eating. Plants actually do not contain a whole lot of nutrition, so herbivores eat a lot, poop out most of it, and so must continue eating more. In contrast a predator, like a lion, can get all their nutrients from one meal and some can go weeks without eating.

    Which brings us to the issue of being full. Any animal using treats in training does risk getting full and losing motivation to eat (like when you have a HUGE meal and don't even wan to look at dessert! Rare, I know, but it does happen lol). You don't need a starved animal, but right after feeding time probably isn't the best time to try clicker training, either. Generally, if you work with your horse any other time than after feeding time, they should be decently motivated to work for treats since they have such high energy (food) demands. Horses allowed free-choice hay and grass are usually ok since they're getting a slow and steady food intake (as opposed to stuffing themselves once or twice a day) and should still want food when you're working with them since they're working for food all day anyway. However, you'll need to pay attention to your horse and get to know them to find out when his optimal training time will be based on the desire for food (or whatever your reward is) and any other factors that affect motivation and attention.

    All of this applies to all animals for the same reasons - here are a few examples of "unlikely" animals working with clicker training, none of which are predators:
    Parakeet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gg4ugn8Nlmo

    Goldfish (I don't think they're predators, and even if they are, how incredible that CT is so simple and elegant it can be used with virtually any animal!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4kPZ25IMn0

    And, not going to lie, this is my favorite one I found for so many reasons and I LOVE these camels! (And for us CT junkies, check out the targeting, the "stand" game aka "stand on your mat", and the camel/trainer reaction to when the camel asks for food!)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShI6WYlSdz8
         
        02-14-2013, 12:39 PM
      #27
    Started
    XD I think I almost died with that goldfish video!!! That's incredible!! What a devoted guy to train his goldfish. That's awesome! Thank you for the detailed explanation again JillyBean :)
    The camels were awesome too! I actually just bought my horse "Irish Tank" a Shamrock welcome mat to learn to stand on the mat! She already knows Stand without the mat, but I would like her to use the mat too so when my pony sitter comes she can use the mat when she needs to clean her stall with her in it. That way she can put the mat where she wants her to stand, well out of her way. (typically we clean while they're outside but my pony sitter only has time to do the big clean at night after they've been 'tucked in')
    Skyseternalangel likes this.
         
        02-14-2013, 01:19 PM
      #28
    Yearling
    Training: The horse's perspective

    Imagine you're sitting comfy and cozy in bed doing something you enjoy - probably reading and posting on HorseForum.com ;) Or even just sleeping!

    Someone comes in speaking a language you don't know, pulls you out of bed, puts clothes on you that you're not particularly fond of, and leads you to the front yard. Then, they pinch the underside of your upper arm - that's right, the place that's soft and tender and hurts when it's pinched! And then, they don't let go! You push them away, try to pull away, swat at their hand, and do anything that makes sense to you to get them to stop pinching you, but somehow they just keep holding on. Finally, out of frustration, you start hopping on your right foot - and they let go and say some stuff to you in their language (though you don't know what it means)! You stop hopping and yell at them "what was that all about?!", but they start pinching you again. After going through all the things you did before with no luck, you randomly hop on your right foot again - and they let go and say the same thing again! You start putting two and two together: if you hop on your right foot, they'll stop pinching you. So then whenever they go to pinch you you immediately start hopping on one foot. In fact, if they even start to reach for your arm, you start hopping, and they don't even pinch you at all! That's all fine and dandy until, one time, they pinch your other arm. Now, they won't let go even when you start hopping on your right foot. You try and try, and then eventually out of frustration you start hopping on your left foot - and they let go! You figure out a little quicker this time that the side they go to pinch tells you which foot you're supposed to be hopping on... Eventually other cues and behaviors are added and you get quicker at figuring this out until you have a whole set of things you can do and avoid getting pinched at all. Now that you've figured out the system, you might even like it when this person comes to get you because you don't get pinched very much and you may even get a back rub when you're all done. You have been "trained".

    While I don't like to believe it's quite that negative, and is probably much better for experienced trainers, this is how I imagine traditional training seems to horses.

