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 Karen Pryor Clicker Training

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
maryjane Posted - Jul 10 2015 : 1:33:40 PM
Julie Hopper, who comes out 3x/week to help me with my cows uses something called Clicker Training on her dogs and got to wondering if it would work on my cows. Her local trainer, Rachel Aiello, came out today to experiment with my cows.

It involves a reward system (food) and a small handheld clicker (noise maker). My heifers that are old enough to love a pellet of organic grain did very well. Ester Lily and Elsa aren't interested enough in treats to respond to the clicker.

I'm excited. The old tug on the halter, tap on the butt, tug on the halter routine for training is a whole lot more work than clicking on a small plastic/metal device attached to your belt (kind of like clicking on a writing pen) and then reaching your hand out with a pellet of grain.

Charlene, if Betsy will eat from your hand, you need to come and see this in action. It's impressive what she was able to accomplish in one morning with Eliza Belle, Rose Etta, and Lacy Lou, my three heifers in training.

19   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
GingerBKelly Posted - Sep 14 2015 : 7:59:04 PM
Cindy - less than 2 weeks away, yay! I bet your dreams even smell like the breath of warm sweet clover and molasses.
GingerBKelly Posted - Sep 14 2015 : 7:53:27 PM
Well, Mary Jane, we use a cow call sound (voice) to train our cows to come. They come from great distances or short. We call them when they are eating too, so that they are always associating our voices with good food.

They come to our calls, in the dark of night, light of day, during a wind-storm or even a Nor'easter. Sounds a bit like a Coywee (Coo-wii) sound. I tend to use my big cheerleader voice, when calling them from way out in the pasture. I tone it down, quite a bit, when they are close.

It also doesn't matter who calls them, Ken or myself. Unless they sense unusual danger or they've just been let out in the new spring pasture for the first time, they always come to our calls.

I also use a shhhhhhh, back, back, sound, when I want them to back up. They know what I'm saying. They back up or move out of the way.

Oh, and also, Ken has trained the cows to come to the lawnmower (I kid you not) and the Scythe. Little Bit is very vocal when she hears the lawn mower or sees/hears Ken Scything in the tall grass. He always gives them fresh cut grass treats. It's so funny to watch, Little Bit mooing like mad at Ken for grass, like a spoiled little child. I was told that Jerseys are the smartest of the breeds. I believe it!
txbikergirl Posted - Sep 14 2015 : 6:15:39 PM
impressive mary jane, truly. can't wait until we see you and the girls late 9/28!!
txbikergirl Posted - Sep 14 2015 : 6:14:32 PM
ginger, the clicker works as it is just a distinctive instant sound. you associate it with food in the beginning so they get a connection and then you associate the clicker when they do the right action and they get a treat afterwards.

for me the clicker is amazing here as you are dealing with an extremely large animal that isn't as stealthy as a dog... i trained my pugs with both voice and hand signals and it was amazing. i think it would work with cows too, but the clicker gives everyone an instant communication so seems to work well almost universally.
Ron Posted - Sep 14 2015 : 5:07:11 PM
I think it works with a finger snap too ! At least that's what Elaine does to get me for Her.
maryjane Posted - Sep 14 2015 : 2:03:46 PM
There is a link in this thread that will tell you more about the click itself. What are some techniques you've used on Little Bit?
GingerBKelly Posted - Sep 14 2015 : 09:59:01 AM
Would this same type of training technique work with a voice command, whistle or a hand signal? What makes the clicker, unique, important or valuable, when it comes to training cattle?

PS: I agree with CloversMum, I'd like to see a video of your cows in action in the dairy parlor Mary Jane. (hint hint, wink wink, nudge nudge)
maryjane Posted - Sep 14 2015 : 09:37:46 AM
Wait until you see her in action. It's the cutest thing ever. Once she's in the milking stanchion without any food other than enough to have her put her head through and get locked in, you put the hobble on the ground by her foot, click, walk up and feed her a handful of grain pellets, go back, strap her foot in the hobble, click, give her another handful, go back, hook the hobble to the side rail, click, give a final reward. (I love having her eat out of my hand.) Done. She didn't lift her foot once. (For a while it took two of us to get her trained, one standing by her head treating/clicking and one person working the hobble but in the last week, she's learned to do it with just one person.) Then it's time for her to eat a full breakfast and get milked. No flank rope, nothing. It's going to make trailer travel a million times easier.
txbikergirl Posted - Sep 14 2015 : 09:25:13 AM
that miss sally o'mally is suck a smart girl! no bias at all...
maryjane Posted - Sep 14 2015 : 08:52:21 AM
For example. Sally O'Mally has quit resisting getting her back foot put into a hobble for milking. Also we have some of our girls trained to walk right into a squeeze chute instead of pulling and pushing them in, etc. We no longer halter "break" them, just a click and a treat and they go where you want them to.
GingerBKelly Posted - Sep 14 2015 : 08:40:39 AM
Question: What is the real benefit of clicker training for cows?
txbikergirl Posted - Aug 23 2015 : 9:44:50 PM
exciting news for miss sally o'mally!
CloversMum Posted - Aug 21 2015 : 3:14:24 PM
I'd love to see a video of your cows, MaryJane!
NellieBelle Posted - Aug 21 2015 : 2:55:03 PM
Quite remarkable MaryJane, and fascinating. I hope you keep us posted on the continued progress. Amazing what positive reinforcement can do and how quickly Sally gal is picking it up. Never a dull moment.
maryjane Posted - Aug 21 2015 : 2:34:01 PM
Here's a bit of background on Clicker training,
maryjane Posted - Aug 21 2015 : 1:12:32 PM
Today, Rachel was kind enough to come out again for the next level of Clicker training on my cows. She worked with Julie all morning while I did a million other farm/business related things.

The girls that Julie's been working with did an awesome job but the real test came with Sally O'Mally. It was amazing!!! (Partly because Sally is so smart and truly wants to please). In the milking parlor with Rachel and Julie I watched as Rachel rewarded/clicked up front while Julie managed the foot. After only two sessions, Sally kept her foot firmly planted. I'm impressed to say the least. At this point, I'm completely on board with Clicker training and think it has huge potential for milk cow owners. Huge. Rachel thinks so too.

txbikergirl Posted - Jul 11 2015 : 9:53:57 PM
i am very curious about this. it doesn't surprise me that cows could catch on, they seem as smart as dogs to me.

when i trained the pugs i also taught them hand signals, or i didn't really teach them the hand signals ... i really taught them the word commands and then i just started using hand signals with each command over time... and they caught on that either the word OR the hand signal worked. now i am so thankful for those hand signals as over the noise of a tractor or a/c or whatever i can communicate with those dogs and get them to do what needs to be done. now i am not saying that they listen to me 100% of the time, but i think the cute little things are doing quite well with it.
CloversMum Posted - Jul 11 2015 : 9:46:30 PM
Oh, I want to see this! We did a bit of clicker training with service dogs years ago so I am a little familiar with the concept but would love to see it in action with the cows!
NellieBelle Posted - Jul 10 2015 : 2:53:02 PM
That is really cool! A whole new book on training young heifers/steers? This will be so much fun and interesting to see unfold. Click click, stampede.