Friday, July 25, 2008

Day 25

Session #1 - a little before noon

Little Man wasn't too far out when I went out. I called him once, and by the time I had walked where the pump house wasn't in between us he was already walking up to me! He came right up to me. We worked with the swinging rope end again. He seems comfortable with it swinging slowly by his head.

When I tried to move it back towards his neck and shoulders, he kept moving his head around so he could touch it with his muzzle. When he did I laid it across his face. He turned his head back to nudge at some flies and I was swinging the rope beside him. When he turned back it bumped his neck, and he whirled away from it. I clicked and he came back for his treat.

We kept working, and in just a very short time I was able to touch the rope to his neck. Instead of swinging it, I held it and just laid it on his neck. I was able to do it several times, including once on his shoulder. He got cookies bites for those.

I stepped back about five or six feet and started swinging the rope end in circles on both sides, and in a figure eight in front of me. Little Man was watchful, but he didn't seem nervous. Then I stepped back up to him, and touched him with the rope a couple more times. We finished with one shot at putting the halter up over his muzzle, and he got a peppermint treat.

In between times I rubbed his forehead, and up around his ears. We would have worked longer, but in my excitement to get outside I only refilled the wormer bag in my fanny pack, not the feed bag. I did take plenty of cookie bites and peppermint treats, though, which worked out fine since having that rope touch his neck was so scary for him.

I stood and petted him for a bit, then turned to go in. He was right behind me, and when I closed the gate he came right up against it. One of the turkeys was there, and they studied each other for a bit. He stood and let me pet him, and . . . I was able to stroke his ears, from the base up on the outside, AND handle his forelock! He just stood calmly, and enjoyed being petted. I had the halter draped over my left arm, and several times he nudged the gate trying to touch the halter. I guess he wasn't ready for our session to end. He finally turned a bit and dropped his head to graze, and I went in.

Session #2 - around 7:00 p.m.

Little Man was about halfway out in the pasture, but he came up as soon as I called. We worked with the rope a bit. I swung it by his head and he moved his head until his muzzle touched it. I stroked it on his neck a few times, but he was a bit shy of that. He did start once and moved his front end away from me, but only about a foot.

We worked with the halter a bit too. He was really tossing his head and not wanting to have it around his muzzle. Towards the end, I was able to get it up on his muzzle a bit, and he got some special treats. In between times, I rubbed his forehead and stroked his face. If I petted him too long, he would push his muzzle out towards the halter on my arm, letting me know he wanted to work some more! My daughter came out to the fence to tell me something, and Little Man turned and walked off a few feet, then started grazing.

The flies were really bothering him, plus the mud had dried on him and probably felt uncomfortable. He didn't seem to be quite as focused this evening, but he still did really well. I even had my husband come out and take some photos at the beginning, and Little Man pretty much just ignored him. This is progress! I'll post the photos on the list photo page later. It's so much fun to see how much he has progressed!


What A Difference Clicker Training Has Made

I wanted to let you guys know that Little Man let me touch his ears! It's all in my log, but I couldn't wait to tell you! He stood calmly while I stroked his ears from the base up, AND I was able to handle his forelock - repeatedly! I just took it and ran my fingers up it and he stood there seeming to enjoy it! Just a few short weeks ago I couldn't comfortably touch him anywhere, except on the forehead and that was iffy. Now look at what clicker training has done!

Blessings on you,

Day 24

Session #1 - around 4:30 p.m.

It's been raining off and on, and Little Man is grumpy when he is wet, so I wasn't planning on working with him today. It wasn't raining around 4:30, so I put his daily wormer in his bucket, grabbed a whole cookie, and went out. He was way out in the back corner, but he came up when I called him. He walked right up to me.

I petted him and offered him the bucket. He just looked at me, so I petted him, clicked with my tongue (it was NOT a good click) and gave him a bit of wormer from my hand. Then he took the rest from the bucket. While he was chewing, I petted and stroked him. When he was done, I broke the cookie in three pieces, and petted and treated him. When I was done, I petted him a bit more, and he kept moving his head and looking at me, as if to ask why we weren't working.

We were standing right in front of the gate, so I told him to hold on a minute, and ran in the sunroom for the clicker, the halter, and my fanny pack. I ran back out, and he was standing at the gate waiting for me. I went out and we started working. He was shy of having the halter placed over his muzzle, so we mainly worked with the rope. I held it with a short free end and let him touch it.

Then I let it swing a little. I kept increasing the length of the rope and the size of the swings. I swung the rope very slowly, and asked him to touch it. He was pretty good about moving his head until his muzzle touched the moving rope. Again, it was moving very slowly, but it was moving.

I tried to touch the rope to his neck, but he was too quick to move his head and wouldn't let me. Once the rope swung back and touched behind his shoulder. I clicked immediately, even as he was moving away from me. He angled sideways, with his hindquarters slightly closer to me than his head. But he did NOT try to kick. He pie eyed me though. I held out his treat, and he walked back to me to get it! I gave him an extra big handful of feed. I had no special treats, neither a bite of cookie or a peppermint treat, since I wasn't planning on working.

So, I told him to hold on again, went back in the yard, and ran in the sunroom to get more feed and some treats. I grabbed some peppermint treats, because they were easier to get. I ran back out, and he was still by the gate, waiting for me! We worked just a bit more, with me swinging the rope and him touching it.

When he would touch it, I would lay it across his face, then gently drag it off. I did try the halter on his nose a couple more times, but he kept backing up and tossing his head. So we ended when he finally touched the halter, and I gave him a peppermint treat. Then I rubbed his forehead and stroked his neck for a minute, and gave him one more peppermint treat.

Again today, he kept looking at something across the street. He appeared to take his attention completely off me. I just stood still while he looked. Several times I had to say his name to get his attention. I didn't want to touch him while he wasn't focused on me, because I want him to know he can trust me.
I am so thrilled that he wanted to work! He practically asked to work!

Session #2 - a little past 7:30 p.m.

Little Man was out in the back corner of the pasture, but he came up when I called him. While he was walking up, I stood and swung the rope in a circle. He kept walking. I stopped swinging when he got fairly close. He stopped for a moment, then came up to me. He had been rolling, and was completely covered with mud. Only the front of his face and his muzzle were free of mud. He didn't seem grumpy, so maybe the mud was keeping the flies from biting him as badly.

We worked with the swinging rope again. I swung (gently, with not too long a tail) it by both sides of his face, then I moved it up above his eye level. He pie eyed it when I did that, but would move his muzzle around and then touch it. He got several special treats for working with it up higher. We kept working, and to his credit he never shied completely away. He never would let me touch his neck with it, but I was able to swing it past his head towards his neck. He kept his eyes right on it, and moved his head until he touched it with his muzzle. Several times he lipped it, too.

I did have his put his muzzle to the halter a few times, but he didn't seem to be ready to go back to that game. When we were done, I rubbed his forehead and stroked his face, and he just stood there. He does move his head around when I pet him, but he always brings it back so I can pet him some more. I had the halter looped over my left forearm, and while I was petting him, he reached out his muzzle and touched it. So, I clicked and treated him. :-)

When I walked off, he followed me right to the gate, and nosed at the chain while I was fastening it. He stood there and I petted him some more, then I finally left, swinging the end of the rope in a circle. He watched me, then dropped his head and started grazing right in front of the gate, facing the yard.

The whole time we were working, there was a high pitched noise coming from somewhere across the street, like a slide whistle. He kept watching across the street off and on, and I finally saw someone was walking up and down the street. I stood and waited for him to bring his attention back to me. I don't remember calling his name this time, but I may have once.

I talked to my neighbor, whose husband came down and took care of our animals while we were gone. She said he commented that Little Man did not leave when he came down and put the bucket out. He wouldn't let her husband touch him, but he didn't run.


Day 23

Session #1 - around 2:00 p.m.

I saw Little Man standing in the pen, so I got my things and went out.
By the time I got out, he was no longer in the pen, and I didn't see him. The pump house was probably in between us. I called him a couple of times, and all of a sudden I saw him tearing across the pasture. He stopped right at the side fence (the "other" neighbor), then he took off again. Again he came back to that fence, and stopped right up against it. He stood there a moment, then took off again. He ran and bucked, and ran and bucked, and ran and bucked some more. We've had some rain from Hurricane Dolly, so maybe he was glad it was cooler and the ground was softer. He finally stopped out by the back fence, gave a buck, walked around a moment, then just stood there.

I didn't want to go all the way out there, so I called him. I called him several times, but he walked all the way up the pasture to me! We worked with the halter again. I held it as though I were putting it on him, and he touched it. He seemed a bit shy of it today, so we worked just on targeting it when I held it out, and we worked on targeting the rope. I laid the rope over his face, which he did fine with. I held the rope up and let the end swing gently. He pie eyed it a bit, then touched it. So we worked on that a bit. I was able to touch the right side of his neck with it, but he would not let me touch the left side. He kept moving away. In fact, he insisted that I stand at the right side of his head, instead of the left, as he usually does.

