Goat Diaries Blog by Alexandra Kurland
Sputnik never ceases to amaze me with his intelligence and eagerness to learn new skills. We didn't practice our "Help me" trick until two days ago, which was three days after the previous session. I started out with the tennis ball between my knees so I could work toward having him target that part of my body. He targeted the tennis ball immediately a few times, so I removed it. It took him a few minutes to figure out that I still wanted him to put his nose at my knees even with the tennis ball gone. Mostly he spent those few minutes nuzzling my hands in search of cookies. When none were produced, he started ducking his head down in frustration, and I clicked every time his nose approached my knees. A few minutes later he was consistently putting his nose at my knees to get a treat. Soon afterwards I started placing my hands behind his horns every time he lowered them. He did not move away. In fact, once he knew that the purpose of touching his nose to my knees was to make his horns accessible, he began presenting them properly with the front of his face vertical. He started waiting for me to put my hands on his horns.

Then we changed the whole operation when I switched from sitting on the stanchion to standing up, holding my hands out, and asking him to present his horns with the "help me" command. After something like three tries, Sputnik was presenting his horns to me while I was in a standing position and waiting for me to grab them. After several correct responses where I grabbed his horns and then let go, I then held on and asked him to "Lower". I lowered myself to a sitting position on the ground. Sputnik wasn't quite ready and stepped toward me instead of bracing, but he held steady enough to let me sit down gently while holding his horns for support. Then we practiced the same knee-targeting movement with me on the ground. After he did it correctly a few times, I held his horns and said "Lift". He immediately braced himself and backed up a step or two while I hung on, hoisting me right onto my feet in one swift, graceful movement. He lowered me to the ground and then repeated the "lift" trick several times almost flawlessly--presenting his horns when asked, staying steady while I settled my hands behind them, waiting until I gave the command to "Lift," and then stepping backwards and pulling me to my feet. I'm so proud of him! We need to work a little more on the "Lower" command because he wants to step forward or back when I'm trying to sit when what I really need him to do is just stand there and brace. But I'm sure he'll figure it out very quickly. He's such a smart boy!

The only "bad" response I got was when I decided to sit for a while and not do anything. I want Sputnik to learn that when I'm not asking him to help me, I want him to go away and not pester me for treats. At first he hounded me quite a bit and was presenting his horns closer and closer to my face. He also prodded my knees with his forehead a few times in a butting gesture but without any power. He wasn't trying to hurt me--he just hoped that if he did "more" of the behavior I'd been asking for, I'd be sure to reward his enthusiasm. I ignored his nuzzling but not his prodding. Any time he touched his horns or head to me I said "NO!" in a stern voice, and once when he was slightly more forceful I thumped the side of his nose. He didn't prod me again. Instead he eventually got bored and went away. That was what I wanted. I let him wander away several times during our training session before calling him back and asking him to "Help me." I can't wait till I have time to try this again! Hopefully tomorrow.

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RE: Goat Diaries Blog by Alexandra Kurland - by Nanno - 12-12-2018, 09:46 PM

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