Originally Posted by trailhorserider View Post
I've actually tried to avoid treats with the foal, because everything you read says "no treats, it makes them nippy."
Yeah, a lot of people believe that, when they don't understand the principles. I personally find treats a very effective tool for 'correcting' rude/dangerous/aggressive behaviour! It's not the *type* of reinforcement that's the problem, it's the *behaviour* that's reinforced when people aren't paying attention, don't appreciate the importance of timing or such. Eg the horse does something Good, they offer a treat, the horse, not 'knowing better', snatches at it, has ears back, 'mugs' them for it, whatever. If the handler allows this & gives a treat, guess what?? They've just begun training & reinforcing the horse to be 'rude'. Ensuring you pay attention to what behaviours you're getting & reinforcing will take care of that. Learning the principles of behavioural/learning psychology(not as heavy as it may sound) is invaluable in helping you be effective with whatever techniques & reinforcement you use. (It'll also stop you confusing this type of thing with 'respect' issues too
most people I talk to tell me that I am obviously not correcting him enough if he is still doing the behavior(s).
Yeah, it's a matter of learning the principles, listening to all opinions & making your own informed decision. I find it interesting that while most animal trainers(human teachers included) have realised and embraced the value of focussing on teaching & reinforcing the Right behaviours rather than just focussing on 'correcting' the Wrong, the horse world seems slow to catch on to the importance of positive reinforcement. Considering the fact that these principles are effective for every other species it's been tried on(even cats & husbands!
) means it's likely to work even with horses.
Next time I'll take the horse cookies and if he does good like that, stop and give him one, rather than waiting until he acts up and whopping on him. Now if he acts up I guess I'll have to whop on him anyway, but the point is, I should try to catch the behavior I want before I get the behavior I don't.
Yes, but just try to ensure you reinforce the behaviour you want *when it's happening* rather than after it has stopped. It also doesn't have to be food - there are other ways of rewarding an animal, just that food is a strong & convenient 'tool'. If you're going to use food for training regularly, rather just as an occasional treat, it's also a good idea to use something healthy & low sugar/starch rather than 'junk food'. Eg pinch of chaff or of whatever the horses' regular ration or supp, diced carrot, fruit tree leaves, rosehips, cabbage, spinach, other vegies....
As for 'whopping him anyway', no, you don't even have to do that. Ensuring you reinforce the Good behaviour, especially if it's in contrast to the Bad(eg. if he's walking calmly, he isn't jumping up) will cause that Bad behaviour that doesn't work to fade away.
There are many 'purist' positive reinforcement trainers who claim not to even use negative reinforcement, let alone straight out punishment. Even well used, punishment also tends to come with 'side effects' and is frequently misunderstood by the animal(iow they don't understand it in the manner we intend them to). I personally find it hard to even imagine training a horse for everything we want of them without pressure/release(neg. reinforce.) and IMO there is a place for punishment too. But IMO it's a small place and it's important to understand the pros & cons of it & make sure it's well applied, or don't bother IMO. It is also a tactic that is often short lived and the nature of it is that it may *weaken* a 'bad' behaviour if it's effective, but it is not likely to actually stop it. Therefore I tend to use it more as an 'emergency response' and work on teaching the animal alternate behaviour in more effective ways.