He did back up bit by bit during the session, again. When he finally moved his head over and touched the rope with the left side of his face, he got a big peppermint treat. Then he got a cookie for something else. I ended the session by rubbing his face and stroking his neck, and even rubbing behind his ears. Then he got one more cookie.

The entire time he kept looking past me to my right, as though he were keeping his eye on something. Several times I just stood and waited until he brought his attention back to me. I never did figure out what he was looking at. I didn't see anything out of the ordinary, either in our yard or past our house. But I'm wondering if that is actually a good sign, that he though I was safe enough that he didn't have to watch me all the time. That is probably why he insisted that I stand on his right side, so he could keep an eye on whatever was towards his left.

Session #2 - around 6:30 p.m.

My husband was outside tending the birds, and I went out to work with Little Man. Little Man was standing right at the gate, watching my husband and the turkeys. David went up to him and held out his hand. Little Man sniffed at his hand, then tossed his head and wouldn't let David touch him. I walked up and went out the gate, and invited David to watch for a minute. I petted Little Man, then held up the halter and asked him to "touch it". He did, and David was suitably impressed.
"He knows what that means!" Well, yes.

I held the halter up to Little Man as though I were going to put it on him, and he put his muzzle down to it. I was able to get it up over his muzzle a little way, but he was still a bit hesitant. So I worked with laying the rope over his muzzle, and across his face about midway up. We only worked for a minute or two, and it started raining. So I held the rope up by the side of his head with the end swinging and had him target it. He pie eyed it, but I kept it there and he finally moved his head over and touched it. I gave him a cookie. Then I did it one more time. He tossed his head a couple of times, but finally touched it. I gave him a peppermint treat, patted him, then made for the house. He walked off a bit, then stood there just getting wet.

He seemed more focused on me this evening than he did this morning. I guess whatever he was watching this morning was gone, or else he was used to it. My husband didn't stay very long, probably around half a minute, but Little Man didn't seem to mind, since David was on the other side of the fence.


Day 22

Session #1 - around noon

Little Man was grazing fairly close to the fence, and when he saw me he walked up to me! I walked in the pen and he came in right behind me and walked right up to me. I reached out and touched his muzzle then clicked. We worked with the halter again today, and he do so great! I worked with holding it as though I were putting it on him, and several times even had it up on his muzzle several inches! I also worked with laying the rope over his face, as well as stroking it along his cheek. He's not ready for it to touch his neck, yet.

He was a little nervous I think, as he backed up periodically. We ended up 2 or 3 feet from where we started. I had to call to my children towards the end of the session, as they were catching the chicks to take them in during the storm, but we didn't need to do it yet. My daughter walked out to see what I was saying, and Little Man turned and walked off a bit, putting his rear to us. She left, and he turned around and walked back to me! We worked a couple more minutes.

As I have been doing, I rubbed and stroked and petted him in between times, including patting his neck gently, and I even rubbed behind his ears! I didn't actually touch his ears, but that is real progress. Towards the end he actually seemed to be enjoying it. I even moved my hand up his forehead and rubbed between his ears a couple of times. I ended the session by moving my hand from the side and placing my hand up on the crest of his neck and rubbing. He pie eyed me a little, and arched his neck away, but did not move out from under my hand. He got a peppermint treat for that one.

Session #2 - a little before 6:00 p.m.

Little Man was grazing about a third of the way out in the pasture. I called to him, and he started walking towards me. He stopped and started grazing about half way, so I walked into the pen and started petting the neighbor's goats. Little Man stopped outside the pen and watched for a moment, then walked on around the pen and came in. He walked up to me, and I petted him.

We continued to work with the halter. I held it various places for him to touch it. He even touched it when I held it down almost to the ground. He shied a bit when I held it up, but if I didn't hold it too far up he touched it. I worked with holding it and moving it up so it was around his muzzle. I laid the lead rope over his nose, and on the side of his face.

He did well, up until the time I touched his neck with the lead rope. He did not like that, and the second time I did it the end of the rope swung just a bit, and he shied away when it touched him. I clicked, and he came part way back, so I met him the rest of the way with his treat - a special treat. Then we went back to targeting the halter and rope, just bunched up in my hand. I gave him a couple more special treats. He seemed nervous, and seemed to be watching the yard, and he suddenly turned and dug his heels in and ran out of the pen. He didn't kick, he just ran out.

He stopped outside the pen and listened to me talk to him. I walked out with him and talked to him. He kept watching the yard, and wouldn't even look at me. I waited, and kept talking, and held out a bite of cookie. He finally turned and faced me, and moved forward so I could reach him. I gave him the cookie, and stroked and petted him. He stayed and let me pet him, but kept watching the yard.

Then I heard my son call me, so I knew what Little Man was watching. He ran out of the pen because of the rope bumping his neck, because my son told me Little Man was already out of the pen when my son walked out. I do know Little Man was hit with a halter in the past, so who knows what else happened to him. This time I didn't answer my son and kept talking to and petting Little Man. He let me rub behind his ears, and rolled his head in my hands when I was rubbing his face. He didn't move away from me, so I petted him a little more, then told him bye and walked off. He stayed where he was, and started grazing. Then I answered my son.


Day 21

Session #1 - around 11:00 a.m.

Little Man was grazing in the pen, just a couple of yards from the gate. I walked out, talking to him, and stopped outside the pen, giving him the opportunity to come out the gate if he wanted. He just kept grazing. I walked in, sidestepping along the edge of the pen to leave the gate clear, then stopped and waited for him to walk out. He didn't. He just lifted his head and watched me. I waited to see if he would come to me, but he didn't. So I just walked up to him, and he put his muzzle out to me. I clicked and treated, then we got to work.

Since we may be a couple of days away from a hurricane, I decided this would be a good time to start working with the halter. I held it out, said "touch it", and he bumped his muzzle against it. He didn't seem to mind it any more than he did the brush. He did have some hesitation when I held it low, but he touched it every time but one. When I held it about his knee level, he moved towards it, but would not touch it. So I moved it up, and he touched it. He got a peppermint treat for that one.

Then I let him touch the lead rope, and I even stroked the rope down his face a couple of times. He backed up, but didn't leave. He got a cookie for letting me touch him with the rope.

In between times, I stroked and petted him, on the neck, cheeks, and face. He seems to really enjoy having his left cheek stroked. He rested his head in my hand while stroked his left cheek with my thumb. He seemed pretty calm, and as I was stroking him I saw no sign of his muscles tensing for flight. If I stroked his neck too long, he did move his head away, but he always brought it right back so I could pet his face.

When we were done I petted him for a minute or more, than gave him a cookie, patted his neck, and left. He slowly grazed his way out of the pen.

Session #2 - around 6:30 p.m.

Little Man was about 3/4 of the way back in the pasture, standing in the shade. I went out and called to him, then opened the gate and went out into the pasture. He started walking up towards me! I went in the pen and went over to say hi to the neighbor's goats. Little Man walked right in and came almost to me. I went up to him and petted him, then held out the halter for him to touch. He did, and we got started. I held the halter up (not too far, just a bit), down, to each side, then I started holding it below his muzzle. I held it as I would if I were about to put it on him, and he put his muzzle right down to it. I was a little slow getting the treats, and several times he reached his muzzle out to see if had them yet. :-)

Once, I was fumbling with the halter a little, opening up the knot, and he tired of waiting on me. So he pushed his muzzle out to touch the halter before I was even ready! He did back up a few times, but he didn't try to leave. The geese came up to the fence and honked very loudly, and Little Man pinned his ears back and dirty looked them. I went over and tried to shoo them away, but they don't take hints very well. Little Man went over and got a drink, and I thought he might leave, but he didn't. He dirty looked the geese again, then walked towards me. I met him part way, and we worked a little more.

I laid the lead rope over his nose, and he just waited for me to click and treat. When he let the rope stay there for several seconds, he got a peppermint treat. I petted him a little bit (I even rubbed up behind his ears, and clicked and treated for it), then gave him a bite of cookie so he would know we were done.

When I left he stayed in the pen, and started pawing at the ground, getting it just right so he could roll. I went back in the yard and watched him a bit, and he finally got it the way he wanted it and rolled a couple of times. Then I walked over the fence, and he came over to meet me! I petted him for a minute or two (he actually stayed there and let me, rather than backing off where I couldn't reach him!), then gave him another bite of cookie. He grazed his way out of the pen and started working his way back out in the pasture.

Day 19

Little Man has the weekend off. I put his wormer and a peppermint treat in the bucket, and he was waiting at the fence, inside his pen. He came up, let me pet him while he ate, and . . . stood and let me pet him and talk to him AFTER he was finished! And . . . he did all this while my husband AND a strange man (the neighbor) were standing right behind me! This was amazing!

The neighbor is going to be animal-sitting for us tonight and in the morning, so we were showing him where everything is. Little Man does not like men, and he doesn't like strangers, so this morning was huge progress!

He did move his head a bit, but he didn't leave, and he always moved his head back so I could pet him some more. He didn't seem to like having the side of his face stroked, so I finally stuck with his forehead and face, and neck. He seemed pretty calm, and I am thrilled that he stood there and let me pet him without clicks and treats!

