Lady is starting to understand the “big picture” of target training.
Simplistically, target training is the process of teaching her to touch a specific part of her body to a target. This morning, we used the “target pole” (which looks a lot like a giant q-tip) to ask for her back feet for the first time. To do all of the necessary work to improve her feet – such as filing her nails and trimming her pads, Lady needs to present her feet calmly and keep them in place while we work. As those who have seen photos of her feet know, her feet are in terrible condition, and this is a crucial step towards her physical healing.
This morning, we were placing the target near her back foot and asking her to touch it to the pole. The first time we asked, she swatted her tail towards the pole, as if to say, “What are you doing back there?” Her love of anything new. 😉 The second time, she moved her foot towards the pole a little bit, but also with a touch of attitude. It was still positive enough to earn herself some treats as we let her know that’s almost what we were looking for, but a bit more relaxed.
Twice more we asked for her foot – and both times, she picked her foot all the way up (about 3 ft up) and held it against the target pole for 3-5 seconds. Lady was calm and steady and only put her foot down when we blew the whistle to let her know she was done. It was perfect- unbelievably so for our first ask. Lady received what is sometimes called the ‘jackpot’ reward, to let her know how fantastic it was, just in case all of the verbal praise didn’t convey it enough. We love being able to end sessions on a super positive note, so we stopped there.
Lady seemed pretty proud of herself, and we were pretty clear about how pleased we were too, so all in all, today was an excellent day for Lady & humans alike. Elephants of the past have taught us that this doesn’t mean she’ll necessarily do it again tomorrow, but she’s clearly a thinker, and it was great to watch her figure things out and do it in a relaxed manner. Baby steps that are really giant leaps.