Saturday, February 19, 2011

43. Backing Level 3

Goal: Backs 10 steps with you stationary in front verbal cue only 

Getting Stationary
If you are stepping into him or with him as he backs, fade your movement. Take the first step with him, then slow to a stop and see if he continues on his own. If not take, several steps and slow your speed but click him as long as he keeps moving. Eventually take a step then stop. Next try cueing him when standing stationary.  You may have to lean forward as if you are going to step with him, then just stand there and verbally cue but he will soon learn he can back up without the physical cue of you moving with him.
Drop the cue and continue training by clicking for movement as before to add distance backwards.

To add a verbal cue in, click here.

Use the verbal cue alone to get him to back up several steps. If you notice that he is slowing, give the cue again to continue it. Over time, you can fade the extra verbal cue or add a 'keep going signal'.

A 'Keep Going Signal' (KGS)
This is areally just a marker that says to your horse "you are doing the right thing, I want more of it!" Eventually the click and treat will follow.

Usually a KGS is a verbal phrase like "Good Boy", one that you do not use for precision (such as the clicker or "Yes!") and is used to add duration to a behavior that the horse knows.

How to You Teach a KGS?
Most of us use KGS without even thinking about it. We think of it more as encouragement for our animals than the actual signal it is.

Use a behavior that your horse already knows well. As he is performing it, about 3/4 of the way into the behavior, give the KGS, then click and treat at then end of the behavior. With repetition, the horse will learn that it means what it is called. "Keep going and you will get your click and reward."  You can vary the placement of the KGS as needed in each behavior.

Some people do not like to use KGS with their horses as they find some horses get frustrated. Other just want a continuous behavior with a single cue. It's up to you whether you use them or not, but it can be a useful tool for getting more duration or distance. KGS can be phased out too once the horse is offering the desired distance, duration etc.

Tip: If you accidentally use a sound or word that your horse already understands as a behavior marker (conditioned reinforcer), you will find that the horse stops the behavior as soon as he hears it to get a reward. My previous dog did that when his first owner had inadvertently taught him that 'Good boy' was a marker so I had to be careful not to encourage him with "Good boy" or he would stop what he was doing, thinking he was done! One time he stopped in the niddle of a super agility run, and another time while learning the weave poles when I made the mistake of using the marker "Good boy". In this case the sound was not a KGS, but a marker like a click. Choose a different one and train it.
When your horse is reliably offering to back up 10 steps or more, add the hand or body cue just before he does the behavior.

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