Blessings on you,

Day 18

Session #1 - around 11:30

Little Man was in the pen, watching the neighbor. I walked in, moving to the side so he could get to the gate, and he walked right out. He stopped outside the pen, so I walked out and went up to him. He was a little shy, and moved off when I reached to pet him.

I talked to him, and moved towards him and was able to pet him. We worked on targeting the brush, and I rubbed his head and touched his shoulder a few time. I stroked the brush down his face, but he moved back and pie eyed me when I touched it to his forehead. I stroked it on his neck a few times (I have brushed him before, but he has never consistently let me do so). He shied away and pie eyed me again, but he got a bite of cookie for his trouble.

I ended with resting my hand on his shoulder and leaning my head in towards his. He looked me right in the eye, but I could tell he was ready to flee. I clicked and gave him a peppermint treat to end the session. I walked off and he just stayed where he was, grazing.

Session #2 - around 7:00

Little Man was pretty close to the fence, and saw me come out to give some vegetables to the rabbit. When I finished, I looked up and Little Man was standing with his head over the fence, waiting for me. I went out, and walked out at an angle, and he walked away diagonally. He went on the far side of me, so I just passed him and went over to the fence to see the goats. Little Man came right up behind me. I turned and rubbed his forehead, then held up the brush for him to target, and we started work!

I held the brush to one side, then the other, I had it in front of him, I held it below him . . . he touched it. When I held it up high in front of him, he blew and pie eyed me. He moved towards the brush, away, pie eyed it some more, moved towards it, bobbed his muzzle, then finally touched it! He got a bite of cookie for that one! We worked some more, and I worked in a few more high level touches. He hesitated less with each time. I ended with a pretty high touch, and praised and praised him, along with his cookie!

Then I stood and stroked and petted him and talked to him for at least a minute, and possibly more. I rubbed his forehead, stroked his face, rubbed and stroked his neck (not too far up or back). He just gazed at me steadily, and made no move to leave. I then gave him another bite of cookie (without clicking), just because he had done so well.

When I walked off, he walked right behind me. I walked fairly close to the door of the pen, then said "whoa" and stopped. He stopped too, so I clicked and gave him a bit of feed. He looked at me like he expected it to be a cookie! So, I succumbed and gave him one more bite of cookie. (sigh) Who can resist those big, brown eyes?

I walked on air back to the yard, and he went into the pen to get a drink. I am so happy and excited at how well things are going!

Blessings on you,

Day 17

Session #1 - a little before 6:00 p.m.

We were running errands today, so I didn't get out until late afternoon/early evening. Little Man was grazing near the fence, but walked off when I went out. So I just walked to the side fence and began petting the neighbor's goats, which ran up joyously to meet me. Little Man was behind me within half a minute. But he stopped several yards away and grazed. So I went up to him and petted him, then held the brush out and asked him to "touch it". He did, immediately, and our game began.

He was quite willing to touch it most places I put it, though he tossed his head a bit when I held it low. I held it a little to each side, a lot to each side, back about halfway to his shoulders, up, up and to the side - he touched it. In between times, I rubbed his neck and face and he seemed to really enjoy it. He seemed much less nervous at my touching him. Hopefully it is beginning to be pleasant to him and he's not wondering what my ulterior motive is.

Towards the end of the session, when we finished his wormer, I turned the brush over so he could start touching the bristles instead. And he got a bit of feed for his treat. Finally, at the very end, I took the brush and stroked down the front of his face, then gave him a bit of cookie for a treat. It went so well I decided to press matters a bit, and I stroked the brush down his face TWICE! He stood there and let me! And, of course, he got another bite of cookie for that one. Plus I told him what a smart, good boy he is.

I rubbed his face and neck, then patted his neck gently (with NO flinching on his part!), and walked off. He made no move to follow me, but dropped his head to graze.

This will actually probably be our only session today, as my children have swim lessons this evening, and I don't want to have a second session too close to this one. But I am so pleased at how well it went!


Picture of Little Man Without the Halter

Here is a pic of Little Man, withOUT his halter.

I took this several days after we finally got that halter off. He kept coming up to me while I was trying to get a shot, and this was the best I could do. At least he wasn't scared of the camera!

I think he looks even more handsome without that halter hiding his pretty face!

Blessings on you,

Day 16

Session #1 - sometime between 12:30 and 1:00

Little Man was in the pen watching me work with the birds, and stood right up against the fence. So I went up to the fence and he didn't leave! I stroked and petted his face for a minute, then walked around to the gate and out in the pasture. When I walked towards the pen he got out, and stood not too far away. I walked in the pen to see if he would come back in, but no, he stayed put. So I walked out to him. I was carrying the soft brush, and I held it up so he could see it.

He wasn't sure he liked the brush, and tossed his head and blew. I held it out, and clicked for any movement of his muzzle towards the brush. Now the click he understood! He eventually touched (barely) the brush, and was duly rewarded. I began to say "touch it" before he made contact. Once he started touching it, I began to move it. Not anything dramatic, and not far away from him, but I held it on both sides of his muzzle, down a bit, and up a bit. He touched it everywhere except when it was up. Perhaps he thought I was going to hit him with it. He tossed his head and moved back a abit. So I lowered it so he could touch it more comfortably.

After I clicked and treated, I rubbed his face, cheek, and neck, being careful not to go too high or too near the shoulder where we have been working. But he seemed to like having his face rubbed, and didn't offer any resistance to having his neck stroked. I want him to start looking at being touched as a reward in itself.

I finished the session by letting him sniff the brush a longer time, then giving him a peppermint treat after the click. He knew that was the end of it! He moved his head away when I tried to stroke his face one more time. I think that I did pet him before I left, but I don't recall.

He seemed more relaxed, possibly because the pressure of being touched so much was off him. I have used this soft brush on him before, but it took a long time for me to be able to touch him with the brush. And he never stood for it long.

I didn't crowd him. I stood right in front of him, where he likes me to be, and just reached out my hand with the brush so he could touch it. Except for when he moved back when I held the brush up, I don't believe he actually stepped away from me any other time. I can't remember though.

Session #2 - between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m.

Little Man was way out in the back corner of the pasture when I went out. I called hello to him, then walked in the pen and over to say hi to the neighbor's goats. Little Man walked all the way up! I went out of the pen and met him in the pasture. My son was filling Little Man's water buckets, and I didn't want him spooked by the water. He doesn't like the hose.

We worked on targeting the brush again. He did so well! He touched it immediately. I moved it on each side, up a bit, and down a bit. He touched it everywhere except when I put it below his muzzle. He blew, and pie eyed me when I put it down. I clicked for any move towards it, though. I also tried stepping back and holding out the brush, to see if he would step towards it. He didn't, but he did reach with his head, so I clicked and treated, then moved back.

He seemed very calm, and seemed to like being petted and stroked in between targetings. The last few times I turned the brush so he was touching the bristles instead of the back. He did fine. The last time I held it down, but not so far that I thought he wouldn't touch it. Then I rewarded him with a bite of cookie, and petted him a bit more.

I think he really likes having a break from the stressful touching we have been doing.


Day 15

Session #1 - around 1:30 p.m.

Little Man was grazing right by the pen, so I went out. I walked towards him, but he began to walk away. I went into the pen, and he stayed outside it, grazing. I played with the goats through the fence, but Little Man did not come in. I finally went out of the pen and approached him. He began to move towards me, and I clicked. He hesitated to come and get his treat so I walked towards him and he finally took it.

I spent some time talking to him, and stroking his face. I worked on rubbing the top of his head and behind his ears, moving my hand both from the front and the side. I also worked on touching and stroking both his shoulders. He is still very apprehensive when I do this, and appears ready to bolt at any moment. I worked on laying my hand on his shoulder and just holding it there. When he was about to back off I clicked and stepped back to relieve the pressure on him.

I ended the session with a bite of cookie.

Kong was out at the back fence, so I went out to see him. He behaved very aggressively, sticking his muzzle through the fence and grabbing towards me with his teeth. I told him no, and tried to pet his neck. He finally stopped trying to grab me with his teeth, so I touched his neck and clicked. Then I fed him one of those long pieces of green stuff he likes to eat. He actually stood alongside the fence so I could scratch and rub his back. He also let me rub behind his ears without biting at me. I fed him a bit more green stuff, then left.

Little Man came up behind me to watch, but made no move to come up and "horn in". I guess he figured he had had his cookie so he was done. I did go up and pet him for a minute before I left, then I gave him a bit of cookie. He walked with me a very little way, then stopped to graze.

I do find it interesting that he appears so polite when I am with another animal, especially when food is involved. His food aggression is the reason my friends got rid of him. Could it be he really is polite? Or is he just so distrustful that he won't come up even when there is food? Well, he will come up, but he isn't pushy. And he is extremely gentle when taking treats. Any aggressive action he has ever made has in actuality been defensive in nature.

Session #2 - around 6:30 p.m.

Little Man was grazing fairly close to the yard when I went out. He did not come to me, so I walked towards him. He circled, then let me approach him. We worked on touching his head and shoulders again. He is still wary, and I can tell he is really working at staying put when I touch his shoulder. I really think that the anticipation of a treat is what is keeping him there at this point. He is still angling his head when I rub the top of it, though not quite as much. We ended the session with a bite of cookie, then I walked out to see Kong.

