For years training alternate species to dogs (and horses) has been on my list of things to do. Ages ago I was consulting a mentor about whether or not to go to Chicken Camp and she said that she went years ago and that “…honestly, you’re not going to learn anything much you don’t already know”. Since it costs a pretty penny, I rationalized with myself that just about anyone with chickens would be more than willing to let me mess around with training them (and probably ask if they could video, thinking that it’d be full of good laughs). I also thought about doing the Karen Pryor training academy program which involves training an alternate species…and I thought a hedgehog would be someone interesting to bring into the family. However, I have ethical issues with getting an animal just for sake of the class, and would not temporarily use an animal, that animal would have to become my permanent pet. And, to be honest, I don’t want too many pets. That’s a big reason why I train other people’s dogs for a living…to practice training without becoming the doglady with 10 dogs and piles of poop and fur everywhere and crazy hair ;P
Now just about everybody else who’s attended the chicken camp sings praises for it, so don’t be deterred in going after that program. And if you are new to operant conditioning, Karen Pryor will have you logging yourself to expert level, so don’t let my choice influence your decisions. But, above all, make sure you train more than your own best friend. Long ago, back when horseback riding was my pursuit, it was apparent that different horses are drastically to ride. What’s right for one is possibly totally wrong for another of the same species. Moving on to train alternate species with such a different perspective of the world is invaluable. Getting the timing and reward placement and other details correct is the only way you can achieve with an animal that won’t “rescue” you and make up for your errors.
I was fortunate enough this summer to get my hands on some chickens. Read about that under the title: Pecking Order (coming soon)
Here’s a brilliant clip of a father son team that trained a surprising alternate species: