The stages of Positive Reinforcement
I got these from Shawna Karrasch
Click Treat Stages
1. All you can eat food bar
The horse views the trainer as an all you can food bar. He may be greedy, pushy and only thinking about the food.
2. Trigger stage
The horse makes a connection between the click and the treat. Mugging can still appear and should be worked on to avoid problems, but he is coming to see that there is a sequence. He may appear to get it, but will be inconsistent and easily frustrated. In reality, the horse doesn't totally get "it".
3. Light bulb stage
The horse understands behavior = click = treat. He is coming to see "choice" in behavior which may be a new thing to him. It is important not to use too much pressure or punishment for wrong answers, or it may build frustration. The horse will also be too afraid to "guess" at the answer because he fears being punished. This will inhibit moving to the next stage.
4. Buy-in Stage
Now the horse understands "particular behavior" = click = treat. There is more trust in the trainer; that he/she will not ask unfairly. It may take a lot of repetition to refine something, but the horse does now get "it".
5. Eureka Stage
The horse and trainer develop a dialog of learning where chains of behavior can be built without extensive repetition. The horse has learned to learn. In this phase the food motivator can become less important as the horse and rider focus on communication and the game at hand.