This afternoon only Jemimah and Dorcas went in harness; Maddie already did that yesterday. So as the sun set in the sky and the rabbits gained their evening energy, I took Jemimah and Dorcas out of the pen one-by-one and took them down on the hillside whiere I have found that they will reliably run up.
It's very interesting. The rabbits reliably run up this hill although it is a lot of work. They run up the hill because they want to be with each other, and the pen is uphill from the training area. So I go with what works, I go with the tao of things, or the zen of things, if you will. If the rabbits are going to make it hard on themselves by always running up this hill, I am not going to argue with them about it, I am just going to use it to both our advantages.
I set up the ramp at the point where I normally put them down to run, and then I put the high jump about five feet from there, signiricantly lower down the hill than where I normally put it. I began to appreciate how important it is to break the tasks down into simple units and not rush things.
I took Jemimah first, and put her on the ramp. She did not feel particularly comfortable hopping down the ramp and didn't consistently stay on the ramp to the bottom. BUt I can understand that. The ramp doesn't give any added leverage or speed that she would want. ANyway, she ran reliably up the hill but kept avoiding the jump so I finally had to place her right in front of the jump. With being placed directly in front of the jump she did very well. She cleared it four times, running immediately up the hill the rest of the way as soon as clearing it.
The only positive feedback I can give Jemimah while she is in harness if petting, clicking and positive talking. She doesn't like to eat treats while in harness. So I clicked the clicker the whole way up the hill after the jump, and I told her how good she was, and I took plenty of time for positive reinforcement by petting.
The same story obtains with Dorcas. She doesn't like to eat treats while in harness. Increasingly, I find I use the clicker as a way of holding her attention on me, rather than of getting her to do tricks or understand what the trick is that I am looking for from her. I think she understood pretty well about the jump. Although I tried to indicate it with the target-stick, she wasn't particularly paying attention. Instead, she was psyching herself up to the jump. She doesn't have a lot of self-confidence at this stage. She went over the jump three times before I decided to put the PVC conduit up, so that it was straight across, instead of sagging as the bungee cord does. This she studied for a long time. She did charge through it once, but she also made it over it once. This will require more work in the future.
Anyway, I guess my lesson from today is to break the obstacle course down into individual, trainable units and not to expect them to do a whole lot here at te beginning. It's a lot of repetition. There's no getting around that. But I love my rabbits, and I don't mind spending the time, energy and attention with the repetition. I just wish I could interest more people in this training and in my updates. It is such a riveting process for my, and there is no one really to share it with. My fiance Scott is marginally interested: he encourages me but he also remains skeptical at the same time. Still, at least I can share some of my victories with him, which is a good thing.
Tomorrow I will drive to Toys R Us, in search of a hoop for the rabbits to hop through and also small traffic cones to do agility courses with. Hope they have them.