Kong was still being grabby, but I managed to rub his forehead at a time when he wasn't grabbing, so I clicked. I am feeding him the long, green plants for his treats. No more eating out of my hand! Or eating my hand, for that matter! He seemed almost grumpy. I petted him, when I could, until all the green things were gone, then left. Little Man had not bothered to come out.

When I was walking back Little Man started moving towards me a bit, so I walked over and petted him. I touched his shoulder a couple of times, clicked and treated. Then I laid my hand on his shoulder for a short time, clicked and gave him a peppermint treat. He took it and turned his back on me. Guess he was telling me he was done!

Blessings on you,

Questions About Clicker Training

I have a couple of questions.

I am wondering if I should go back to Little Man after we have ended a session, or if that is a bad idea. Sometimes I will click and treat again, and sometimes I will just rub his face and talk to him a minute.

I don't go after him if he is not coming towards me, or otherwise initiating contact. I am also wondering about ending sessions with a special treat. Is that a good idea? I was thinking it signifies to him that the session is over, so he doesn't wonder about it.

I am anxious to learn more. I am thinking that I will go ahead and work on targeting for a few days, since he is so nervous about my touching his shoulder. I am thinking about taking the face brush out and having him target that. How long should those sessions be? We usually work anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. He just needs so much help, and I have to admit that the past six months I have felt pretty inadequate to give it to him. I appreciate all the advice and encouragement here. Thanks so much.

Blessings on you,

Day 14

I gave Little Man the "day off" yesterday. He didn't come up when he saw me, so I hung his bucket (with wormer and a treat) on the fence. I did go out and pet him and sing to him a bit last evening, then I gave him a treat before I left.

Today -

Session #1 - around 11:00 a.m.

Little Man was grazing in the pen, so I went out and talked to him as I walked up. I went in the pen, but was careful to move to the side so as not to position myself between him and the open gate. He moved around where we was on the gate side of me.

I worked on rubbing the top of his head, and putting my hand on his shoulder. I did attempt to move where I was standing more on the side of him than his head, but he kept moving. I did a lot of stroking and rubbing on his face, though I don't usually click for that, unless he is really nervous.

When we were done, and I gave him his bite of cookie, he was standing practically in the gate. So I just moved toward him and kept telling him "back", and he backed right out of the gate! I gave him another bite of cookie, then he walked off a bit so I could come out.

Session #2 - around 6:30 p.m.

Little Man was fairly close to the fence, so I went out and walked into the pen, then over to say hi to the neighbor's goats. Little Man came into the pen with me and walked up behind me. He let me walk right up to him, and I stroked his face, then we started working.

I worked with touching the top of his head and both shoulders, just moving from place to place as it seemed good to. He was better about having me rub his head and right behind his ears, even seeming to almost enjoy it a couple of times. He seemed wary or nervous about having me touch his shoulders. He still will not let me stand beside him, and once he turned around and walked in a half circle to approach me from the other side. He was telling me he didn't want me to stand at his side.

I did move a bit so I was standing towards the side of his head, but I kept my body angled so I wasn't directly facing him. I sang to him some more, but I'm not sure if he likes it or not. He seems to like it better when the range is lower.

I told him what a good boy he was, and ended the session with a bite of cookie, then a couple of gentle pats on the neck. He enjoyed that. I started walking towards he gate and he looked concerned. He started moving towards the gate too, but I kept going and walked out ahead of him. I made sure to keep going once I exited the gate, giving him plenty of time to get out of the pen, as I didn't want him to think I was going to trap him. When he came out he started grazing not too far from the gate, and didn't move away much.

Interestingly enough, he will no longer come up to the fence to let me pet him. I went out later to give the rabbit some hay, and took a bit out to the fence for Little Man. He came only as close as he needed to, and stretched his neck out to take the hay, then immediately backed up and turned around to chew.

Blessings on you,

Question About Day 12

"Kelly - reading your posts, I wonder if Little Man would let you touch his withers. I believe that is where his mother would have touched him to guide and reassure him?"


He kicks when you touch his withers. Ask me how I know! I have though, on several occasions, been able to stroke his withers without having him whirl and kick, but I haven't attempted it for some time. You just never know when it's okay and when it's not. Usually it's not.

From the way he moves and positions himself, I don't believe I have his permission yet. I have gotten to his shoulder now, though he is very wary and ready to bolt. I make it a point to click and release before he takes off. I can actually see him starting to tremble and gather himself. I also am having to reach out my hand instead of stepping up close to him. He doesn't like me to step close. I think he might like having me out where he can see me.

"I may be completely off , but I find that when I introduce myself to a horse I let them first smell my hand, and then if they turn their head slightly, it's like getting permission to touch the withers (you would touch with the hand that is closest to the animal when you're facing it - less threatening). Most horses, in my limited experience, actually prefer that to being touched on or around their head - at least in the beginning."


I'm not sure if mules differ from horses in this respect, but I don't really think Little Man's issue is that he is a mule. I am pretty sure when he was beaten that he was beaten from the side. He has determined that he will not be hurt again, and is on the defensive every moment. He insists that I approach him from the front, and if I move toward the side he will reposition himself so he is standing facing me straight on. He will approach me, however, towards my side or my back, and less so head-on. In fact, he usually circles so he comes at me from an angle. But I have to get in front of him before I can touch him.

Now that I am working on touching his shoulders, I am moving a bit to the side of his head. I can't step towards him though, just sideways but still in front of him. If I move towards his side he adjusts to keep me in front of him.

We have made some progress though. Tonight I was able to reach out and stroke his neck several times withOUT having to start at this forehead and move my hand along his cheek to his neck. I really think this is amazing progress! He actually stood and let me put my hand on his neck! He did move his head away a little, but at least he didn't leave.

Blessings on you,

Day 12

Session #1 - around 10:00 a.m.

Little Man was up getting a drink, and stood there watching me while I was out with the birds. So I went in and got my things and went out. He was standoffish this morning. He let me rub his face, but frequently backed up. I had a hard time resting my hand on the top of his head because he just kept moving. If I could touch it at all, I clicked. I was finally able to rub it a couple of times, and he pie eyed me a little.

I'm guessing after seeing me jump suddenly twice on yesterday, he's just waiting for me to do it again. I kept my body angled while I was stroking him, so he wouldn't feel as pressured, but he was still wary.

Session #2 - around 6:30 - 7:00 p.m.

Little Man was grazing out in the pasture, and looked up when I called him, but did not come up. I walked around a bit, then went over to the nice neighbor's goats and petted them a while. Little Man moved closer, but not too close. I finally walked off and he went into the pen to drink. I stayed back, so as not to crowd him or make him feel trapped. When he walked out I started walking parallel to him, then as he angled off I went back to the goats. In a very short time Little Man was right behind me.

I clicked as he moved up to me, in case the click should startle him. I left his head alone for the most part, and worked on stroking his neck down to his shoulder. I worked on just stroking to the shoulder, rubbing the shoulder, and resting my hand on the shoulder. I watched him closely, and when he looked like the pressure was building and he was about to move I clicked and released my hand, then treated him. I worked some on his right side too, but not much. He doesn't normally let me on that side. Interestingly enough, he won't usually let me touch him with my left hand. Of course, I didn't try because I hold the clicker with my left hand.

One of the goats managed to get tangled in the fence behind me, just as I was rubbing his right shoulder, and made a lot of noise. Little Man jumped away and angled his rear to me. I moved so I was away from him, and waited for him to come back. He stood there, so I went back to the goats and Little Man moved up behind me. We worked a few more minutes, mostly on the shoulder, though I did rub the top of his head a couple of times.

He was looking stressed, so I rubbed his shoulder one last time, then gave it a couple of gentle pats, and gave him a piece of horse cookie. He has always been very defensive with pats; I'm assuming he associates them with hitting. If I'm going to pat him I usually do it from the other side of the fence.

I had my fingers taped up, to keep dirt out of the wounds, and I'm not sure he liked the feel of the tape on him. The appearance didn't seem to bother him, but I think the tape may have been rough, or perhaps the edges felt funny on his skin.

I walked out to see where Kong was, and Little Man followed me. Kong was in another pasture, though I could see him. I called to him, then turned and stroked Little Man's face. Then I left, and Little Man dropped his head to graze. I'm sure he misses his buddy.

I feel as though we are making great progress. He is still wary and on guard, but he is does love treats, and is willing to work with me to get them. I have great hopes that one day he will realize that I really am not going to hurt him, and that I am his friend.

Blessings on you,

Question about Treats

I was wondering about treating. When we work, I start with Little Man's daily wormer, then move to a 10% feed. I stopped giving him feed a while back, because he was getting tubby. But I measure out less feed than I gave him in the winter, and use that for treating. I figure if he's a little tubby, it will be worth it to reach him.

I try to end one of our sessions each day, usually the evening session, with a special treat. Or if we really make some progress, I will do whatever it is we are working on one more time at the end, trying to make it last longer, and then give him a special treat. I use either a peppermint treat, a bit of bread, or a piece of the oatmeal-raisin-honey treats I just bought.

