Clicker Training – Law 9 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 9th 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 9:  If behaviour deteriorates, “Go back to kindergarten.” Quickly review the whole shaping process with a series of easily earned reinforcers

If you were in the middle of a training session and had a behaviour advancing well, then your horse suddenly seemed to not be achieving what it had been, the chances are you either skipped a vital step in the process for your horse, or they did not understand one of the previous criterion.

If this happens, go back a few steps in the process to the step at which you can see the horse definitely understands what is being asked of them.  From there slowly increase the criterion again in very small increments watching for any signs of lack of understanding. 
If your horse gets stuck again; you may have asked for too big an increment in the behaviour and may need to break it down more; the horse may not truly have understood the previous step; the training session may have been going on for too long; perhaps your horse is not fit enough or physically capable of doing what you are asking…..etc. 
Don’t forget to check in with all of the other laws of shaping behaviour as there may be more than one law that is not working for you.
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