I subscribe to a book discussion group on yahoo called DogRead. Yes, it is about dogs. But, hey, I’ve got dogs and when it comes to training, well, good training is good training. So there is always something of interest. Anyway, this month’s author is Jim Barry and the book being discussed is called, “The Ethical Dog Trainer.”
It is interesting how often times people think that training horses is somehow different from training dogs, mainly due to the fact that one is prey and the other predator. While it is true understanding the species does help us train better the fact is the basics apply across the board. Jim is a trainer who believes in using positive methods as do I. So the post he titled “Dominance” caught my eye since that is a word that gets ‘bandied about’ in the context of horse training just as it does among dog trainers. So, I wondered what he’d have to say about that and it turns out it really resonated with me.
“I have almost entirely purged [the word dominance] from my vocabulary with clients, except when they raise it and I then try to offer different perspectives. One that I have found to work well is the idea of “teamwork.” It helps the members of the coaching staff (Humans) to realize that they have some key responsibilities to the athletes (dogs), namely to teach the basic skills, establish the rules of the game, and change the game plan if necessary.” –Jim Barry
Now, he says “dogs” but that quote could just as easily said “horses”. My own opinion about dominance is that it is a word that is way over used among horse folk. I like the idea that my role as the Human in the Horse/Human (or Human/Human) equation is more like that of a (good) Coach as opposed to the Boss or (even worse IMO) the “Alpha Mare”. I guess that explain how it is I can feel that teaching horses or humans utilizes the same basic skills (adjusting for species as needed of course!).