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Playing The Piano
This is an easy trick to teach once the horse has targeting down well. Horse slobber is hard on keyboards however. Francisco plays a small keyboard I bought at Toys R Us for about $20.
Teach the horse to target on the keyboard the same way you did the cone. When he pushes hard enough to play a note, praise lavishly and reward generously. Get one note consistently then withhold the click until he makes two notes. Build slowly one note at a time and within a week you should have an accomplished pianist. If at any time the horse gets bored or discouraged back up several steps or quit for the day. Keep it fun for both of you. Most horses really like doing this, especially if you tell them what a brilliant horse they are.
Fetching is several behaviors linked together in what is called a behavior chain. There are several steps to teaching it but it is easy if you break it down and teach one small step at a time. Teaching the horse to target on the cone is the first step.
Next you have to teach the horse to pick up the cone. This can turn your horse into a real pest when he wants to pick up everything and play with it. So be sure this is something you want to teach him to do. Place the cone on the ground as in targeting but withhold the click until the horse starts to mouth it. As soon as he moves his lips on it, praise lavishly, click and reward. A little pancake syrup or molasses on the cone may help. Slowly build on this behavior until the horse is biting the cone.
When the horse is biting the cone consistently, withhold the click until he starts to pick it up. You may have to backtrack if he gets discouraged and can't figure out what you want him to do. If he picks it up just an inch, click and reward. Build on that slowly until he brings it up about waist high. You may put a verbal cue on it such as pick it up when he consistently picks it up.
Next you have to get him to hand you the cone. This may turn into a tug of war at first. When he brings the cone up waist high, grab hold of it and click. He should let go to get his treat. If he doesn't just hold the cone until he does and praise and treat him. He will let go sooner or later. Do this until he is picking it up and handing it to you consistently. You may put a verbal cue such as give it to me if you wish after he does it consistently.
The next step is the easiest. Simply put the cone down in front of the horse and back up a step so he has to take a step to hand you the cone. Build on this slowly one step at a time until he has to walk several feet to hand you the cone.
The next step is to put the cone on the ground far enough ahead of the horse so he has to take one step to pick it up. Build on this one step at a time slowly until you can throw the cone across the corral and he will go fetch it. Remember to have fun with your horse. That is what clicker training is all about.
© 2001 Karen Parker