Clicker Training – Law 5 of Shaping Behaviour

Once you are underway with clicker training (positive reinforcement) you can teach your horse anything.  However, there are some keys to training that are key to successful teaching of clicker training.  These rules or laws were defined by Karen Pryor (from her book;  Pryor K (1999) Don’t Shoot the Dog! Bantam Books, USA) and the 5th law is presented below with my explanation of the rule.  Check back each week for a new law for shaping behaviours.

When clicker training your horse, if behaviour start to break down, you can’t seem to get to your end goal, get stuck at one point in the path towards your end goal, then check in with the 10 rules of shaping and it will be one or more of these rules that are affecting how and how quickly you get to the end goal….

Law 5:  Stay ahead of your subject: Plan your shaping program completely so that if the subject makes sudden progress, you are aware of what to reinforce next.

Know your plan.  When you start a training session, make sure you have at least 5 steps in your plan as to where you want to go that session.  If you only have one criterion to achieve and the horse achieves that quickly, you are then stuck without a training plan.  This is a sure fire way to lose your horses attention…and not only for this session but also for future sessions.

It is our job to make sure each session is fun.  If we lose the plot after one goal is achieved and then don’t really have a direction at all, things will quickly become boring for both you and the horse. 

Think about it in terms of a riding lesson.  If your instructor stood in the middle of the arena and hummed and hawed about what to do next, you would quickly lose focus, would get bored and would most likely lose respect for that instructor.  You wouldn’t be rushing back for each lesson.  So if we have no plan for our training sessions with our horses, they will quickly bore of it and will not be enthusiastic.

So make sure you have a plan that has a number of goals in it.  That doesn’t mean you need to achieve every goal…far from it.  It simply means that you will always have direction for your training and therefore will keep your horse interested.

If you should achieve all of your goals, if you can’t quickly put the next steps of your plan together, this would be a good time to stop (see point 10 – always stop on a good note).


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