Back in December I dashed off a quick post about force-free horse training that caused a bit of consternation. Said post was inspired by a video I caught on a friend’s Facebook page of a horse learning tricks with a clicker. Ever since I started working with my cat, I’ve been convinced that any animal – every animal – can be taught using positive reinforcement methods. It is my belief that positive techniques are not only kinder, but they also work better as they teach the animal what is right, as opposed to just punishing her when she screws up. Indeed, when it comes to working with more dangerous animals, such as a lion, I would imagine positive methods would be a lot safer for the handler.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think the way to earn a tiger’s trust is to give her a leash correction.
Dr. Sophia Yin is a highly respected animal behaviorist and veterinarian. She is one of the leading positive reinforcement trainers in the United States. If you haven’t visited her website, I recommend it whenever you have a few hours to spare. It is full of clear information on a number of common behaviour-related problems. While the focus of much of her work is on dogs, there are quite a few videos on her website that feature Dr. Yin working with animals like chickens and horses. Including the one that caught my eye.
Unfortunately, I can’t embed the video here but it you check the link, I am sure you’ll be just as impressed. If I had any doubts that a powerful horse like the stallion in this video could be trained with a clicker, they are long gone. It’s so cool to see how the horse responds to each click and reward. The connection between Dr. Yin and the stallion is evident. She proves that with good timing and the right currency, even animals larger than humans can successfully learn using force-free methods.
Isn’t shaping awesome?
Is there any limit to what a handler and animal can do with the right motivation? I’ve joked about it in the past, but maybe I need to invent some sort of underwater clicker and start training my fish.