I like to start with something that's very simple and easy to understand. I'm going to teach the horse to touch his nose to an object. I've found this works really well in part because it is outside the horse's normal training program. It's so different from anything else he's been asked to do, he has to pay attention to figure me out.
Shaping and Targeting
Q: I have started target stick training with my 4-year-old lab, Carter. He is very quick to learn and really enjoys it. I've gotten him to touch the stick in many situations, and have shortened the stick, but he still wants to touch the end of the stick when I say "target." Where do I go from here? How do I teach him to touch objects and not the stick each time? I would like to teach him to maybe turn lights on and off or something challenging and interesting. He learns so quickly he needs a constant challenge. Any suggestions?
Note from Karen Pryor: This paper reveals a fascinating piece of scientific detective work by Gail Peterson, Ph.D., a professor of behavior analysis at the University of Minnesota. During World War II, Skinner and some of his graduate students conducted classified research on pigeon-controlled guidance systems, at a secret laboratory in Minneapolis. One day, while waiting for government approval on their next steps, they decided to pass the time by trying to train a pigeon to "bowl."
I have a young Papillon, Harry Potter, in training to be Peek's replacement as a service dog. At 13 months, he's showing extraordinary potential. He is a master at throwing behaviors to be reinforced, and picks up stuff so quickly at times I look at him and wonder if he's a Border collie.
With cats we need not use the clicker to 'train' the cat in the traditional sense; we can use it to enrich the cat's environment, to give it some control over its world, and if possible to widen its own perceptions of that world. We are communicating to the cat so the cat can learn healthy ways to communicate back.