Training animals: an important skill in self reliant living
Yesterday I took our two dogs, Sniff and Ruger and our grandpuppy, Holly for a dogwalk. Around the corner I ran into some neighborhood girls walking their dog. The girls were amazed when I called all three dogs and made them sit while we talked briefly. The girl’s dog, in the meantime was straining on his leash. I explained that I didn’t even own a dog leash and couldn’t imagine having a dog that wouldn’t come when called or who wouldn’t walk on heel, even across a busy highway.
For me, training animals is a state of mind. As a trainer, I decide what commands I want the animal to obey and then make the effort to discipline myself to enforce the command every time I give it. With dogs, I will say “come” only once. Since they know what “come” means, if they ignore me, they are basically being disrespectful. Any time a dog is disrespectful to me, I let him know that I’m displeased. With Sniff, that displeasure is usually expressed with a harsh sounding voice–enough to get through to him because he’s sensitive. With Ruger, I sometimes have to be physical. Actually this discipline is very infrequent, but the real discipline is the self discipline that I won’t give my dog an order unless I am willing to enforce his compliance. A result of that self discipline is that the dog knows that if I tell him “come”, “heel” or “sit”, that I will make him do it, every time.
Training bovines is both easier and more difficult. Because bovines are more intelligent than dogs, it is easy to teach them what I want. And because they are more intelligent, they are able to figure out when I’m at a disadvantage and will take full advantage of that. One time recently I was leading Dhana using just her neck collar. She realized that I couldn’t enforce my will to go back to her paddock and used her 1000lb bulk and superior strength to pull away and graze until I got a halter that allowed me to leverage her head. I’m training our bull, Makani to be driven and we had a huge battle of wills about whether he would even lead. Now he knows that I won’t give up, he’s quite compliant and I’ve made an effort to make sure he gets something delicious on each outing, so he grudgingly looks forward to going out with me.
I’ve experimented with using bridge conditioning with horses to help them understand the instant they give the response I’m looking for. Bridge conditioning consists of conditioning the animal to know that when he hears a specific sound (we use “bleep”) that he’ll be getting a treat within a few seconds. Doing this I was able to teach my horse, Waltzer to fetch, play soccer, stand on a pedestal and do other tricks. It is also useful to teach a horse to do flying lead changes–but you have to be ready for a fast stop when you say “bleep”.
Trained animals are very useful in a self reliant situation. Dogs can keep predators or vermin away, bovines can pull carts and plow, horses can provide transportation. In addition, a cow that is trained to lead is much more convenient than one that has to be hazed or bribed to go from one paddock to another.
~ by Anuttama on August 14, 2010.