Ive been trying to get Navara to bow properly for well over two months, she will lift the leg move it backwards and really stretch between her legs but as soon as she feels like her knee is going down she quickly stands up again. Ive tried everything, targets etc and really small baby steps. I have tried getting her to associate lying down with being fun too, by showering her with cookies when she does it naturally. But alas nothing.
I suppose I should just strive on!
You present two goals, deep kneeling into the bow, and laying down. Let me address each with some general suggestions, and a specific or two.
Karen is the shaping mavin here. And if I am correct she is because she can isolate a desired minimal approximation response. That is she can identify and isolate preparatory movements toward and end behavior. She is currently even discussing this very thing with Wind Horse Sue in another thread. Getting the horse to relax the head and neck is preceded (probably) by the ears going floppy. Building toward relaxed head and neck by focusing on shaping ear floppiness will be the path she will likely follow. Sue may do it as well.
Alexandra Kurland in her books on clicker training often discusses breaking down things into "small baby steps," but what I sometimes forget is that also urges the handler to go back - that is when stuck go back to the earlier preceding behaviors you did get and work forward again from there.
It's not enough to chunk with a stuck horse (and handler
) but retreat and start over must come into it.
What, if you can recall it, was your earliest obtained behavior upon giving the cue for bow? Just a downward nod of the nose a few inches? That would be what to ask for and reward, heavily. Build enthusiasm as that is what tends to move the horse further in the various motions and actions you want to reach in your goal.
Many horses respond with energy to random jackpotting, while others give more when the best effort results in a jackpot. Personally I get more success with random jackpots. Even occasionally not rewarding after the click at all. This can really get horses' attention the next time you DO reward.
You'll have to experiment with what your horse is responding to.
Some horses will give up quickly if they give a little try, not sufficient to please the training, and there is no click or reward, others will try harder. This part is an art, and knowing the specific horse.
I suspect the learning routine will go something like this: cue for the bow, get the bow, click, treat, cue for the bow, click, treat, say four or five times. Then throw in surprise; cue, get the bow, do nothing, wait a few seconds, cue, get a bow AND JACKPOT even if it's just a weak response - though it may well be a strong one, but more than likely the NEXT response on cue will be very strong indeed.
The horse is trying to learn how to operate the treat dispenser. He's not trying to learn to bow.
You'll think I'm crazy when I tell you the next thing you must remember to do - before your horse jumps back up, as you describe it, click and treat while she is down into the position a bit. Do not wait for the jump up.
On using intermittent reinforcement:
It's an axiom that we learn better if we fail occasionally. It makes us try harder. Success with no striving is taken for granted and soon results in lose of enthusiasm. Though I say "treat dispenser," the horse sees it as a personal relationship event, just as in the herd when he finds a way to comply with Mother Maretm
or with the lead mare, or with someone with more status than he, that results in being allowed to share hay, or water, play, or skritches.
If it takes dropping the head to get a treat he learns how to get a treat. If it takes putting his nose between his knees, then he learns how to get a treat. If it takes buckling a knee and putting his head between his knees, he learns how to get a treat.
He learns how to relate to the treat dispenser not how to bow.
The same principle applies to teaching a horse to lay down on cue.
It does no good, or very little to my mind, to treat the horse after he's laid down. Why? Because laying down on his own is very different from laying down on cue, and consists of a series of events that result in laying down, or NOT. Sometimes a horse will do all the things that result in laying down, while other times he will do some and change his mind and not lay down.
You can get a lay down if you cue each step and TB and +R each of them.
What's the first thing a horse does to prepare to lay down?
Nope, it isn't what you think. What he does, and many of us miss, is that he searches for an appropriate spot - some times passing over a few.
Start with the horse at your side ready to walk off and give your cue.
Then, go on a "laying down rolling spot" search with the horse - in other words cue him to follow you and examine the ground - following you head down. I presume your horse will follow on request. I presume he will, or you will teach him to walk with his head down.
Next stop and shuffle your feet and kick some dust around (having chosen a nice dusty soft spot or a sandy scratchy one to improve your odds of getting a lay down). The instant he snuffles the ground, click and reward. Snuffling tells him the nature of the spot and allows him to judge if this will do or not.
Then drag your foot rearward just as the horse tends to paw before laying down. If he paws, just like the other action, TB and +R, click and treat.
The moment of truth has arrived. If he's inspired, he will buckle at the knees and drop to them, CLICK AND TREAT. If he gets up, no big deal, just don't C/T his getting up.
Watch for him to stay in the down on his knees position and C/T that. And wait. You may encourage by sitting down yourself. Some horses get that right away, especially if mimicry is part of the relationship with the handler/companion.
It just so happens it's not comfortable to stay in the down on the knees position for long, so the horse much choose either to get up, or to lay down. He will likely show you he is about to lay down from the kneeling position - CLICK AND TREAT and THEN WAIT.
Here's a thought. Why is it that those who write books on training don't go into such detail?
Could it be that they give classes and seminars face to face and your failure to get results from their books and article will bring you in?
How COULD I be so cynical, eh? They may not do it consciously - but the end result is you come to sit at the "feet of the master," which costs a lot more than the book.
I've tried to break down the steps quite a bit. They will not be the same for every horse so when the horse does something other than describe use your head and think about how you can use what they do to get to the next step, and the next, and the next, until you are at your goal, his to learn to get a treat, yours to get a full bow. And prepare to be frustrated a good deal of the time.
Donald, Altea, and Bonnie Cupcake