Training refers to the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies. -Wikipedia
I have animal training on my mind lately, as I have been playing with clicker training my two cats, two horses, and one rabbit. Clicker training is a system of training using a sound marker for a yes answer followed by something the animal likes as a reinforcement of the behavior (usually food). My cats like the concept of treats being handed out but haven’t become interested in the idea of performing a task. I will probably let those two have a free pass (they are cats after all). Mallory, our pony, enjoys the training immensely. She shows up every day excited to learn. Mostly we just play with tricks. She nods her head “yes” and we are currently working on “no” so we can have silly conversations (she does not comprehend the meaning of the head nods, to her it is just a trick). She also enjoys obstacle courses. Cat, our other horse, enjoys the training but gets a bit stuck sometimes. I am looking into her gut health as I feel she may have something going on preventing her from enjoying food. And then there is Ton Ton! He is by far the fastest learner in my household. He is crazy for clicker training, and can’t wait to get to work. He vigorously reminds me if I have forgotten a session.
Some wonder why I would clicker train my animals when I can communicate telepathically with them. And for me the answer is “mostly for fun”. Why go for a hike with a friend when you can just sit around and talk? Because, most beings in this physical world enjoy being physical. Why not train them telepathically instead of clicker training? Well I do train telepathically too, but often learning to do a physical activity is easier when practiced not just conceptualized. With my horses the training also has practical applications, helping then understand behaviors that keep us all safe.
Most cats seem to prefer telepathic training over physical, and with any species telepathy is always helpful to jump start a training session. Understanding in advance what is planned can help the animal learn faster in the physical session. Here is the condensed version of how to train using telepathy: Simply mediate with the animal in mind, and show them what you want by imagining a movie filled with emotions, sounds, sights, and smells. Focus only on what you want and the emotion associated with what you want. Repeat this every day until the animal understands. At my animal communication workshops we expand on that simple training meditation.
Some people resist clicker training as they feel they shouldn’t have to pay their animal for doing their job, they should just do it out of love, loyalty, or morality. Look at the example of a dog coming when called: some say the dog should just want to “come” because he loves them. Well here is what the dogs think: I love my person. I also love to chase squirrels, and when the opportunity arises I will do that, and then I will go to my person. My person’s love will always be there but this squirrel is fleeting. The dog is treating your calling him to come as optional because it is part of a loving relationship not part of a job (not well reinforced). So, here’s the deal: we all like to be paid for our work. The payment reinforces the behavior. Animals don’t care about money, so food is a good universal currency. Yes, some animals will accept physical affection and play as payment too. Horses often accept rest (a break), release of pressure, or praise as reinforcement (but honestly most still prefer food!)
For some animals and people training is optional and just for fun. For certain dogs and horses it is essential for them to learn how to live safely amongst humans. Fortunately, most dogs and horses also feel more comfortable and confident when they have a job and know how to do their job. Being trained does not take away from their individual personality or enjoyment of life, it just helps them live more easily in domesticity. Also, relating with humans in such direct ways, through various training methods, can be very fun and enriching.
If you have naturally well behaved, safe animals living with you then fantastic, you can enjoy them as they are (like my cats) or you can train for fun (like my rabbit). If you have a horse or dog who needs to understand you in order to be safe, please consider combining telepathy with positive reinforcement training.
Mallory and Sierra have a riding/training session every afternoon. Here we are backing up on a loose lead. Sierra is holding onto a balance rein which has not been introduced as a cue for Mallory yet.