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Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Don't Shoot The Dog - Karen Pryor.

I've just finished reading Don't Shoot The Dog by Karen Pryor, which I loved and found very useful, and two things especially resonated with me.

In the final chapter on Clicker Training, in the section 'Learning and Fun' Karen writes "A punished or correction-trained animal learns to give the minimum necessary in order to stay out of trouble. These learners are "good soldiers": They do what they're told, and they never volunteer. Under this regimen, even if obedient, learners remain far more interested in their own doings and private life than in whatever you or any voice of authority might want. They are therefore not only vulnerable to distractions, they are hoping for distractions."

That seems so obvious to me now it's been pointed out but it's not something I'd thought of before; that, pre clicker training, my horses were actually hoping to be distracted! I knew at times they were looking for trouble where their seemed to be to be none but assumed that they were nervous and didn't trust my judgement enough, not that they wanted to be distracted because they weren't enjoying what we were doing!  I know that nowadays they try so hard to ignore distractions because they love what we're doing together and the last thing on earth they want is to be distracted from it!

The other part that has really stuck in my mind is in the chapter on 'Reinforcement in the Real World'. Karen writes that "A curious but important corollary to training by reinforcement is that it breeds affection in both subject and trainer". I certainly know that to be true! She says "A trainer rapidly develops an attachment too.................The trainer is the source of interesting, exciting, rewarding, life-enhancing events for the subject, and the subject's responses are interesting and rewarding for the trainer so that they really do become attached. Not dependant, just attached. Comrades in the battle of life".

I so wish I'd written that last sentence! Wouldn't it be wonderful if humankind could all regard each other in the same way too - as 'comrades in the battle of life'!!!


  1. Truly interesting and valuable perceptions. While I haven't actually done clicker training, the methods that give my horses a reward for doing the right thing seem to work the best and, yes, do keep them focused on the jobs at hand.

  2. Thank you, Jean! It's a brilliant book, as is Karen Prior's 'Reaching the Animal Mind'



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I am a clicker training addict and there is no cure - thank goodness!!!