Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Horse Training...What?

What, you may ask, does horse training have to do with dog training? As I am learning, quite a bit actually. After working with a horse trainer, and learning a thing or two myself, I wanted to stray a bit off of dog training for a bit, and look at a few parallels between horse training and dog training.
While the techniques of horse training differ greatly from that of dogs, the main idea is very similar. Of course there is timing and consistency, which are extremely important, whatever you are training, whether it be human or platypus. Motivation is also a parallel between the two, you must give proper motivation, preferably positive but not always, in order to persuade an animal much bigger than you to do something it might not necessarily want to do.
While there are many similarities, there is also a huge difference between the two animals, and therefore many important differences in their training. I find this to be very crucial information, since I cannot approach a horse with the mentality of training a dog, and it would be completely unfair to a dog if I tried training it like a horse.
For example, say I have a dog, and a horse, displaying very similar behaviors that I would like to change. That behavior is that they both refuse to walk over or on new surfaces. For a horse this may be going over obstacles, or walking on a tarp. For a dog this may be walking on hard wood floors. To someone who knows nothing about the two animals, these behaviors may seem nearly identical. But to me, they are completely different. For one, the cause of this behavior is probably not the same. The dog is scared of hard wood floors and doesn't like how it feels on his paws, while the horse just plain doesn't want to do what's asked of it, for whatever horsy reason it has (not a horse expert). Since the causes are very different, and the animals take in the world very differently, you need to have a different approach to training each.
For the dog, the approach I would try is putting rugs or towels on the floor, and tempting the dog with very very yummy treats to walk across, and over time and training sessions start to take the towels off until you can tempt your dog across the floor with less and less treats.   
For a horse, you want the behavior you want to be easy, and the refusal of doing that behavior very hard. Work the horse by making it go in circles and turn a lot, and have it's resting spot be only by the tarp. Every time the horse thinks about crossing, let him rest, the moment he starts to refuse work him hard again.
Again, very different approaches, but timing and consistency and confidence is key to both.

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