Worksheet 2

More Advanced Operant Conditioning and Clicker Training

I'd recommend reading the following books before trying this worksheet:

  • How Dogs Learn - Burch and Bailey
  • How to Create and Use a Shaping Plan - Ben Hart
  • The Culture Clash - Jean Donaldson

Think about the answers to these questions. They are deliberately challenging so that you can assess your understanding. Some of the answers can be found on this website or in the recommended reading material. Some of the answers won't be found in a book - they are for you to work out through observation of behaviour.

  1. Write down a shaping plan to prepare a young horse for his first farrier visit

  2. Why should you be careful not to reinforce the peak of an extinction burst or an episode of spontaneous recovery?

  3. Can you think of an example of each of the four types of reinforcement schedule that we might use with horses?

  4. Have you learnt Karen Pryor's "rules of shaping" off by heart?

  5. Do you understand the differences between habituation, systematic desensitisation, counter-conditioning and flooding?

Put some of this theory into practice. Try the following exercises:

  • Write and apply a shaping plan for your horse to perform a new but simple behaviour, e.g. touching a target or standing on a tarpaulin. Remember, it never hurts to have extra intermediate steps. Feel free to send me the plan to check before you apply it.
  • Find an example of someone reinforcing the peak of an extinction burst. What is the outcome?
  • If you can do so safely, allow your horse to work through an extinction burst. A good example is allowing your horse to mug you until he realises that mugging does not work but that e.g. touching a target does work.
  • Watch demonstrations by professional trainers - can you recognise operant conditioning at work, regardless of what the trainer may call his/her method?
  • Look at the effects that the different types of learning (e.g. operant conditioning, counter-conditioning, flooding etc) have on horses, dogs, people etc. Try not to generalise - look at each new example through the eyes of the individual in question.
  • Start to increase your awareness when working with horses - analyse your applications of pressure and timing of the releases. For example, how often do you lead a horse on a taut rope? Try to maintain the slack - try using a piece of cotton instead of the rope!

I would not recommend that you move onto other worksheets until you are happy with the answers to these questions. Please feel free to contact me if there is anything you are not sure about. I am here to help as well as to challenge!