Is it a good thing to end with a special treat? Or not?

Thanks so much!


Day 11

Session #1 - 10:30 a.m.

Little Man was up close to the yard fence, so I went out with my gear.

He saw me and brinnied and came up towards the fence. I walked out, and he walked away, made a wide circle, then finally came towards me. I let him walk a few steps towards me, then clicked. Then I walked to him and treated him. When I reached out to stroke him he whirled and moved off about 10 feet or so. I talked to him and moved towards him, but he turned and walked away. So I went to the fence to pet the nice neighbor's goat. Little Man walked over to us.

I stroked him, rubbed the top of neck, clicked and treated. Then we kept working. He is moving his head as far away from me as he can without taking a step away, and pie eyeing me. He seemed nervous this morning. He never did really relax when my hand was up by his ears and the top of his head. In between times, I rubbed his face and under his jaw.

I bought some oatmeal, raisin, and honey horse cookies at Tractor Supply yesterday, and I had one in my pocket. When I felt he had had enough, I ran my hand up his forehead and rested it between his ears. He pulled his head up, but I kept my hand there. I waited a few seconds then clicked, and gave him a bit of cookie. Then I did it two more times. The last time he looked as though he really wanted to pull his head completely away, but he kept looking where the cookie was. I clicked, gave it to him, rubbed his face, told him what a good boy he was, and walked off.

He came right behind me, all the way to the gate. When I stopped, I said "whooooa". I always try to do that, just to get him used to associating it with stopping. Then I stroked him, moved my hand to the top of his head, cilcked, and gave him a bit of feed. Then I went in the gate, and he came up to it. I stroked him one more time, and ran my hand up to the top of his head. He was pretty far back, so I had to reach, but he must have felt safe there. I clicked, and gave him one more bit of feed, then left. He stood and looked at me for a moment, then turned and started grazing his way back out.

Midday, around 2:00

I went out just a bit to say hello, but Little Man started walking out towards the back. So I walked out that way too, but diagonally to him.

Kong came up to the fence, and I went up to pet him. I had a bit of bread for him, since I missed seeing him this morning. Little Man came up, and I stroked and petted him, but was careful to not touch the top of his head, where we've been working. I was petting Kong, and Little Man was standing behind me, when Kong suddenly sneezed and sprayed my face with snot. Yuck. I naturally jumped and Little Man did too, and whirled and and moved away. Then he looked at me suspiciously. At least, I think he did; my glasses were covered with Kong-spray, so I couldn't see very well.

I did get up to him and pet him a little bit more. I decided to see how he took both my hands on his face. He took it for a few seconds, but his suspicions won out and he moved away from me. So I stroked his face one more time, then left to go wash my face.

Session #2 - around 5:00/5:30

I was waiting around the phone all afternoon to hear from my sister, who was going to let me know when she got my mother home from the surgery center. After several hours I decided to go on out and take a picture when I saw Little Man not too far from the fence. I told my daughter to call me when her aunt called.

I tried to take his picture, but he came up to me and got so close that I couldn't get a good shot. I kept backing up and he kept coming towards me. So I finally put the camera in my pocket and started working with him. If kept working on putting my hand up at the top of his neck. He is still holding his head as far away as he can without pulling completely away. He seemed less antsy than earlier.

When I thought he needed a rest, as he seemed to be about to walk away, I decided to go out and see Kong. He's really not used to taking treats, so I'm trying to help him be gentle. I took my attention off him for just a second when I heard my daughter calling from the house, and he stuck his muzzle through the fence and bit me! I know better than to take my attention off an animal, but I did it anyway. When he bit me, very hard, I jumped and Little Man whirled and ran behind a shrub. So that was twice today I chased him off by jumping. (sigh)

I didn't want to miss my sister's call, and my finger was bleeding a good bit, so I ran in the house. I did go back out before dark, but Little Man wouldn't come to me. Kong was standing at the fence, but I didn't go out because I was wearing sandals.

I told my husband the next animal I get is going to be a poodle, and he said it better be toothless!

Blessings on you, Kelly

Day 10

Session #1 - 10:30 a.m.

Kong was back, and Little Man was out with him. Kong waited eagerly with his muzzle pressed against the fence, and as soon as I started petting him Little Man came over. I kept working on touching him behind the ears, moving from both the forehead and the neck. In between I rubbed his face. I was so pleased that he stood and let me rub and stroke all over his face: forehead to muzzle, sides, under the jaw. I was even able to cup my hand around the bottom of his jaw and hold his face, all without my clicking and without his moving! And he stood right up close to me while I did it!

I alternated between rubbing the top of his neck, and just laying my hand on it and applying a tiny bit of pressure. He is moving his head away from me, but not completely away. My arm ends up being stretched out, but he doesn't break the contact. I can see the pressure building, though, and his eyes start to get a panicky look, so I click and release before it gets to be too much for him. I am not stepping closer when he does this, because I think that would increase the pressure. And I would prefer that he not feel it necessary to whirl and kick. I think he is starting to realize that it feels good to be stroked and rubbed and petted, and it is a bonus that he gets a click and a treat to go along with it.

He only stepped away a couple of times, and when I turned back to Kong, Little Man stepped right back up behind me. I find it interesting that he stands quietly and waits while I am lavishing attention upon Kong. He will occasionally nudge me, but very gently, and sometimes will reach out his muzzle to see if he can't have what Kong is having.

One of the reasons he did not "work out" for my friends was his food aggression. He kept the horses so stirred up at feeding time that it was dangerous for my friends. The horses would end up in a frenzy of kicking, and when the husband got a solid kick that was meant for my little mule, they decided Little Man had to leave.

I have noticed that as soon as I leave, Little Man flattens his ears and pushes Kong away from the fence. He doesn't appear to want Kong's help to "clean up" the grain that I have dropped.

I ended the session by laying my hand at the top of his neck and applying a little bit of pressure, and holding it as long as I felt he could "take it". Then I gave him a peppermint treat.

Whoops, that was all for today. We didn't get finished with our errands in time to go home before swim lessons. So Little Man got a rest this evening. I wonder if he missed me?

Blessings on you,

Day 9

Now that the halter is off, I hope it is okay if I keep posting our progress. I'm just so excited that I love to share. And I appreciate your insight, too!


Session #1 - around 11:00 a.m.

Little Man was on the "other" side of the pasture, away from the nice neighbor with the 2 pet goats, and towards the "other" neighbor with the big herd of meat goats. I talked to him as I walked up to him, let him touch my hand, and clicked. He spooked at the click, whirled and ran several feet, then turned to look at me reproachfully. I went up to him and petted him a couple of times, clicking and treating, then he moved off.

So I went out to see Kong who was running up and down the fence to make sure I noticed him. Kong really grabs, so I worked with him on not grabbing when I put my hand on his face. He doesn't really know how to take treats from a hand very well, so we're working on that too.

I'm having to remember to lean down so he's not reaching up, but he still tries to grab my whole hand.

Little Man came up, and this morning we worked on resting my hand on his neck, and up on the top of his neck behind his ears. If he thinks I'm going to reach over him he shies away. He got better though, and when he moved I just moved with him then clicked and took my hand down.

I alternated between Kong and Little Man. Kong pawed the ground several times, wanting me to come back.

When I left, Kong called after me. It was a cross between a bray, a wheeze, and an I'm-choking-and-can't-get-any-air sound. Little Man flattened his ears and put his muzzle out towards Kong. I couldn't see exactly what was going on, but he was obviously displeased with something. I saw Kong putting his muzzle through the fence, too. They finally moved apart and Little Man went to work "cleaning" (dropped feed!). No wonder he doesn't follow me back much anymore!

Session #2 - around 5:00 p.m.

Little Man was out towards the middle of the pasture, so I walked out to him. I clicked when he took a step towards me, then went up to him and treated him. We continued to work on laying my hand on his neck, sometimes moving from his forehead and sometimes from his neck. He pie eyed me a few times, and moved away from me fairly often, but only moved where I couldn't touch him once. I rubbed/ruffled his mane a few times, wanting him to get used to my hand moving as well as being still.

He did well. In between "lessons", I rubbed his forehead, stroked his face and neck, and rubbed under his jaw. As I was leaving I heard Kong braying piteously, from a ways off, but I didn't see him at the fence.

I walked out to see, and saw that the rancher must have come out, because Kong has been rotated to another pasture, where he cannot access the fence. :-( Poor Kong. I know he'll miss his daily attention and treats. But at least Little Man won't have his buddy close by, so maybe he'll start spending more time up by the back yard looking for attention from me!

Day 8 Halter Is OFF!

Session #1 - around 2:30 p.m.

I walked around a bit and Little Man moved closer bit by bit. I finally walked pretty close and started poking around in my fanny pack.

He stepped closer, I closed the distance and held out my hand. When his muzzle touched my hand I clicked and treated.

