Harness & wagon fitting queries
You mix several situations:

Learning environment: here it is important that the learner is right as often as possible because this will keep him/her in a state of mind that will promote good and lasting learning. I would like you to refer you to Susan Friedman's talks about errorless learning on that. Or, if you want to stay with Alexandra for a while longer, check her blog posts on myelin and "The Talent Factor".


Here's Susan Friedman's article


Granted, the most errorless learning will happen in a laboratory setup but also in the real world we can minimize errors in the teaching session much more than conventional training methods will think possible. Here the benefits of a training plan - written and thought through before hand - and thin-sliced training apply themselves.

Dangerous situations: in SUCH a case, anything that works and keeps animals and humans safe, is allowed. This is a no-brainer. But the more you looked to errorless learning in the past BEFORE the incident, the more good training history you will have on the wanted behaviour and the less correction will be necessary.

And again, any time your animal can practice a "false" behaviour, this behaviour will be more strongly imbedded in the behavioural chain that you are building because in one way or another this part will also be reinforced and the connections in the brain will become more and more. Each repeated action will be protected by the brain with myelin sheaths along he neural pathways and these sheaths are really hard to "unravel" later. It's better, to spend time and effort into forming neural pathways of wanted behaviour because these will then be the more effective and might even over-write instinctual reactions.
Sabine from Germany
[Image: zoVgi.gif]

How are things going with Koby? I haven't had time to work with my goats lately because of new babies and a lot of other stuff going on. Hopefully we'll get a drive in tomorrow. I'm thinking the tongue on our new wagon is about 6-8" too short for our boys. It's working, but it's not ideal and pulls the harnesses to the side when they stop. We need the angle of the yoke strap to attach further forward instead of to the side. Luckily our pole bolts onto the doubletree so it will hopefully be fairly straightforward to add length of tubular steel in the middle.

Sabine, I think we agree way more than we disagree even if it doesn't always look like it. Wink
I agree that the learner should be right as often as possible. If too many mistakes are happening, it's time to reevaluate how we're teaching. And I also agree that it's important not to practice the wrong behaviors. Conventional training absolutely agrees with all of that, which is why it puzzles me that so much of the literature in the clicker training world refers to traditional training in pejorative terms. Traditional trainers have used positive reinforcement successfully for thousands of years, as evidenced by reading the works of Xenophon.

One of the important things to understand about correction is that the animal must learn how to understand it and respond appropriately. Like my dog attack example earlier--if the goat has never had a whip or a rein used on it before, it is unlikely to respond appropriately to a strong application and is more likely to either ignore it or panic and bolt--making the situation worse. Appropriate response to any cue needs to be taught through practice whether we're using only positive reinforcement or a traditional combination of positive and negative. I had to work hard to teach Sputnik not to overreact when I first introduced the whip. He had a tendency to panic and bolt if I so much as tapped it on the ground near him. This was not an appropriate response, and since a whip is an important communication tool for harness training, I had to spend time desensitizing him to it so I could use it safely when we went out on the road. Now he knows that when I tap him with the whip, I'm asking for a specific behavior. So, going back to my example of the dog attack, if I must use my reins and whip strongly to avoid a wreck, my goat is a lot more likely to listen and obey those commands since he has been trained to know what they mean. He's also less likely to have his feelings hurt because he knows these signals have a meaning even if I had to give them very strongly in reaction to a dangerous situation. If he didn't have a good history of understanding correction, he would probably think I was beating him for getting attacked by a dog (totally unfair, totally frightening, totally undermining of trust), which means we will be facing many more training problems after the incident! Teaching animals to understand correction can be as important as teaching them to understand commands.
Koby is going great thanks! This week's lesson was the best yet. He was really listening to me and I am anticipating his actions much more now. I think he's really starting to enjoy his lessons.  He's no longer fidgetting when we hitch him up.  He kind of arches his neck like a horse and has a high stepping gait when he gets into the groove of things, like he's proud.  He backs straight instead of reversing in a circle and he can now turn right a lot better (he always favoured going to the left, but that was my fault).  A few more sessions like this and I'll be driving from the cart itself instead of walking out behind Smile
Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap
Another milestone reached today; I am so excited!




