Welcome to my blog - a diary about living with donkeys, notes about care, my training sessions and the absolute pleasure of donkey companionship.

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Monday, October 31, 2011

Lead training with Siog

Today was absolutely gorgeous, cool and sunny.  Siog and I headed up the road and she walked willingly but her new "thing" is to pull her head away to the right.  If you don't have a donkey's head in your control, you are not IN control!  While this may be no big deal while walking with a mini, it's a VERY big deal with a larger animal!

So I have been asking Siog for a lateral flextion in her neck by sliding my left hand up the lead, gently towards the snap and asking her to soften and when she does I click and treat.  This has been going on for awhile now though on our walks and she still pulls away.  I don't want to create an unwanted training "loop" - this means that I might be inadvertently training Siog to pull her neck away from me while walking, then soften towards me and then get rewarded.  She might interpret this as "first I pull away, then I soften, then I get a treat!"

So today I tried something new and it worked!  I chose a tire tread line on the road and walked on it, keeping my own steps in a straight line.  I held Siog's lead rope, giving her some length and keeping my two hands together at my stomach.  I did not ask her to soften but just kept walking in a straight line.

Siog would pull away to the right and the lead rope would become taught but I just kept on going.  Then she got the idea to release the pressure on her lead by softening towards me and - eureka! ...  she got clicked and treated!

I had to make sure I stayed vigilant and rewarded her every single time she released the pressure on her own and came towards me - I tried not to look at her and kept a steady pace, even while rewarding her.
No big deal that you're doing the right thing, eh?

It was so interesting!  An animal will learn faster if they put 2 + 2 together rather than you doing it for them and this was a great example.  It took very little time for Siog to realize that if she released the pressure on her lead by moving towards me, she would get rewarded!  I didn't have to do a thing except be kind, keep going and reward her when she earned it!

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