I kept working on grasping his halter and holding it or moving it. I also started applying a bit of pressure to the side of his head and stepping to the left in front of him. He moved his head a bit a couple of times. Once he actually picked up a hoof and moved it slightly in that direction! And after that he didn't move his head a bit, and I ended up on the other side of his head still holding his halter. When we did something new and he responded, I gave him a different treat. (I stuck a piece of wheat bread in my fanny pack, and gave him a bite of that.)

If he looked pressured, I moved off a little ways, and gave him a chance to circle around and approach me again, which he did. He seems more comfortable with my hand being on his halter. He is still sometimes moving his head away from my hand, but when I don't let go he doesn't jerk his head away or run off. I don't pull; I just move my hand along with his head. When he hears that click he is in treat mode!

I am now rubbing his forehead and/or stroking his neck in between halter grasps. I only click for halter grasps. He is still angling his head, like he is trying to get my hand over to the halter. My goal is still to get the halter off him. But I'm thinking I might as well start working on moving his head a bit, as long as I can't get the halter off yet.

I forgot to mention that yesterday I tried putting both hands on him. Only a couple of times since I've had him has he allowed both my hands on him at once, and that was only for a second or two on his neck. So I thought I should start getting him used to it, because I will get the halter off faster and more smoothly with both hands. I grasped the halter at the buckle with my right hand, and laid my left hand on his face above the noseband. He did NOT like it, and started looking panicky, so after a couple times I went back to one hand. I didn't want the clicker by his ear, anyway. I remember that about the second or third day, he spooked at the clicker and whirled around. I don't think he would do that now, because he really knows what it means. But still it would be loud in his ear, and he is a sensitive little thing.

We ended with a small piece of peppermint treat.

Sometime in the midafternoon

I went out and Little Man came up to the gate. I stroked him and patten him on the neck. He angled his head, but I didn't touch his halter because I didn't have my clicker and things. I did give him a cracker before I left. He let my husband rub his forehead!!!! Without pulling his head away! This was a first.

Session #2 - around 7:00 p.m.

I went out to the back fence and worked with Little Man and Kong. Kong decided that he could get my attention by pawing at the fence. I started working with the buckle of the halter and the strap started moving! I kept working, clicking, and treating, going back to just moving the halter around whenever Little Man appeared nervous. The strap finally came out of the bottom of the buckle. I got the prong out of the hole, lifted the strap, and gently slid the halter right off him! He stood the whole time without shying! Of course, I gave him a peppermint treat for that one!

I offered to let him smell it, but he declined. So dropped it on the ground behind me, and kept working. I worked on cupping my hand under his jaw and applying just a little pressure, then clicking and treating. He seemed a great deal calmer once that halter came off. And he is even more handsome! I shall have to take a new portrait tomorrow.

When I was ready to leave, I picked up the halter and offered to let him smell it again. He touched it with his muzzle, and I clicked and treated. I left, and he stayed behind to clean up the treat we had spilled. (I am using 10% horse feed. He may get a bit fatter, but this is worth it!)

I am SO HAPPY!!!!!

Thank you to everyone for all your help, encouragement, support, and advice! THANK YOU!

Blessings on you,

Day 7

Session #1 - noon

Only about five minutes or so. I noticed Little Man was fairly close to the back yard fence, so I grabbed my gear and went out. He walked off when I got close, so I turned and walked elsewhere. I started poking around in my fanny pack and he came right over. I held out my hand, he tossed his head a bit, then as soon as his muzzle touched my hand I clicked and treated.

I worked with moving and jiggling the halter. Once he pulled his head away and pie eyed me, and took a couple of steps sideways. Perhaps I held it too long? Or maybe that was when I lifted it straight up to see what would happen. I didn't click, and he moved back where I could touch him again. I could almost see him thinking about what he needed to do to get that click and treat.

He went through his wormer very quickly, and I used the feed to continue just a bit more. When he moves his head away from my hand, I try to follow with my hand, and click before I remove it.

He didn't offer to follow me when I left.

Session #2 - a little after 6:00 p.m.

Little Man was not too far from the fence, so out I went. He walked off again, so I went over to pet the neighbor's goats. Little Man moved closer, but not too close. I zigzagged my way over to him, and when his muzzle touched my hand, I clicked and treated. He was pretty good about letting me hold and move his halter, so I decided to see if I could even work the buckle with one hand. I have been having trouble with the tendon (or something) from my thumb to my elbow, and today is my first day without a thumb brace.

I wasn't able to manipulate the buckle, and he became a little antsy, so I went back to just grasping and holding the halter, or moving it around.

He didn't seem quite as engaged this evening, so I finished up and went on out to see Kong. Little Man came out our direction, but didn't come up to us until I started clicking and treating Kong. I worked with Little Man a bit more, then finished up our session with a peanut butter cracker (I brought one for Kong too). When I left, Little Man was right behind me! I held out my right hand, and he moved over and walked right behind my hand. I wasn't sure if I should click or not, but decided against it because we weren't working on that. I said "whoooooaaa" and stopped, and he stopped too. I rubbed his forehead, grasped the halter and moved it, clicked and gave him the last peanut butter cracker. I rubbed his forehead, he turned around to chew, and I left. He went back out to hang out with Kong, and probably to rub it in that HE got TWO crackers!

I know I am not doing this perfectly, but I figure Little Man doesn't know how to do it either, so we can just learn together. Every day I learn more from this list, too!

Day 6

Session #1 - a little after 1:00 p.m.

When we got home from church I looked out and saw Little Man was grazing not too far from the back yard fence. So I grabbed my gear and went outside. I walked up to the fence where the pen is, and he came inside. I petted him for a minute, he seemed a little skittish, so I laid my hand on his head, clicked and treated. After a couple of times I decided to go out in the pasture with him. So I walked over to the gate, out in the pasture, then towards the pen. When I got close he hurried out, to protect himself from being trapped, I assume.

I waited until he took a step towards me, then I clicked. He moved towards me and I stepped up to treat him. Then we worked for about 10 minutes or so. We went through all the daily wormer and moved on to the feed.

Today I worked on laying my hand on the side of his face where the halter buckle is. My short term goal is to be able to unbuckle that doggone halter and get it off him! I progressed to actually grasping the halter at the buckle. He didn't like that, but the sound of a click kept him from leaving. He wanted the treat he knew was coming to him! He actually showed his teeth in the direction of my arm a few times, which was something new for him. He does kick, but he has never offered to bite. I told him no, and when I grasped the halter and he didn't show his teeth, I clicked and treated.

By the time we finished, I was able to grasp the halter at the buckle and hold it for a few seconds, without his showing his teeth or pulling his head away.

I rubbed his forehead quite a bit, only clicking when I was actually working on the new stuff. He did so well, and I'm so proud of him!

Kong came up to the back fence, and brayed at us. But I only had on garden clogs, so I didn't venture out into the pasture any farther. :-( I'll make it up to him this evening.

Session #2 - 8:00 p.m. About 20 minutes

When I went out this evening, Little Man was towards the back of the pasture. He actually walked up towards me instead of going to the back fence. So I stopped a couple of yards from him and held out my hand. He inched up and stretched out his head. As soon as his muzzle touched my hand, I clicked then treated. I started out sliding my hand from his forehead over to the left side of his head, where the halter buckle is. Then I progressed to grasping the halter. He jerked his head away a couple of times, and showed his teeth a time or two. Nothing major, though. It wasn't long before I was grasping the halter and holding it for a few seconds, and he was standing still and keeping his head still!

After a bit Kong came up to the back fence, so I walked out towards him. Little Man followed right behind me. I included Kong a bit, but continued working with Little Man. By the time I was done, I was grasping the halter, lifting it and moving it around! Sometimes, when I would rub his forehead again, he would angle his head as though he was trying to get my hand back over to the halter! When he moved his head, I continued to hold the halter, but my hand moved with him. He stayed with me the entire time, never turning or walking off!

I held it an extra long time (probably only about 3 - 4 seconds), then gave him a peppermint treat. I rubbed his forehead, patted Kong, and walked off. Little Man turned and walked right with me, right at my right hand! This is real progress, because usually he walks either behind me or off to the side a ways where I can't reach him. So I stopped and touched, clicked, and treated a couple more times, then held the halter a few seconds and gave him another peppermint treat.

He went back to Kong, and I came back up to the yard.

I am ecstatic over how well this went! I have great hopes that I will be able to get that halter off him soon, perhaps within the next couple of weeks. I think it needs to come off, though I am tempted to try working with him to move his head by exerting a bit of pressure on the halter. But I think his safety is my primary concern right now. If he keeps responding as well as he has been, we will eventually get another halter on him.

Thanks so much for letting me share our progress with you all! I appreciate all the advice, support, and encouragement.

Blessings on you, Kelly

Day 5

Session #1 - around 1:00 p.m.

Little Man was out by the back fence, as usual. Kong wasn't there. I went out and called Kong, and he came running from the adjoining pasture. I clicked and treated him, then turned to find Little Man standing right behind me, wondering why I wasn't clicking and treating him! I noticed that the halter had slipped and was now in front of one ear. I really want to just take the halter off, but I don't want to undo any progress we have made.

