Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Training Process

In a comment achieve1dream asked how I trained Bombay not to bite, but to lick instead.
I had to think about it, because we're talking something that happened maybe ten years ago. If my memory serves me well, I offered him my hand and watched him closely. As soon as I saw or sensed that he was about to nip, I'd say, "Ahh, ahh, ahh," like "No, no, no," and pulled my hand away. I'd then offer him my hand again and continue the process until he handled it gently by either just sniffing or rubbing his muzzle on it, and then I'd say, "Good boy!" and pet him.

However, on one occasion he started licking my hand and I said, "Awww, that's nice-nice." I guess I said it in such an enthusiastic tone that it stuck in his brain, and he just got into the habit of licking my hand when I offered it, and I got into the habit of saying, "That's nice-nice."

Then when I sensed that he was going to nip, I started saying, "Be nice-nice," and he'd immediately start licking my hand instead of biting it. He's such a mouthy horse that I felt like offering him an acceptable alternative to biting was my best bet. Sometimes elementary school teachers are so busy disciplining their students for doing bad things that they forget to direct the kids toward something good that they could do instead. Kids always have to be doing something, and it's usually counterproductive trying to make them just sit still and be quiet. I didn't want to just discipline my horse for biting and leave him wondering what he is supposed to do each time I offer him my hand, so I had to praise him for doing something other than biting, and licking was the new behavior he offered.

Here's an example of how mouthy he still is...

In this picture, Bombay had flipped the latch on the gate, pulled the lever, and was now trying to unclasp the chain with his mouth in order to get into the round pen.

Lostine often lets herself into her stall at night by pushing the door to the side if I forget to lock it. That door has to have about 20 pounds of pressure, and she can still open it with her muzzle.

6 comments:

Deanna said...

Excellent training method!

Breathe said...

Excellent approach. Smokey is very lippy too. Hasn't tried to bite, but I did have to pull him back when he tried to grab my jacket with his teeth while I was wearing it (I've been teaching him to picik up cloths, so he was just over achieving!).

fernvalley01 said...

I had a mare that licked your hand when nervous, I wonder if that was something she learned like Bombay

Crystal said...

Interesting, I worked at a barn taht had a horse that would lick you if you wore short sleeves (very slobbery, eww) But he was a very mouthy horse too and makes me wonder if that was taught to him too (either intentional or accidental) I never did ask.

Johara said...

That's a fascinating idea. My mom's 3 yr old is incredibly mouthy, and thinks discipline is a challenge to do worse. I will definitely be passing this idea on to her!

achieve1dream said...

You know considering how much alike Chrome and Bombay are (still mouthy at his age???), that just might work!! Thank you for answering my question and sharing this. You're right that they do have to be offered an alternative and that's something I forget, so thank you for reminding me. I have noticed that Chrome has started licking, so now I need to praise that! Thanks again!!