Hope these links work Smile
Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap
Nice! Looks like he's coming along very well! You'll find that the head-tossing gets less as he gets more used to work, and I think you'll also find he's more comfortable with a bit and bridle instead of a halter. My boys rarely toss their heads, but if I drive in a halter they start up--especially Sputnik who is very sensitive about the noseband rubbing back and forth across the bridge of his nose. He doesn't care for it at all and will shake and toss his head nearly every time I use the reins. He almost never does this with a bit, and in fact both boys went better the very first time we drove them in bits. There was zero "break-in" period where they had to get used to it. I don't know if all goats will adjust this quickly, but I was impressed with how well mine did. The biggest adjustment was training them to hold still and allow us to put the bits into their mouths. It took a few weeks before bridling came easy.

Once again, nice job with Koby! It's great to see you actually driving him and not being led around by someone else. That's the "big hurdle" for most people who want to drive goats--they can't get them to go without another person walking out front.
Thanks Nanno! It was actually a bit of an anti-climax, but in the nicest possible way. I was anticipating shenanigans from Koby but he seemed far more comfortable with me in the cart than when I was walking behind, or in front of it.  It's like he finally understood what we were doing and no longer wondering why his human and her friend were making him tow a funny contraption behind him.  The cart also seemed to be better balanced with me in it.  And you are right, he has already started to back off on the head tossing, although he still does it.  I need to get the slow leak in one of the tyres fixed and organise a whip socket (which I will probably make), and then we'll really be on our way!  I guess I can start mouthing him with the bit I bought (half spoon).  I did have a bridle made but it's not going to be strong enough to drive him in, I can already see that. But I can use it to help get him accustomed to the bit.  Thanks so much for all your help and advice, which I will continue to need!!! Smile
Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap
Anti-climactic is usually the best outcome. Phil and I always hope for "uneventful" when we take new big step in our training. And I agree that animals understand things like the difference between you riding in the cart and just driving behind it. Suddenly they get "why". Sputnik had the same deal with the packsaddle. He was terrified of it until I finally just strapped it on there and let him walk around. Now that he knows I put things in it to carry, he looks forward to his very important job when we go hiking. Sputnik was also afraid of the cart until I started riding in it. Then suddenly it was like, "Oh yeah, this is what you're up to! I get it!"

Animals are smart. Both Finn and Sputnik learned "whoa" best when I started having them haul water to their pens. They realized almost immediately that it was important for them to stand still so I could fill, load, and unload the water jugs. They could see that my hands were busy and couldn't hang onto their reins, so they learned to keep themselves still while I handled the water jugs. After the first couple of times, they knew where the water was supposed to go, so I didn't have to do so much steering. I could instead concentrate on steadying the sled. We've had almost no snow this winter so it's been over a year since the boys had to haul water. I wonder how they will behave when we do it again?
Sputnik sounds a lot like Koby in temperament. Koby is a bit of a drama queen with new experiences but then settles down pretty quickly once he has processed the information and realises that there is no danger. And I am not so nervous now that I know he trusts me and he won't take off on a trail or in the cart. I think he feeds off my vibes, so as long as I remain calm and reassuring he relaxes. When I got in the cart and drove him properly on Friday, he turned his head to look at me as if to say "It's about time!". If I had to describe his personality in one word I would say he is highly strung (OK, two words Smile)

I'm sure your boys will remember what to do when they next haul water.
Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap
Being confident is half the battle. Animals definitely pick up on our vibes, and if we are hesitant, unsure of ourselves, nervous, confused, or insecure about our abilities, they clue right into it and it makes them feel the same way. Not to say we should overestimate ourselves or be dishonest about our abilities, but it pays to be confident. It's the same for parents and teachers. When they act like people who have all the answers or at least know how to get them, kids are a lot more likely to trust and obey them. Being able to admit when we mess up is part of that confidence actually. The ability to evaluate what you're doing and change course if it's not working is a good leadership quality that inspires trust.

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