Cues and Extinction
In Part 2 of the JOY FULL horses posts I wrote at length about cues. We went through the list of ten things you should know about cues. That list took us from the basics of cues to some very elegant training concepts. Cues also play a role in this discussion of extinction. They have a lot to do with reducing the emotional effect of extinction.
Cues can tell an animal whether or not you’re engaged with him in training. If your cues say “not now”, he knows he can go take a nap. Kay Laurence has very clear protocols for her training classes. If someone with a dog has a question for her, the handler is first to park the dog. Parking means the handler anchors the dog to one spot by standing on the leash. With her hands off the leash, she can now switch her attention away from her dog to Kay. The dog quickly learns that a parked leash means he doesn’t need to watch his handler closely. He can take a break from the training conversation.
With our horses we often forget to put this piece in. We are usually training by ourselves. The time in the barn is our time to relax and be with our horses. It’s only when someone comes to visit that we discover the grown-ups really can’t talk. Your horse wants to be part of the conversation, as well! If you abruptly ignore him, that’s when you can get macro extinctions with all of the associated problems. The solution is to teach an equine version of “park”.
The bigger lesson is to become more aware of your body language and the attention your animal is giving to it. If you see him surfing for answers, intercept the process. Reset the conversation. Turn it into a teaching opportunity that gives your learner a clearer idea of what is wanted so you can both avoid the frustration of macro extinctions.
Coming Next: Training Games
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