Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Safety in Pack Animals

I was at a little horse fair Sunday and there was a horse whisperer type of person. What he was saying made a lot of sense to me and was also relevant to dogs. He was a positive trainer and emphasized that ideally he animals elects you as their leader rather than through force. In any case, he has a mustang is a large ring before he started. The horse was upset and galloping around the ring and heading towards a fence. The owner was not visible and another horse of the owner's was out of sight but could be heard. The guy claimed that the horse was actually showing a fear of death since it was a pack animal and separated from his herd. My wife told me to watch out and that the horse might jump the fence. I was skeptical but sure enough, the horse did eventually jump the fence.

Anyway, he was saying that you had to convince the horse that you would protect and ensure the horse's safety. It made me think about Wyatt, who is a fearful dog with some separation anxiety, and especially working the out of sight sits and downs now with difficulty. It gave me the idea to work with Wyatt sits and down by actually going out the door. He could not do this at all with his back to me but I was able to work with short (10 second) sits and downs with me going out the door. He seems to break most often when leaving when you have your back to them so I hope I am on the right track working specifically on anxiety when leaving. It is almost makes this less of a training issue and more of a emotional training issue. I also wondered when I saw that horse how it relates to dogs. Wild canines are also pack animals. Maybe what we call separation anxiety is a normal response to being a pack animal.

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