Being responsible for your clicker training methods

Just need to do a bit of thinking out loud here.

Clicker Training is an immensely powerful training tool; a marker signal combined with a food reinforcer can open up an animal’s mind like no other technique. It is quite clear that the idea is gaining in popularity and use. Right along with that surge in popularity is the tendency of people to want to take the technology and “make it their own.” This is troubling to me.

With the Internet and the abundance of knowledge, many people have begun to take the approach of adding a pinch of one method, along with a dash of another method, with a few clicks and treats on top for sweetening. They don’t completely follow the protocols of any method. They also don’t want to invest the time and money really needed for learning the tools, including dealing with pitfalls. Sometimes they end up creating problems without even realizing they have.

People and horses vary; both are individuals. Characteristics of each species need to be considered along with the individual’s particular traits. I’m not talking about submission and dominance traits, those concepts are being debunked as myths. I’m just talking about how each animal learns and the capabilities of the human who’s working with that animal. Really, it’s a small wonder that more people aren’t facing problems with the Hodge-podge of techniques that are arising.

The good news is more people are willing to think about treating the horse as something deserving of reinforcement instead of a beast that needs to be controlled through dominance and the use of aversives, to me that is a blessing.

In the meantime, if you do embark on this journey, be responsible and learn about it thoroughly. Get help when you think things aren’t working out the way you thought. Get help EARLY if you think things aren’t working out, that would be even better. In fact, get help BEFORE you even start. Learn about it thoroughly first!

I kind of like the metaphor of buying a chain saw. If you had no prior experience, would you just jump in to see how it goes? Would you watch someone skilled and then learn from them? Would you read on the Internet or go to YouTube and assume you had learned all of the safety protocols? I’m hoping you’d take the time to learn how it works, wear safety equipment, maybe even take a few supervised lessons from someone who knows what they’re doing.

That’s how I feel about learning ANY form of horse training. If you own a living animal, you need to learn to train it. Every single thing you ask your horse to do needs to be trained. Even with clicker training, you still need to learn the method thoroughly to be effective.

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