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Episode 19: A Conversation With Hannah Brannigan Part 2: A Great Start

Last week in our Equiosity podcast we greeted our first guest, Hannah Brannigan. Our conversation with Hannah continues. In the previous episode we stopped just as Hannah made the very intriguing statement that in the past many of the things that we would have thought were fixed, such as an animal's structure, can be changed through good training. We pick up with a discussion of what that means and why should we bother? What are the benefits that we have observed in our own animals?

As always, it is good to begin at the beginning, which in Hannah’s case means talking about her new puppy. Where do you start? That was the question that was posed. Hannah is teaching her puppy reinforcement strategies. So that’s where the conversation took us. What does that look like? How do you teach a variety of reinforcement strategies? Hannah wants to be able to switch back and forth between activities in which the animal is very calm and still, and activities in which there is more movement and arousal.

Hannah’s new puppy was very play motivated, but not that interested in food. So Hannah described the process for teaching a dog that isn’t interested in the type of reinforcer you are offering (food or toy) to become more interested in that reinforcer. The same procedure could be used for horses who aren’t that interested in taking treats.

We end with a question about reinforcement variety. With dogs there are lots of ways you can reinforce them. With horses it seems we use mostly food treats. What are some of the ways we can expand our reinforcement variety?

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