Inside a training session: Carson’s “Ah ha!” moment

I hold the target stick about one foot away from Carson. She steps over to stand next to it. In our previous training sessions, I would have rewarded her for that movement. But she has been doing so well moving toward the target that she is ready for the next step: actually touching it. With no way to simply explain what I need her to do, I can only wait. She looks between me and the target a few times before stretching her head forward. I quickly give her a treat. Even though she didn’t touch it, I want to tell her she is going in the right direction. Now her interest is piqued and I can practically see the gears turning in her head: how do I earn another chunk of rat? Her eyes focus on the target as she tips her head to one side. She realizes this strange stick is the key to earning her food, but she doesn’t know what to do with it. She takes a half-step closer and looks up at me hopefully: is this worth a treat? I don’t respond so she looks back to the target and bobs her head. After a moment she moves forward and nips at the target. Contact! I offer her a heap of tidbits as her jackpot prize. I am overjoyed to see this breakthrough and Carson is just as excited to understand with her “Aha!” moment.

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