Building Blocks

It seems whenever we are having trouble with something it is because I skipped over some important basic lesson. I know that if I had started training clicker training from the beginning instead of starting with playing fetch we would have a little better manners. It’s something he could have used anyway, since his main problem in life has been a lack of them. But I didn’t and I don’t want to go back and fix it.

Recently though we have been practicing for western dressage. The six feet on the ground tests to be exact. Although I think by the time the first show comes up in March we’ll be ready for the mounted intro test. But, anyway, he doesn’t stand well for me to switch sides walking around in front of him. He wants to walk off with me.

We have been working on our bell ringing. Getting ready to strap them to his front legs and let him dance some pretty music. He will stand in place and lift each front foot but I want to get further away from him while he does so.

The solution to both of these problems is actually the same basic lesson. We actually worked hard on this lesson, it’s not one of the ones we skipped over. Which makes it easier to go back and use to fix current problems. The cure for both of these is to give him a place where he knows to stand still, where he is comfortable and happy to do so. Where better than on his trusty mat.

I pulled it out from the corner it’s been moldering in for many months now. We had a refresher course before adding any new stuff. He was happy to be playing a game that required standing still and getting food. Held in place by his mat we worked on adding a verbal cue, stand, to the act of holding still. Then I added walking across on front of him and standing at his other shoulder. First clicking as I crossed in front of his nose then waiting until I was past, then as I stood at his shoulder. We worked on crossing from both sides and he settled down, not getting as nervous about me moving in front of his nose. Once he is standing perfectly still every time I’ll take the mat away and try it again. Maybe we will set the mat in one spot so he is used to it, then take the mat away in the same spot. once he has that down we’ll move to different places.

With the practice for the bells the procedure was about the same. Reinforced standing still on the mat. Then I stood at his shoulder like usual asking for him to dance, the verbal cue for standing and lifting his front legs. Click, reward, then move back a step. As he understands and performs the movement I ask I step further and further back. Eventually I will be able to ask for him to dance from a good distance. Eventually I will be able to add the bells around his ankles. It’s muddy and cold, perhaps alternating between the two. I haven’t added the bells yet, that will be a separate training piece of it’s own.

it never ceases to amaze me how each separate thing we work on is related to every other thing we work on. There is nothing new under the sun ( to quote Ecclesiastes) or in training, we are simply repeating things that have already been done. And that is why all the building blocks are so important. Even the simple tiny little ones we work on in the beginning, especially those. We should go back and work on manners.

One thought on “Building Blocks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.