Component Training: Piece Together Success

When we clicker train an animal that already understands the training game, we know we can make remarkable training progress in a short time. We've all seen our animals make cognitive leaps that astound us.

The component training approach makes use of our still-developing understanding of the conditions that lead to these cognitive leaps by attempting to accelerate the animal's acquisition of new behavior systematically. The basis of this approach is this proposition: if an animal knows the underlying pieces of a separate, more complex behavior, the animal is likely to offer that new behavior. Component training holds out the promise of accelerated learning.

In Reaching the Animal Mind, Karen Pryor shared the story of "Panda Catch," a game that Panda, the miniature horse Alexandra Kurland trained as a guide for the blind, "invented." Panda Catch is a great example of an animal's use of component parts to create a complex, new behavior.

In this Session, Alexandra will explain how component behavior training works with her horses. She will show you how to identify core components, and she will share training strategies, such as hierarchies of reinforcement, that are useful in evolving complex behaviors.

The ClickerExpo faculty members have been spending time examining the issue of how animals can acquire target behaviors quickly. This Session builds on the techniques talked about in the Creativity Session with Karen Pryor. Attendees may want to attend both Sessions.

Alexandra Kurland

Alexandra Kurland began her instructional career as a dressage rider and teacher and as an accredited TTouch Practitioner. In 1998 she launched the rapidly growing field of clicker training for horses with the publication of her first book, Clicker Training for Your Horse. Alexandra teaches clicker training geared to any horse need or sport—including developing a gentle and companionable riding horse, halter training foals, training advanced performance horses, and reforming difficult and unmanageable horses. She travels widely, giving clicker training seminars in the US, Canada, the UK and Europe. Several years ago, Alexandra trained a miniature horse, Panda, to serve as the guide animal for a blind owner.

A graduate of Cornell University, Alexandra has written The Click That Teaches: A Step–By–Step Guide in Pictures and has also produced The Click That Teaches DVD lesson series and is presently at work on new books and videos.