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Goat Diaries Blog by Alexandra Kurland - Printable Version

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RE: Goat Diaries Blog by Alexandra Kurland - Nanno - 04-18-2018

Had a blast with Sputnik on the back patio this afternoon. He's such a fun, quick, eager learner! I've barely practiced having him stand on a mat, but after a few minutes of work today he "got it" and I had him standing and waiting on the mat while I walked all over the patio and even out of sight around the corner of the house. He started to leave the mat a couple of times, but when I pointed to it and said "mat" he backed up and stood on it again.

Walking while holding his collar continues to be a challenge, but I'm sure with practice we'll eventually get there. He very much prefers to be walked on a leash ("Don't touch me!" he says), but I know this is something he can get used to if we work at it consistently. It will make him much easier to handle in certain situations such as when he goes in the wrong pen and has to be escorted out. Usually I have to coax him out without touching and hope that the goats that belong in that pen won't get coaxed out with him. I'd like to be able to just grab his collar and walk him out like a normal goat. The situation occurs so seldom that it hasn't been enough of a nuisance to encourage me to train him past this idiosyncrasy, but any chance we have to work on accepting touch is a good thing for Sputnik. When he's in harness or wearing a packsaddle it doesn't seem to be an issue. Much like Cuzco, he goes into a "working mode" where he's very obedient and easy to handle because he knows what to expect and what is expected of him. But when he's loose in the field and I absent-mindedly reach out to pet him, or if I grab hold of his collar, it surprises him and he runs away because he doesn't think touching should be part of his leisure time. He's gotten much better over time and I can now reach out and pet him when he's loose and he rarely runs away now, but he's never really gotten past having his collar grabbed unexpectedly, nor being led around by my hand instead of a leash.

Last of all we played around with the target. He's got the moving target nailed. He followed that thing all over the porch, in circles, down by the ground, above his head, etc. He thought it was a very fun game, and he loves to chase the ball if I throw it or kick it. He's not sure what I want when I place the target high above his head and ask him to stand on his hind feet and follow it. I got him to take 2-3 steps, but then he would go back down before touching the target. It's more effort to follow a ball while walking on his hind legs, but I'm sure he'll get it within a few sessions if I make a point of working on it just a couple of steps at a time. I also worked on having him change from standing on a mat to following a target. He isn't great yet, but I actually had him stand and wait on the mat while I threw the ball. At first he wanted to chase right after the ball immediately before I said "target". But after a few tries he understood that he was to wait on the mat until I gave the "target" command, at which point he could then leave the mat and chase the ball. Then I would send him back to the mat.

Last of all, I want to introduce him to fetching things in his mouth. I started out with a small tennis ball, but that wasn't a nice shape or feel for a goat's mouth. I needed to start out with something easy to grab just with his lips and figure out how to make it inviting. I found a piece of fabric and taught him to target it with his nose. But he had no interest in grabbing it. So I put a treat inside and then offered it. He grabbed it out of my hand and threatened to eat the fabric! I clicked for the effort and he found the treat inside the fabric but he didn't want to let go. I managed to pull it out of his mouth and we tried again. After several repetitions I was able to get him to mouth the rag without eating it. This is definitely going to be a more difficult trick since goats don't usually hold things in their mouths unless they're eating it. Dogs mouth things naturally, and even horses do to some extent. But I've never seen a goat pick up something just to wave it around and play with it unless they were also interested in eating it. If they realize it's not food they either swallow it anyway or spit it out. And they don't like to chew things that have already been chewed on either, so that's another hurdle to overcome. But the rag should be easy to pick up and hold with just the lips so he doesn't have to taste old saliva, and I can also wrap treats inside to make it more interesting to put his mouth on. We'll see how this goes.

RE: Goat Diaries Blog by Alexandra Kurland - Sanhestar - 04-18-2018

very nice!

Fetching is something we haven't mastered, too.

RE: Goat Diaries Blog by Alexandra Kurland - Nanno - 04-21-2018

Sometimes when we're on our daily walk, Phil has Finn jump up on this balance log to do tricks.

Phil has Finn target his fist. 

Phil has Finn "spin" on the narrow, high end of the log. It's a little difficult and requires concentration on Finn's part to keep from slipping off. 

Next Phil has Finn "target" the end of a stick. It's not as easy as touching the tennis ball, but Finn figured it out pretty quickly. 

Oops! Did Blackbird push that great big goat off the log??

Phil asks Finn to jump from the fallen log to the stump. "Good boy, Finn!"

RE: Goat Diaries Blog by Alexandra Kurland - Sanhestar - 04-21-2018

looks like great fun. We are having so unseasonable hot weather right now that the goats spend the whole day in the shadow, still having their winter coats but temperatures like in June/July.

