Trailer Loading - Day 2
Ansel isn't fabulous with tight spaces but has gotten a lot better over the years and will follow me just about anywhere, including a lot of places I can't ride or follow him into. One thing that has probably helped overcome his claustrophobia is all the practice he gets following me between the lockers (a space about half again as wide as my straight-load trailer and too narrow to turn around in) to mug for the sugar lumps that are kept there.
Anyway, we had our second session today and I was pleasantly surprised at how rapidly I could increase my criteria.
I was going to try to be methodical, so counted out 3 sets of 10 treats. Then, I put the small soccer cone I had been using for targeting on top of a thigh-high traffic cone I borrowed. This made it much easier for me to move the cone between trials. Ansel is still doing a bit of mouthing but the weight of the big cone is keeping him from flinging things around.
In about 2 sets worth of treats, I was able to go from 1 foot on the ramp to all 4 feet on part of the trailer - but only about 2/3 of the way loaded - back feet still on the ramp. None of our attempts involved a lot of duration, so I guess my answer (for now) is increase the position criteria before demanding longer duration.
We did a bit on each side - and I discovered I need to stand on the outside edge of the ramp - so on the right if we are going into the right hand stall, left if we are going into the left. That seems to help him stay straight enough to load. Had to do a couple of walk away and resets when he started up the ramp at a 45 degree angle. The trial I was actually most pleased with was when he went in, touched the target with his nose, then continued over the top of the target to check out the leftover hay in the manger.
I only ended up using 2/3 of my treats for loading because we got interrupted to go check out the cutting folks who were driving the calves back to their field - through a shoot that runs right in front of where the truck and trailer are currently parked. So I used the third set to reward standing calmly while the guys pushed the calves into and along the shoot. Once the calves had passed, I went back to the ramp and asked for one more try. It took him about 5 or 10 seconds to drag his brain back to the exercise, but then he stepped right in and touched his target. Jackpot and back to his paddock for his grain.
Published July 25, 2007