Saturday, June 20, 2009

Shake a hoof!

A new trick I had to teach her for university. I hope I get a good mark on my paper. Here is a rough outline of some of the first paragraphs. Stupid microsoft word and blogger are not compatible together. What should have taken me 5 minutes is taking me 20! Curse you Bill gates *shakesfist*

Classical conditioning is a form of associative learning. The learning takes place when a neutral stimulus is paired with a stimulus of significance to the subject.

Classical conditioning was first defined by Ivan Petrovich Pavlov during research on the digestive system of dogs. He surgically implanted a tube to collect saliva from the dogs mouthes. When Pavlov’s technician approached the dog kennels to feed them a bell was sounded. The dogs had associated the sound of the bell with being fed and although food had not yet been delivered, they salivated.

Pavlov discovered that if a neutral stimulus (the bell) was associated with an unconditioned stimulus (meat powder in the dogs mouth) the animal would react to the neutral stimulus, even in the absence of the unconditioned stimulus if conditioned to respond.

Burrhus Frederic Skinner was doing research on pigeon behavior in world war II. Pigeons would receive food for random behaviors. Some had to turn a few times clockwise before food would be offered, others had to fling their heads forward or peck at one corner of their enclosure before food would be delivered. The pigeons began to offer the behaviors that would get them food without fail. This is known as operant conditioning.

Operant conditioning allows an animal to control the events around it. In operant conditioning a reward becomes associated with a response. When in an animal is put into a learning situation such as hitting a lever to deliver food, does the task required then taken away from the situation it is called a discrete trial situation. When an animal is allowed to be free to do whatever he wants and discovers for example that he can escape his lonely paddock by un-latching the gate and freeing himself is called a free operant situation.

Clicker training has been used for years with cats, dogs, dolphins and even birds but only recently has it gained popularity with the equine population. The concept of clicker training is to make the animal associate a noise (a click) with a primary enforcer (usually food) immediately after the noise. When the animal is conditioned to respond to the clicker and does a maneuver correctly he is rewarded by a click. That click says to the animal “yes that is right, now have some food” at the second the correct response is offered followed shortly by a tasty food reward.

To condition the animal to the sound of the clicker first you would “charge” the clicker. This is done by clicking and giving a reward, clicking and giving a reward and so on without asking for anything of the animal but to associate the sound with a reward.
Once the clicker has been charged the handler can begin asking the animal for a specific behavior.

Would anyone want to learn how to teach their horses tricks or just things with a clicker? It's a researched and now proven fact that animals learn faster and are more willing to offer a behaviour with a positive, unconditioned reinforcer, such as food rather than traditional training. Of course clicker training isn't just for tricks! I taught Indigo to accept the big skkkeeerrryyyy body clippers with operant conditioning. Every time she touched the scary clippers with her nose she got a treat. Once they were on I asked her for the same, if she was scared to touch them when they were on I would turn them on until she began to get uncomfortable, turn them off, make her touch them then click and treat her. Now she could care less about the horrifying clippers. What a fun way to learn. Gee I think my mom trained me with operant conditioning "Do the dishes or supper doesn't get made!"
Yes mum.

4 comments:

Pony Girl said...

Oh goodness, this SO takes me back to my pyschology classes! :) I still use those classic approaches when thinking about training and working with animals, though, not just applying them to human behavior!

Anonymous said...

Nice pic!

Garlic Man

Sydney said...

Thanks.
The classic approaches still work wonderfully, especially for scary new situations.

Thanks garlic man, as always popping in at random intervals.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

This is so cool! I've always wanted to try and learn Clicker Training with my llamas, goats and even horse, but have just never gotten around to it. You're motivating me now. Something I can do even when I'm not able to ride :)

~Lisa

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