Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Expo Inspiration- Friday

one of the stations for exposing puppies to new things!
 Click for interaction, sniffing, touching or just toss treats in
and around them to encourage exploration.  I have to show
Percy a mirror now!!
Clicker Expo has again filled my mind with training plans!  Each talk and lab I attended triggered ideas for animals I work with.  On my Facebook page I listed many of the different species I saw being trained with a clicker- fish, birds, big cats and little cats, primates of all sizes, marine mammals and the most inspirational of all, a hyena.  Percy has yet another nickname now...my little hyena.   I started that training plan yesterday.  Regardless of the specie being discussed or shown in a video or photo, I was able to make connections.

I spent the first day focusing (unintentionally) on the dog branch of my business.  I attended Debbie Martin's Puppy Start Right! talk about teaching puppy classes.  After that I had the honor of coaching during her Learning Lab on the same topic (an honor bestowed on graduates of KPA).  Much of her focus is on socialization and exposing puppies to new sights, sounds, smells, tactile stimuli and experiences.  There is a direct connection, of course, to this same issue in the horses.  I don't know of any concrete research dedicated to finding the ages at which this is most effective in young horses (for puppies it's 3-12 weeks).  The point I came home with is how creative one can be with new exposure even on your own property.  Yes, traveling to new places is important but the more you expose a youngster to at home, the more comfortable he will be to new experiences in general.  And of course "exposure" can be done in many ways.  The old "sacking out" of the cowboy tradition misses the mark for those of us who want confidence and a partnership.  Debbie demonstrated the skills required to keep puppies happy, not stressed, when being introduced to new things.

The other talk I attended on Friday was Julie Shaw's First Impressions- The Vital Intake Assessment.  Julie is a vet tech and has been the animal behavior technologist at the Purdue Animal Behavior Clinic.  Her talk focused on how to zero in on the pertinent details when talking to a pet owner who calls in with a behavior issue.  She listed the information she gathers during a phone call which she uses as triage. Does this person need veterinary and/or pharmacological help with their animal or is it simply a behavioral issue which can be addressed by a trainer?  She explained how dogs can be put on medication to get them to a state where training can take place, after which the meds can be removed.  Again, I was left with equine comparisons.  Medications are heavily used in the equine industry to enable and enhance performance.  Even if we ignore the physical masking which occurs, there is plenty that goes on which affects a horse's mental state.  But rather than using these meds as an aid to help the horse and train more effectively, I think they are used to avoid training.  I wonder how this can be changed and have some plans in mind.  

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