For this session, which lasted at least 15 minutes, I shifted my focus to resting my hand on his forehead and his poll, just in case I should have an opportunity to get the halter either off or back on. He went through his daily wormer in nothing flat. Then I had to move to the pouch of feed. Of course, I alternated between Little Man and Kong. Kong isn't sure exactly what is going on yet, but he is proving to quite the able assitant. He has figured out that if I am facing him and he hears a click, he gets a treat. I think Little Man has figured out that if he hears a click when my back is to him, he doesn't get the treat. He stepped up right behind me and gently nudged me several times while I was treating Kong.

I did also lay my hand up on the buckle of the halter, just in case I was able to unbuckle it and take it off. Nope, I had to be content with touching it, and gently grasping it and exerting just the tiniest bit of pressure. For the whole session, I clicked while my hand was still on him, and then removed it after the click. I am thrilled with how well he is responding. He watched me very warily, but he allowed my hand to rest on the upper part of his head. I was careful to click if he started to show signs of distress. It seemed that sometimes he would be about to move his head away, but when I clicked he didn't. Also, if he looked pressured at all, I turned my attention to Kong and allowed Little Man to rest and regroup.

I finally was almost out of feed, so I had to stop. But he was doing so much better, and not jerking his head away. For the last time, I held my hand up on his poll even longer, then clicked and gave him a peppermint treat. I rubbed his forehead, prayed for his protection, and left.

I can hardly wait for our evening session!

Session #2 - midafternoon (after 3:00)

This one was impromptu. I wanted to see if Little Man's halter was okay, and I thought I would try brushing Kong (still wearing some of his winter coat) through the fence. So I grabbed a handful of hay and went out to the back fence, where they were hanging around together. I took my clicker training stuff, just in case. :-) (clicker on a wrist cord; fanny pack with feed, and a package of peanut butter crackers, just in case) I gave Little Man a bite of hay, then I walked over to the fence and gave Kong a bite. I started brushing Kong's neck through the fence, and almost immediately Little Man was standing right there. So, I decided to go ahead with a session.

I continued to work on resting my hand on the halter and the poll area. I kind of tested the waters some to see how he would take it if I tried to work with the halter. He did pull his head away some, and pie eyed me, so I just resumed resting my hand on him. I want to keep a close eye on him, and I want to get that halter off as soon as possible. But he is NOT running away from me now! The lure of the "click and treat" is too much for him, I guess. I hope he is learning that I am not going to hurt him.

Kong enjoyed being brushed, and he likes the "click and treat" game. I'm not really sure what to work on with him, because he loves to be petted. He does tend to grab at me though, looking for treats I suspect. So I worked with resting my hand on his jaw and holding it there, then clicking and treating when he was still. Little Man is started to edge closer and closer and reach out and lip for treats when it is Kong's turn.

Kong is just beside himself with joy at any attention he receives. He brayed when I started walking away. Little Man just regarded me thoughtfully.

I keep thinking how I was told that he was raised as a lap baby. He must miss that, and long to have it again. I'm going to keep working so he will believe he can have it with me!

Session #3 - a little before 7:00 p.m.

Little Man was out grazing in the pasture, and when he saw me walking out he headed over to the fence. :-) Seems he likes that classroom. Kong wasn't there, so I went to the fence and called him. He heard me, looked up and saw me, and once again came trotting up to the fence. Little Man came right up behind me, and we got to work. This time he was much calmer when I laid my hand on his head. I kept working, sometimes just resting my hand on him, and other times gently grasping the top band of the halter and applying just the slightest pressure. Sometimes he moved his head, and sometimes he didn't. I tried to not click if he moved his head, and he came back so I could touch him again! We worked about 10 - 15 minutes.

I held my hand up on the halter for a good length of time (for him, anyway) and gave him a very small peppermint treat. Then I thought, well, why not. I couldn't believe it, but I was able to grasp the halter, push slightly, and it slipped right back over his ear. He moved away from me, about 3 - 4 feet, but he did NOT whirl, kick, or run! What progress!!!

I held out the large peppermint treat, waited for him to move back to me and then I gave him his treat. I turned around and brushed Kong for a minute (he stood stock still, and really enjoyed it), and Little Man nudged me. I laid my hand up on his head, clicked and treated, then walked off.

My DH snapped some shots, but Little Man wouldn't let him get too close. He was very nervous and cautious about having DH out there. In spite of that, he worked with me and the halter is now back where it should be! I will keep working, and as soon as I can will get the halter OFF him!

Interestingly enough, after I moved off a bit, DH went over to the fence to pet Kong. Little Man walked up behind him! DH held out his hand, and Little Man sniffed in that general direction and tossed his head. He won't let DH touch him, though DH did rub his forehead for the very first time the other day, over the fence. Then DH couldn't leave because Little Man kept standing there. I finally had to walk back over. Little Man moved then, because he is VERY careful about allowing himself to get trapped.

I am absolutely amazed at how well Little Man is responding to clicker training! I don't even really know what I am doing, and he is responding!

Thank you to everyone who continues to encourage and advise me!

Blessings on you,

Day 4

Only one session today. It was storming this morning, and I skipped the midday one because it never works for us anyway.

Little Man was out by the back fence, where Kong is. He glanced at me when I approached, but made no move to come towards me. Kong, on the other hand, ran up and down the fence, and brayed delightedly. (Good for the self esteem! LOL.) I went straight to Kong and petted him, and fed him some plants that he really enjoys. (Little Man doesn't like them.) Little Man rolled around in the dirt for a minute or two, then got up and made his way over. He walked up right behind me. I rubbed his forehead, then started working.

Today I decided to just go with the flow. Instead of touching his halter on the side, I just ran my hand down his face and laid my hand on his muzzle, over the nose band. As soon as I touched it, I clicked.
Little Man started looking for his treat. At first, whenever I touched him he jerked his head away. So, I started rubbing Kong's muzzle, and clicking and treating him! Then I alternated, Kong and Little Man. Little Man kept inching closer as I was paying attention to Kong.

As we progressed, he jerked his head less and less. I think it really helped that I was no longer touching the side of his face. Finally, I was able to rest my hand on his muzzle/nosepiece without his jerking away, and without sliding my hand down from his forehead first. I only left it there long enough for him to know it was there, then I clicked and treated. We went all the way through his daily wormer, and I had to dig into the feed so we could keep going. Finally, I decided we had been at it long enough (about 10 minutes), and decided to quit while we were ahead. I rested my hand on his muzzle one more time, a little longer than before, clicked, and gave him a peppermint treat! Then I rubbed Little Man's forehead, apologized profusely to Kong that I didn't have two peppermint treats, and walked off.

Little Man followed me a couple of yards, then stood and watched me leave.

I am very grateful for all the help and advice. I appreciate, too, your letting me report on our progress. :-)

Blessings on you,

Day 3

Session #1 - morning. I stroked him, touched his halter, clicked and treated. He is starting to jerk his head away and show his teeth, so I'm thinking that working with a target instead is a really good idea. I just need to figure out what that target is. I spent about 5 - 10 minutes with him, taking short breaks to pet Kong (the neighbor's donkey). At one point Little Man nudged my back while I was petting Kong. :-) When I left, he stayed out with Kong.

I was out in the yard with the birds (chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys) and saw him walking up. He was going to his pen to get water. I didn't go back out. I figured he had had enough pressure for the time being, and should be able to drink in peace. I saw him watching me, though.

Session #2 - midday. Like yesterday, in the mid-afternoon he seemed nervous and skittish. We worked for a minute or two, then he whirled and ran off. He wouldn't come back, so I came on in.

Session #3 - early evening. Lasted just a minute or two. I chose a medium sized inflatable ball with a foam ring (one of the children's toys) for the target. He barely touched it with his nose once, I clicked and treated. Then he stood back and looked but wouldn't touch.

He moved away, I followed. I held it out. He barely touched it again, I clicked, and he whirled around and ran off. At least he didn't kick this time. I couldn't get close to him again, so I went in.

Session #4 - later in the evening, still quite light. This is usually his good time, so I was hopeful. I chose a different target. I wrapped a dish towel around the end of a half broom handle. He hates sticks, so I wasn't sure how it was going to work. I got close enough to click and treat, but only because I held it behind my back where he couldn't see it. I finally brought it out very slowly, being careful to hold it pretty near the towel so it didn't look as much like a weapon. He touched it with his nose once, I clicked and treated. He left, and I approached him again. I clicked and treated for every step he took my direction. But he wouldn't come near the target again. I kept walking around and approaching from the front, clicking every time he moved towards me. He finally trotted off and I just let him go.

So, I am left wondering what, if any, target I can use that he is not suspicious of. I am also wondering if I should just go back to rubbing his forehead and touching his halter. At least I won't have anything in my hand that he can perceive as something to hit him.

Blessings on you,

Day 2

Well, today was day 2 of our clicker training. We did three sessions.

#1 - Late morning - Out in the pasture. We still worked on touching the halter. I used his daily wormer for his treat. He tired very quickly, and left after eating about half of it. (It's not much, as he only weighs around 500 lbs.)

