Testing The Waters
In my previous session I had tested the waters by sitting down in a chair and trying to introduce targeting to a pair of young, very food motivated goats. Data collection is an important part of training. What was the data I had collected so far?
I discovered that I needed to change my treat delivery. I was so used to my horses who wait patiently while I get their treats that I hadn’t factored in the quickness of these young goats. Getting treats out of my pocket while sitting in a chair was too slow. I normally start horses in a stall or a small paddock so there’s a barrier between us. I’m standing so I can move as needed which means getting a treat out promptly isn’t a factor. Sitting down changed everything.
With horses I recommend to people that they do a practice run first without their animal learner. Go through the handling skills you’re going to be using BEFORE you’re with your horse. Can you manage the target and the treats? What can you do to streamline the process?
Remember: Clean handling in helps to get clean training results out.
The more you are bumbling and fumbling your way through the process, the more mistakes you’ll accumulate. Your animal learner may even get so frustrated by the inconsistencies that he simply quits and gives up trying. That’s when people start to say their animal got bored. He didn’t get bored. He got confused.
The way to avoid this is to run through a pretend session, something I had failed to do. But I was learning fast.
Already I had learned that whether it’s a goat or a horse, the starting point is the same. Go spend some time just quietly getting to know the individual you are going to train. Then find something your learner wants. That was easy with these goats. They wanted peanuts! The ice had been broken, and they were ready to train.
Our first targeting session at 8 am showed me the things I needed to change. In the next session I made some adjustments in my food delivery. With two goats vying for peanuts, I couldn’t afford a long time lag between the click and the delivery of the treats – not if I wanted them to connect the training dots. I wanted the click to mean something to them and not to be so overshadowed by everything else that was going on that it became just background noise.
Session 4: 11 am
This session was very similar to the 9:30 session, except this time when I sat down in my chair the goats came right over. I had learned I needed to pre-load my hand. Reaching into my pocket took longer than I had. I was using whole peanuts still in their shell. That helped keep this session from disintegrating into chaos. It took a moment for the goats to chew the peanut hulls. While one was still chewing, I had time to offer the other the target.
The placement of the target helped make it clear which goat I was focusing on. The yellow bucket also helped to keep them separated and out of my lap.
Photos taken from video: Goat Diaries: Day 1 Targeting.mov
The total time on this session was 6.2 minutes.
Coming Next: Day 1 Continued: Cups of Tea