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November 3, 2013: Maintaining Peace in the Peaceable Kingdom

How to maintain peace in the Peaceable Kingdom? This is question that I’m now attempting to answer. There’s a lot to it. Yes, remaining efficient, exercising animals, and making sure they have clean environs are all integral to this goal. So is animal training. In the past, I’ve done some clicker training—now I’m doing it in a more focused fashion. I’m actually chunking down the training, first focusing on targeting – first using an object as a training tool. Claudia, in class showed us how to use the hand as a target, something that I’d not previously considered. As soon as she did this, I saw the possibilities inherent to this exercise.

It works like this: you hold out your one hand, and in the other hand you hold the treats and the clicker. The animal makes moves in the direction of your hand. You click and treat. Animal moves closer to your hand. You click and treat. Animal touches your hand with its nose. You click and treat. As the touches become more and more frequent, you click and treat, click and treat, click and treat.

Teaching all the animals here to do this is, in the long run, going to make things more peaceable around here, for animals will, once they know what the expectations are, do as they are asked. This is going to save me time and energy. For instance, the goats will start to comply. I have for some time been having to either grab or coerce them into their pen. Rover usually gives in, but Ranger does not. Rather, he jumps up on the wall under the Black Hole and continues to evade me. When finally I get a hold of him, he pulls me around. We’re talking about a 130 pound animal.

I decided yesterday to do things a bit differently. I’d cleaned the pen. It was now time to put them back in the enclosure. I went into the pen and targeted them, using some grain. Both goats ran in, and both touched my hand. Both were reinforced with the food I had on hand. What a difference.

I also began doing things a bit differently with the dogs. Jenna and Rainbow are partially clicker trained, and Ryder is following suit. These days I mainly worked with Ryder. I first did as Claudia suggested and did a pre-breakfast, pre-dinner exercise. Ryder was to be rewarded for standing still. I used kibbles and the clicker, doling out 20 kibbles and clicking when she was calm and attentive. There was no jumping on me. She very quickly equated remaining calm with getting a reward.

I also used my hand as a target when I wanted her to get in the back seat of the car. I held my hand back there and said “get in the back,” and this is what she did. No more grabbing her by the middle and tossing her in the back.

As for the horses: Yesterday we took Hrimfara for a walk. She did not want to go, so I whapped on her butt repeatedly with the rope. It later occurred to me that I might target train her, using the Millennium Gold bucket lid. So this is what I’m going to do. I am also going to do the same with the other horses.

I am attempting to put to practice what I learned this week in class. This is challenging because I’m having to do all this (thinking about it and actually doing it) between doing other things. But it’s work that for some odd reason I very much enjoy doing. I wonder why this is. This is something else to think about.

Next: 223: 11/4/13: Sick Horse