Zebra & Zebu Training, Day 5 & 6

Day 5, Session 1

Our morning session started out with a continuation of basic nose targeting for Stripes. I did some touch acceptance with Mr. Cute, but I try to keep him busy with food as much as possible, since my main focus is supposed to be on training Stripes. Of course, it's really hard to resist all the other animals, so a goat, the Surfer Dudes (capybaras), and one of the pigs all got in on a little targeting action as well. 

When we first start training a behavior, we get the behavior consistent first, before adding the cue, so now that Stripes was targeting pretty well, I started adding the verbal cue "touch" each time I presented the target. Because Stripes was already holding her nose to the target for brief periods of time as well, I also started adding the verbal cue "hold" and only marking the behavior after a count of 3, 2, 1. Over time, I will gradually increase the duration by adding more seconds to the count and changing up the count each time so that the behavior is not always more difficult. For example, if we are up to a count of 10, I might ask for 10, then 5, then 9, then 3, then 11, and so on. 

Since Stripes seems pretty comfortable with targeting and my proximity, I even decided to go ahead and throw in a nose to hand target every so often. She didn't seem to mind too much, targeting my fist, and this will help generalize the "touch" cue to other objects. 

I'm still not pleased with our reinforcement delivery system, as I feel it's still a bit aversive for Stripes, but for now it will have to do until I can think of something else, or she just becomes more comfortable with it.

Day 5, Session 2

We moved! Training in different places helps proof behaviors. Generalizing is important so I like to move around and change things up often when I'm training, otherwise the the environment can become a contextual cue and the animal may think that a specific cue only applies in a specific environment. This is why so many people have trouble with their dog that "only" sits for them in the living room. It's because they've only ever worked on sit in the living room. Move to the back porch and suddenly the dog has no idea what to do when the owner says, "sit".

I really liked our new spot as it made my joke of protected contact a little less ridiculous. Having the bar at waist height seemed a little more purposeful than propped up on posts at less than knee height. 

Here we continued with more of "touch" and "hold", adding in more hand targets as well. Stripes had a little trouble when I tried to increase our 3 second count to 4, so I will have to move a little slower with adding duration. 

Day 6

It was a little rainy when I went out to Stripes enclosure today, so we moved out training set up to their shelter in the middle of the enclosure. Here we continued working on "touch", "hold" and targeting both hands. I didn't have a whole lot of time, so this was our only session and it was a short one!