RE: Goat Diaries Blog by Alexandra Kurland - Nanno - 04-25-2018

Today is only the second time I've messed around with Sputnik and the "fetch rag". Considering it's been almost a week with no practice on anything (except picking up trash last Sunday), he did amazingly well! He took the rag in his mouth immediately when I presented it and was rewarded. Within ten minutes I got him to where I could toss it a short distance and he would pick it up and bring it back to me. Letting go is a little bit of an issue. It's a difficult concept to grasp. I would like to click as soon as he picks up the rag, but if I do that he drops it and comes running over for his treat. But if I wait to click until he comes back and gives it to me, he's a little confused because I'm clicking for when he drops it in my hand, not for when he picks it up. I think with practice he'll start to figure out what I actually want--pick up the object, bring it to me, put it in my hand.

Oh, and I wish he would figure out how to hold it daintily in his lips instead of slobbering all over the thing and handing me a soggy, limp rag! Yuck! Nevertheless, I'm quite proud of how quickly he's learning this after just two short sessions spaced almost a week apart. "Clever boy, Sputnik!"

RE: Goat Diaries Blog by Alexandra Kurland - Sanhestar - 04-25-2018

maybe if you split this into three distinct, single behaviours - pick up (put it under cue control) - walk with the object - put it in your hand - oh, and number four - release it.

What you are asking is already a behaviour chain and you make both your lifes easier by teaching smaller steps first and then put the chain together at the end.

RE: Goat Diaries Blog by Alexandra Kurland - Nanno - 04-26-2018

We actually did kind of break it down. "Pick up" was learned very quickly and he was ready to progress after about 2-3 minutes. "Drop" is also coming along well since he can't take a treat without first letting go of the cloth. I do break these things down, but sometimes it's difficult to figure out exactly where and how to break it down without losing the point of the activity. Goals are very important to Sputnik--he wants to know "why". If he figures out that I want him to bring me something it will click. He can learn all the little parts of an activity, but if he doesn't understand the overarching goal, he gets frustrated very quickly.

I also don't want to train the wrong thing. He already learned to go to a target and come back to me without picking up the target. Naturally he's wanting to do the same thing when I say "fetch". So I don't want to click and reward him for just going over to touch the rag with his nose. He needs to actually pick it up and carry it to me a short distance so he understands the distinction. Right now he's only carrying it about 2-3 steps. We started with him picking up the rag and lifting it up to put it in my hand with no steps. Then I tossed it one step away, then two. I like that he's already doing this in a chain. We need to make the chain longer, not break it down into smaller chains. Breaking down what we have now would confuse him at this point. Hopefully I'll have time to work on it some more today.

RE: Goat Diaries Blog by Alexandra Kurland - Nanno - 04-30-2018

I had Phil film Sputnik's fourth fetching lesson. The third lesson was earlier this afternoon and naturally since no one was filming, it went much better than this one. Sputnik made almost no mistakes in the earlier lesson but made mistakes most of the time in our video. I'm sure part of it was the fact that our first lesson was after our walk and this one was before our second walk of the day, so he was a little distracted by the change in routine. Nevertheless, I think he's coming along very well. I'm eager to get him some better fetch toys than the nasty old rag I'm using. That's probably another reason he kept dropping it--it was still a little wet from the earlier lesson. Eew!! 

I wish I could have left the original sound in place so you could hear my voice commands and clicks, but the wind was blowing too hard to make it audible, so instead you get this ridiculous, annoying soundtrack!

Hmm... the embed feature does not seem to be working right now so I guess you'll just have to click the link.

RE: Goat Diaries Blog by Alexandra Kurland - Sanhestar - 04-30-2018

this looks good! A few remarks:

I would ask him more often to "hold" the rag, as this is a part of the behaviour with which he still struggles.

You change criteria with regard to distance of the pick-up and bring it back behaviour very drastically and he shows you that the distance is too long for him by dropping the rag. You now have the beginning of a behaviour chain, were he drops the rag because it's too difficult for him to walk the longer distance with the rag in his mouth. You repeat the signal to pick up and then walk over to him - making the distance shorter.

So he learns, that he can drop the rag to get you to decrease the distance his has to walk when he feels he can't perform the complete behaviour. I would go back to shorter distances until he is solid and brings back the rag without dropping, hesitation or stopping on the walk to the rag and back towards you.

RE: Goat Diaries Blog by Alexandra Kurland - Nanno - 04-30-2018

He had no trouble going longer distances in the previous lesson and didn't drop the rag even once, but he was more focused in the earlier lesson. I was a little disappointed in this lesson but it was the one we filmed. Wink