Breather Behaviors

I think horses do this, too. But it looks different. They wander off; they eat grass; they scratch an itch; they stare off into the distance. Their owners think they’re “bored”. I don’t think so. What do you think?

DSC_7478 No breather behavior here! Pony loves to tug for her reward.

We all have seen it, even though we might not have realized it at the time. A dog that doesn’t out a toy when asked, one that takes a victory lap instead of returning to his handler after catching a frisbee or perhaps one that habitually sniffs the ground between drill repetitions. These are all forms of displacement behaviors, our dog’s solution to a problem we’ve unknowingly created during training sessions.  If we’re not careful, these behaviors become ingrained and can become extremely difficult to eliminate. However, if we’re observant and use these behaviors as information, we can adapt our training to better suit our dog’s needs and become a better partner.

I began calling these behaviors that pop up in training sessions “breather behaviors”, because to me they are a separate category within the displacement behavior subject.  The…

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About Laurie Higgins

I play with clicker training - with my horses, dogs, and cats. I also attempt to grow vegetables with the hope of one day being able to feed my family from my garden. My daughter and I are learning ballroom dancing. Well, we were. But she left me for a paying horse job, so now my husband and I are learning ballroom dancing. I'm also now helping Peggy Hogan, of Clicker Training Horses (and The Best Whisper is a Click) to teach people how to train their own horses using "clicker training".
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