I worked with McKee today. On the one hand I’m really excited about it, on the other hand I’m wondering if I’m going to run into issues.
OK, first thing is what we accomplished today. I set up a little table that had three distinct items on it; there was a little cone with plastic flowers sprouting out of the top, there was a stick with a tennis ball on it and there was of small cylinder shaped item.
I sat in a chair on the opposite side of the items, facing McKee. I had a small wand in my hand and tapped the item, said “target” while I pointed to the item and McKee touched it with his nose. The whole thing worked beautifully.
McKee waited with his head positioned in the middle until I gave the cue to target the item. He was very good at waiting for the cue although he did jump the gun a few times. He was very quick to respond to the pointing device and his attention was great.
So here is my concern. In the past I did a lot of work with McKee learning to target left and right. Our set up position for this exercise was almost identical to the one we did tonight (no table, different items.) The behavior of facing me with his head in the middle was established with the right/left exercise.
I even used my hand as an indicator which was pointed in the direction I wanted him to turn his head. So standing in front of me and touching an item is a very familiar behavior for him. The question is, will this formerly trained behavior compete with what I’m trying to teach him now?
My goal is to teach him a concept of looking at what I’m holding and matching it to another item that is identical. The tricky part of teaching the concept is to keep the animal from thinking of the behavior as a single trick, and then falling into a category of a well known established behavior. The animal needs to generalize in a much bigger way to learn the concept to a level where I can hold up an unfamiliar item and he can recognize its counterpart.
So I’ll see how it goes, but I’m finding the process interesting.
I think I need to go ride my mare…LOL.