#2 - Mid afternoon - No dice. I walked in the pen and he followed me. As soon as I moved towards him he whirled and kicked at me. I think he was feeling the pressure of being in a confined area. He ran out the gate and loped about halfway down the pasture. He stopped and turned around this time though, instead of running all the way to the fence and keeping his hind end towards me. So I guess that's progress. I followed him until he let me approach him and stroke him. I touched the halter a few times, clicking and treating, until the wormer was gone, then left.

#3 - Bingo! This session was split up into three short sub-sessions. I just used a little 10% feed and hung the bucket over my left arm.
a - I approached him in the pasture, and we had a very short session. Then I walked to the fence to see the neighbor's donkey.
b - Little Man came right up behind me to see what Kong was getting, so I turned around and we had a session. When I felt we had worked enough, I gave him a peppermint treat, stroked his neck, and left.
c - Student initiated! Little Man followed me as I was leaving! He was walking so close behind me that if something had startled him he would have run over me. I eventually stopped, and we had another short session, just a minute or so. Then I stroked his neck again and left. He looked at me for a minute, then turned and went back out towards Kong.

So, I'm thinking that evening is his best time. He does seem to be more mellow then. But I am so pleased that he came after me! Of course, he probably came after the treats, but it's a start. He still won't let me hold the halter, but I just know that will come with time.
For now, if I can touch it, I click and treat.

I'm very pleased, and I wanted to share our progress.

First Clicker Training Session

Today my husband brought home a clicker. I ran right out and Little Man (my mini mule) and I had our first session. I started by just clicking, then offering him a treat. After about five times I reached out and touched his halter, clicked, and gave him a treat. It took no time before he heard the click and immediately started looking for his treat! Sometimes he jerked his head away, but other times he didn't. I only touched his halter very briefly, just long enough for him to know and for me to click. The session was only a few minutes long, but I am so excited.

I think that this will be so good. Because of his past (he was mistreated), negative reinforcement probably isn't a good idea. My goal is to be able to touch his halter for longer periods of time, then take hold of it, then pull on it a bit, etc. My long term goal is to be able to get a lead rope on him. But I'm not going to rush.

I am looking forward to tomorrow!

Blessings on you,

Little Man Introduction

My name is Kelly, and I am new to this list. I haven't been around horses for 30 years, and have forgotten most of what I knew. I sold my horse when I was 16, after I got out of the hospital following a bad accident that could have been much worse. I still love horses, though.

I was given a 6 year old mini (Welsh) mule in January. His history is, briefly: raised as a pet; boarded with relatives for a year and half; when they got him back they couldn't touch him; given to some friends of ours; wouldn't let their horses eatand got them all stirred up during meals (they threw dirt clods at him to chase him away); they couldn't touch him either (he was very buddy sour); given to us. I do
know that he was mistreated at some point. The folks who gave him to us told me that he had been beaten with a halter by the previous owner (who was heavy handed), and that the only way those owners could catch him (after they got him back) was to trap him in a shed or other enclosure. He does NOT like men.

When our friends brought him over, they had managed to get a halter on him, but I understand it was quite the ordeal. He did NOT like the trailer. I don't know how they got him loaded, but he was all over the place when they got him out. They used two lead ropes and a person on each side of him to get him through the gate and into the makeshift pen we had thrown up the day before. They told me to leave the halter on him in case I absolutely had to catch him.

Not too long after we got him, he ventured into the little shed in the pasture. I was standing not too far away. I shifted my weight, and he almost fell scrambling out of the shed in a panic. It was quite some time before I could even walk in the pen with him without his becoming very nervous. He was only penned up a couple of days. It began to rain the day after we got him, and by midday the pen was a soggy mess.

He tested the panels with his head and climbed right out. I didn't bother putting him back in because it was so nasty. Of course, the pasture was too, as it rained for nearly two months, but at least he had a small high spot where he stood most of the time. He only went in the shed the one time.

I couldn't touch him for the first week or so. I have never been around mules, and I have never trained a horse to do anything. (When I was a teen I bought a horse that was already completely trained.) I have worked with feral cats most of my life (I tamed my first one when I was 11 - she was a wonderful pet and friend for 10 years). With cats I learned that they have to trust to you NOT touch them before they will trust you to touch them.

I held the feed bucket to feed him every day, and I held the handle in such a way that his forehead had to touch my hand in order for him to eat. I didn't try to touch him for close to a week. Then I started gently rubbing my thumb on his forehead. Of course he bolted, but I gradually worked up to rubbing him with my thumb, then the flats of my fingers. I eventually managed to slide my hand over his head to his neck. If I ever tried to pat him (even just lifting the tips of my
fingers then putting them back down) he would whirl and bolt. I guess he equated that with hitting.

I did finally discover that if I held a treat (he loves peanut butter crackers!) in my left hand, up by my shoulder, he would let me stroke his neck with the other hand. He even let me pat his neck one day, because he wanted that treat! He doesn't care if I walk out holding a rope, but if I pick up a stick, he is on the other side of the pasture before I can blink. He kicks at me if I hold a stick, so I'm guessing
he feels threatened by it. Perhaps he was hit with a stick, too. We have some tall plants that our neighbor's goats love, so I often snap some off to feed them. One day I snapped one off while he was standing close by, and he whirled around and ran off, kicking.

He does kick. He only kicked me once, and that was just a graze. I was standing by his shoulder (this was great progress) and ran my hand down to his withers. I had done it before, but this time he whirled and kicked before I knew what was happening. He grazed my hip, and there was a muddy streak on my shirt and pants. From what I have been told about mules, he only "missed" because he meant to. He has kicked at me several other times, from enough distance that there was no danger of his connecting, but he was obviously trying to tell me something. The last time I attempted to touch his withers he dug in and ran past me to get away, but he did not kick. I considered that progress.

I have moved very slowly, both because he is simply not trusting, and because I am a novice. I do not want to make a mistake, as I understand that mules never forget, and they hold grudges. I can tell he really wants to be friends, but he just isn't sure. I have not tried to lead him yet, though we do walk around the pasture together.

He shadows me when he wants to, usually when I have a treat. He will let me stroke his forehead and neck, and will sometimes let me brush him. (Getting him where the brush could touch him was a long process! He still won't let me touch him with the rubber currycomb.)

He will let me rub his face and under his chin. I can stroke and/or brush to his shoulder, though only sometimes. He will not allow me to approach him from the side; I have to come at him from the front. And I cannot touch him anywhere unless I touch his forehead first. He has times when he really lets me pet him, and times when he will jerk and walk away if I try. I just don't understand him well enough to read
him, and I am sure I am inadvertently inconsistent in the way I go about things.

A couple of weeks ago his halter tightened on him because the prong slipped out of the hole. He was shaking his head and letting me know it was bothering him. But he wouldn't let me touch it. I didn't want to teach him that he could jerk away from me, so I quit trying after a couple of failed attempts. I tied a lead rope to a tree and finally managed to get it snapped on his halter; I was standing on the other side of the fence. He reared up and jumped back and hit the end of the lead rope, and danced around a bit, pie eyeing me. I couldn't get him to let me touch the halter, so I tied the other lead rope up shorter, and put it on him too. I managed to get him close enough so I could try to adjust the halter with my right hand. Once the halter began to loosen he stopped fighting and stood so I could adjust it. I still had to hold him and just use one hand, but he let me fix it! I used lots of treats during the whole process, and I was really pleased with how well it went.

I have the lead rope still on the tree and hanging where he can see it, just so he can get used to it. But he is smart enough to know what that means, so he won't come close enough where I can get it on him again. His halter slipped again a few days later, and I simply could not get a rope on him. I did hold the halter, but he jerked away from me. Fortunately, that caused the prong to slip back in the hole, and all has been well since then - so far.

A while ago the farmer in the back of us rotated his donkey to another pasture, so my mule didn't have his fence buddy. He really started hanging around by the back yard, and we made a lot of progress. But now the donkey is back, so Little Man just hangs around by the back fence with him all day, and won't even come up when I go out now. He will come up to eat (I just give him a little to mix with his daily wormer) if he feels like it, or if he sees me petting the other neighbor's goats. He comes up really quickly to see what they are getting that he should have! LOL.

He is very gentle, and has never offered to bite. But I feel like we are stalled, now that his buddy is back. I am wondering how he would respond to clicker training, but I know nothing about it. He's not wild, but he does not trust people. He won't let anyone beside me even touch him, though he will stre-e-e-etch out his neck and take treats. He still walks with me in the pasture, but not every time I go out, like he did when his buddy was gone. Sometimes, when I go out, he brinneys (what I call his whinney/bray cross) at me, but he may just be calling for food.

I am thinking about getting a riding donkey, and I wonder if that will help or hinder our progress. I think if he could see me interacting positively with another equine, he might come around a little faster. He comes right up if he thinks I am giving the goats a treat! And he hangs around and lets me pet him if he knows I have something yummy.

So, now I have rambled on and told a long story. I am glad to have found this group, and I hope to learn more about clicker training. I am going to buy a clicker as soon as I can find one, and in the meantime I am going to read every message on this list and find more information on the web, too.

I would appreciate any advice anyone can give me about what I should do next. Thank you so much.

Blessings on you,