The last post on Cinder focused more on using tricks and clicker training to help focus her. Recently I also added working with her at liberty. I began using some of Carolyn Resnick’s waterhole rituals. Since Cinder has a challenging nature, I needed her to see me as more than someone to push around. I did this by using taking territory.
I put some grain in a rubber tub and let Cinder start to eat out of it. While she was eating, I began to walk around her. If she wasn’t paying attention and let me get behind her, I would then yell and try to startle her, but only when she wasn’t paying attention to me. If she had turned to watch me, rather than ignoring me, I would have left her alone. As it was, I was able to catch her “napping” three times. After each time, I would also do some hellos, to invite her back in.
After the third time of startling Cinder, she wouldn’t let me get behind her. She would keep moving so as to watch as I walked around. This was what I had wanted. Then I decided to work on companion walking. I would ask her, mostly using my body language, to walk on my right side. At first, I mostly worked on straight lines. If she stayed with me for several steps, I would click and reward her. Once she was doing pretty well, I began turning to my left and asking her to stay with me. I didn’t just turn quickly and try to make her catch up; instead I would slow down and turn carefully to the left. I found that she was very willing to stay with me if I didn’t try to lose her.
Then we worked on turning to the right. This was a little harder for Cinder as she liked to be a little farther in front. So I would ask her to turn right by turning into her shoulder and neck. At first, I had to gently wave the whip toward her nose to encourage her to turn, but if she did, I would click and reward. She quickly caught on. The next time I turned into her, she slowed down and stepped her shoulder over to the right. That was a lot of progress. I clicked and rewarded her.
Next I would ask her to stop with me. Cinder’s inclination was to keep going and turn back toward me when I stopped. If she did this, I would gently tap her rump to ask her to circle around me while I kept walking straight. When she came to my side again, I stopped. Again she didn’t stop with me, but went ahead, so I asked her to circle and kept walking. This was repeated just once more and then she stopped with me the next time. I clicked and rewarded her.
The next time I got Cinder out, she had improved a lot. She hardly ever got in front of me and would almost turn completely around on her haunches when I turned toward her neck. I did all of this without ever having to hit her neck with my hand or stick. She did very well at stopping with me and generally seemed to pay much more attention.
Here is the video of Cinder’s liberty work.
Also, for more liberty training ideas, go to Carolyn Resnick’s blog.