Clicker Training – Law 10 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 10th and final law is presented below with my explanation of the rule.

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 10:  End each session on a high note, if possible; quit while you’re ahead

This goes hand in hand with the rule of set yourself up for success…..if you go past the point of success, you may inadvertently be setting your horse up to fail.  Often once you get the behaviour just as you wanted it, it was such an effort for the horse that it is hard for them to do it again straight away.  If you continue to ask for it you are most likely creating frustration and so they are highly unlikely to succeed.  So it becomes important to end on a good note, even if that good note is not as good as you had planned for (see point 7).

**You may have planned to achieve piaffe by the end of your training session, but when you started out, your horse was telling you that attention was an issue today, so you need to be prepared to change you training plan for the day and recognise achievements based on your starting point and not based on where you had originally planned to be for that day. 

We have to remember that each day, events shape our horses moods just as daily events shape our own moods.  We need to recognise and respect that things may have happened in our horses world while we were not there.  If they start out agitated, then we need to recognise that something has happened to get them in that state and not punish them for it, rather we should work with it and perhaps our aim for that training session would be emotional control.

SMAART Horses

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