Clicker Training – Law 8 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 8th 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 8:  Don’t interrupt a training session gratuitously; that constitutes a punishment.

My horse does not speak English, and I do not speak horse.  I try to understand his behaviours and what they mean when he is working with me, but at the end of the day, we don’t speak the same language and have simply learned to understand each other through other means. 

However, this still leaves something lacking.  I can communicate a million and one things about how I want him to behave using the clicker, and we can have fun while training through an understanding of his body language, but if I was to walk away to talk to someone else, how do I tell him that we are about to take a short break ?

I usually describe this in terms of a business meeting.  If I was in a meeting and mid conversation with someone, I just get up and walk out without explanation, you can bet that everyone in the room will be totally baffled, be wondering what they said to offend me etc.  So, if we suddenly stop a training session with our horse without explanation (which we have already determined is not possible using words), they will be left wondering what they did wrong and where are you going, and are you even coming back ?!?

The one where I see total confusion in horses is where the rider suddenly stops what they are doing to answer their mobile phone !!  I know that if I am out and about with my friends, if they answer the phone and spend ages chatting, I begin to wonder why they are spending time with me on that occasion as the person on the other end of the phone seems to be more important at that moment in time…..so imagine how the horse feels when they don’t even understand what a mobile phone is.  They just know that the ringing noise means an unwelcome interruption is coming and that they are no longer important to you despite you still being there.

If your phone rings when you are training and you used to be in the habit of answering it…check out the look on your horses face, is it a happy face ?! 

SMAART Horses

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One Response to Clicker Training – Law 8 of Shaping Behaviour

  1. Philippa says:

    I love this law….. really makes me think! thanks for posting 🙂

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