If you wish you could talk with your animal, Reaching the Animal Mind is the book you should read. (And if you think I’m plum crazy, well, maybe you’re right, but check out NBC News’ recent article, Time to Learn to Speak Animal Languages?, a summary of astonishing new research on animal “speech.”)
How To Talk With Your Horse: Reaching The Animal Mind – Clicker Training And What It Teaches Us About All Animals, By Karen Pryor
✅ Best Book Reaching the Animal Mind By Karen Pryor
Unifying and empowering! THANK YOU! – There are several ways to train your pet, but there is only one best way–Positive Reinforcement training using a behavior marker, like a clicker. Karen Pryor details the history of positive reinforcement clicker training, the science behind it, and its practical uses of it. She fills this book with myriad anecdotes that make the training make sense to the reader. If you want your pet, horse, mule, fish or octopus, any animal, to be afraid of you and only work for you because he has to keep from getting in trouble, use the old militaristic, lure and bait, shouting and correcting forms of training.
Don’t get me wrong: I would love to be a horse whisperer. One of those serene, mysterious men and women who seem to have a mystical connection with horses, one of those desert-eyed sages who merely think, “It’s a bit warm today,” and finds her horse cantering eagerly to her side bearing a silver platter with iced lemonade.
Unfortunately, I’m not. For the first fifteen years of my life with horses, I spent much of my time chasing ponies as they gleefully galloped away from me across their 25-acre pastures, and watching various lesson horses vanish in clouds of dust while I heaved myself up from the trail or the arena floor and dusted off what was left of my disintegrating dignity. When I first brought Pegasus home, things weren’t much better. I felt like I had two titles: “Hay Dispenser” and “You Again?”
Still, I loved my horse’s fiery spirit, his quick intelligence, and his kind heart. I wished that I could somehow reach him; I wished there was some way I could talk with him. And no, not just talk to him. Oh, surely I wanted him to understand – and do! – what I asked. But I also had this crazy dream of having a kind of conversation with him, of truly doing things together, having fun, and being friends.
I know: it was impossible. Until it wasn’t. The day I discovered clicker training, I began to learn how to talk with my horse.
At its core, clicker training is an all-positive approach to shaping an animal’s behavior. You teach the animal that certain behaviors earn him or her an immediate reward, and the animal, figuring out this new “game,” works happily and intently to figure out – and do! – what you ask. Over time, you can put the behavior on cue and fade the reward, and you can continually teach the animal new and additional behaviors. Some animals have even learned to invent their own behaviors. Yep – they’re offering creativity.
Yet clicker training opens another kind of communication between a person and an animal. Out of the game grows a conversation, out of the conversation, a relationship. I may never be a horse whisperer, but thanks to clicker training, dear Pegasus trots to the gate when he hears my car in the farm driveway, graciously does (most of!) what I ask, and joyfully offers ideas and invitations to visit, to communicate, and to play. We’re more than horse and rider – we’ve become friends.
Now Karen Pryor, the pioneer of clicker training, has released a comprehensive training guide. Reaching the Animal Mind: Clicker Training and What It Teaches Us about All Animals explains the principles and techniques of clicker training and offers moving true stories and video diaries about the bonds people have forged with dogs, cats, and other companion animals, horses, and even exotic animals like macaws, dolphins, and one chimpanzee so smart, he began clicker training his trainer.
For more information about clicker training, visit Karen Pryor’s website, Clicker Training, and check out her other books: the sweeping but practical guide, Don’t Shoot the Dog: The New Art of Teaching and Training, and her lyrical autobiography, Lads Before the Wind: Diary of a Dolphin Trainer. Want to focus specifically on horses? Trot on over to Alexandra Kurland’s website, The Clicker Center, and browse her horse-centered training books and DVDs.
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