Please read for yourself how well Chang Yim is doing. Indeed, he is a most amazing individual and credit must be given to Karl as well, because without his depth of understanding and motivation to better his life, Yim’s brillance would be stiffled under a cloak of dominance. Together the two are brillant!
In Karl’s words…….
To the irrepressible Chang Yim! For a while now I have had his training sessions divided into pure target training from outside his pen, first thing in the morning, and a more freeform adaptation in the late afternoon, inside his pen. The morning sessions are for reinforcing already learned behaviours and for introducing new ones, and works better at this time as he is sometimes a little edgier in the mornings after a long night cooped up, and itching to get out to run and eat.
So far it is working as well, or better really, than I had even hoped, and still the main problem I am facing is keeping everything moving at a pace quick enough to ensure he doesn’t become disinterested. It would really help my cause if he were a little slower on the uptake, like myself, but alas, he is sharp as a tack!! For the morning sessions, his behaviours include presenting all feet, front and back and left or right, by request, and holding them in place until I release them, and we are currently working on him presenting feet both forwards for nail trimming (which he has down pat) and tucked up so that the pad is exposed, as well as conditioning him to having them touched all over; presenting and holding in place his ears so that blood can be drawn–soon I will start pricking the vein with something sharp so he becomes used to the sensation of the needle; presenting his side so that he can be brought in line; presenting his tail so that any work around his back end can be done without worry about a tail that will become like a baseball bat when he is older, as well of course in case of any injury to his tail; placing his head at the target and holding in place so he can be held still and brought to where you need him; presenting his shoulder, again for the purpose of positioning; touching the target with his trunk, but he hasn’t quite got to the holding it in place point yet and still sees this as the fun point where he gets to whack the target when he’s feeling like he wants to (for which he doesn’t get the treat of course and he has improved greatly on this). The rest of the behaviours he really has nailed.
And so in the afternoon training we do all these same behaviours, but in free contact inside the pen, and with two different sized tree stumps for feet presentations. Added to that, we do coming to me, stopping in place, backing up until I whistle to stop, opening mouth for teeth examination (and to let him know how his breath smells as he is quite self-conscious about that, but he’d hate me mentioning that), turning, and we are working on grabbing and letting go of objects. For the most part, at these sessions I don’t use the target as he knows what I am asking for now, but I keep it tucked into my training pouch (sidenote: my first training pouch disappeared a couple of days ago, annoyingly, but the replacement has made up for the disappointment as it has a pouch on both sides of the belt making it easier to use either hand, and has slots that the target fits into, allowing me to keep it at hand but out of his reach. Perfect!) and use it as needed, which gives a good flow to the whole process. Added to that I have now started to add hand signals to the behaviours already learned, and it seems to be working well. I haven’t yet tried a behaviour with only hand signal and no command – there’s no rush after all – but he is definitely starting to make the connection, and getting him thinking has engaged him more again.
So in all, I couldn’t be happier with how he has been going in that. Frustratingly though, despite requesting otherwise, the mahouts seem to be undertaking their own training, and at the moment it seems that they all want to be Yim’s mahout, constantly stepping in on me, and always trying to get him to “do things” which really convolutes the whole process, but I am resigned to ploughing on and trusting that Yim will be able to make the divide between the two. And it seems that he can. It’s funny, as when I started 4 months ago it seemed not many were wanting to put their hand up to be Yim’s mahout, but now it’s all hands on deck. Although for many of the mahouts outside of the family group it is still a matter of taking cover whenever he gets close, but not so much for good reason anymore. Yim has been, for some time now, on his absolute best behaviour, very calm and responsive. (There is one mahout in the group that he takes every chance to go after, but I agree with him, so I’ll turn a blind eye to that for now.) I am almost waiting for the next time he blows up, but he just hasn’t for weeks now — knocking on wood as I type! I had a strange thought the other day that if he doesn’t have an “episode” for a long time then will it be worse when it happens as I won’t be expecting it!! What a stupid thought, right? Why can’t it be always like this? I mean, there are still disagreements, but we always seem to reach a decision that we can both live with – or else we just go with mine. (I would insert one of those winking smiley faces here, like this 😉 , but this isn’t a text message, so I won’t.)