    Now, lets switch the scenario starting from the very beginning:
    Someone comes in speaking a language you don't know, pulls you out of bed, puts clothes on you that you're not particularly fond of, and leads you to the front yard. Then, they just step away from you and stare at you. This isn't very comfortable for you and you tell them to stop. They don't listen. Then, you go to walk over to them - as soon as you pick your foot up to take the first step, they clap their hands once and give you a dollar! You look at them funny and think they're crazy. You try to ask them what's going on, but they just step away and begin staring again. Pretty soon, you walk towards them again, and they clap and give you another dollar! Ok, so something is up now. For whatever reason, whenever you start walking toward them, they clap and then give you a dollar. This happens a few more times, but then they stop clapping and giving you dollars when you walk towards them. They're still staring at you expectantly, though, so you try other things. You try walking towards them faster, walking different directions, walking away from them, and eventually you try walking by picking your feet up really high. As soon as you lift your foot up high in the air, they clap a bunch of times and give you five bucks! You lift your foot high again, and the same thing happens! Yay! Then they start clapping once and only giving you a dollar when you lift your foot up, and then it stops all together :( So now, you try taking a giant step with your right foot toward them, and, naturally, you take a giant step with your left foot - as your left foot is in the air, you get a clap and a treat! Yay! Another clue! So now you've figured out that you need to lift your left foot up. You pick it up a few times, and get a big clap and $5 again! You do it a few more times, but now you're back to only one clap and one dollar, but then it stops again :( What is the next step? You stand on your right foot with your left foot in the air and try a few things. Since this all started out as you going toward them, maybe they want you to hop toward them on your right foot? You start hopping toward them and you earn another big clap and $5! Yay! You think you've got it - they want you to hop towards them! Except, wait, nope :( The treats stop again. You hop all around and don't get any treats - until, not knowing what else to do, you just hop in place. Ding Ding Ding - you hit the jackpot! Now, you've got a round of applause, $10, and a back rub - then you're sent back to bed

    Did you know you can do this for real? Try it with your friends/kids! The "training game" is one of my students' favorite things to play: One student leaves the room and the class decides what the "behavior" is going to be and what our "cue" will be. For example, we decided once that we were going to have someone grab a piece of candy out of the candy jar and feed it to a specific person. Our cue was actually to shake our heads "no"! The student comes back in and tries to figure out what we want them to do. I have to sometimes coach my students not to say or do anything except give the cue when our "training subject" gets closer to figuring out what we're asking them to do. In this case, we shook our heads when he got close to the candy jar. 10 people shaking their heads at you is odd, so they caught on quickly that it was the cue. The moved back and forth trying to figure out the exact location, and, once they did, we stopped shaking our heads for the location and he had to figure out the next step. He started touching everything within arm's reach, and eventually touched the candy jar - and we all shook our heads! Aha! We continued our game until they eventually figured out to grab the candy (which they immediately opened and took a bite of), then started trying to "feed" it to other students - and we gave him a big applause when he offered it to the correct person. They love coming up with weird and crazy things for each other to do! Practice it with the people you know and you'll really get a feel for timing, accuracy, and how it feels to figure it out yourself!

    The only difference between this and clicker training is the reward - humans are willing to work for a reward as simple as knowing they figured it out. Plus, we have much higher thinking capabilities in order to understand that many little "cues" for "yes" can lead to the ultimate goal, so a reinforcer isn't needed for every correct behavior.

    Anyway, just some food for thought on the horse's perspective :) And a fun game to play whether or not you actually do clicker training!
         
        02-14-2013, 01:30 PM
      #29
    Yearling
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by PunksTank    
    XD I think I almost died with that goldfish video!!! That's incredible!! What a devoted guy to train his goldfish. That's awesome!
    If you liked that, you're going to love this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgRrrNL-mi4

    This doesn't actually use a clicker in the kit, but I imagine the training would be enhanced if someone were to combine this with a clicker like the goldfish one. Just goes to show, though, what can be achieved through positive reinforcement! If a feeder fish like this one can figure this out, imagine what your horse is capable of that you may never have dreamed possible!
    Skyseternalangel likes this.
         
        02-14-2013, 03:50 PM
      #30
    Yearling
    Ok. So, I visited your blog jillybean, and I saw some pictures of your horse trying to buck you off. How will you go about fixing that with clicker training?
         

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