I have come to realize, when training horses, the reward comes from letting them get away. Getting away from me, from pressure of leg or rein, or away from the show pen and back to their stall, ultimately, removing my presence from their mind is the reward they seek.
My horses may come to visit me, be my friend, ask for a scratch or whinny a greeting, but at the end of the day, they want to be left with their own space, their own kind, their own thoughts.
Dogs, on the other hand, find their reward by coming closer. I think they would crawl under our skin, up our rib cage and snuggle next to our hearts if they could.
Sorting this out has helped me clarify my thoughts on training both species, although with dogs I'm still working on understanding the forest and with horses I'm starting to climb the branches of the individual trees.
I'm much more a horse than I am a dog BTW.
There is both ongoing chaos and conundrum in my house lately. It comes with the temporary residency of the Kidlette and her dogs, a 5-year-old Miniature Pincher/Italian Grayhound mix and an 8-month-old Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. Kidlette calls her a Swissie, I call her a Honking Seal.
|The Career Criminal|
|The Honking Seal|
The chaos is because I now have six, count 'em, six house dogs, the MinPinIggie is a career criminal and the HonkingSeal is 65 pounds (for the next minute or so, she's gaining about 1/2 lb. a day) of rule testing mayhem.
The conundrum is a variation of a theme I've wrestled with for years. How is it I can have unspoken, untaught, taken for granted, behaviors, courtesies, rules -- I'm not even sure how to label them -- yet at the same time be totally incapable of communicating what I want?
The dogs, being my primary pain in the ass, will be my first example. If a being lives in my house, it can't eat other beings and it can't get into stuff. By stuff I mean, grocery bags, other dogs food bowls, litter boxes, small critter cages, the dog food tub, cabinets, laundry baskets, the trash, stuff like that.
I haven't taught it, it's just the way it is around here. Believe it or not, even the criminal and the seal are honoring these house rules. Don't get me wrong, I have yelled, "Hey!" or @#$%!!!! a few times while reinforcing these house rules, but rarely. I also don't push my luck. I'll leave Brockle, Dinah and Charlie alone in the car with a weeks worth of groceries, but not the others.
BUT ... The seal counter surfs and the criminal steals food off plates.
I came home this morning from a brief errand to a glass casserole dish of last nights leftovers smashed all over the floor, intermingled with the coffee pot, coffee and grounds. There was easily an hour's worth of shard sweeping, covering three rooms, plus the worry over just how much glass the little darlings ingested.
At the same time, the bag of trash I forgot to take out was sitting, open and untouched, in the middle of the floor. A large, opened bag of kibble, leaning against the dog food tub, was in the same, pristine condition.
There were tasty, glass free morsels waiting in the trash, and I had spacily left the dogs an open invitation to dine. House rules prevailed and they ignored it, but clambering all over my counters? You bet!
My horses wait like saints for me to haul my carcass up on their backs. For some reason, all of them do, and always have. I first noticed the phenomena when I was still starting colts. Even on my first ride, they would wait for me to get a leg over before they moved. Most let me get my stirrup too.
How did they know I needed them to wait and why in the world did they? How was I getting my message across? They had no problem slamming me into fence rails or bucking, ducking out from under me.
What is it?
I have the same problem/dilemma/gift/puzzle with people. I'm amazed at how I can mess things up, or not communicate the way I intend, but still have people get me in ways I thought were hidden.
I have been told, "You train the people around you how to behave towards you. Disrespect, ignoring your needs, refusing to hear you, all of this comes from the unsaid boundaries you establish - or don't."
It's all the same I think. I'm not sure how it works, how to get more or less control over it, or even what "it" is.
Sure is giving me some interesting stuff to think about though.