Treat Manners

I’ve stopped training Ghost.

She and Blossom have started trying to run me over. The resource guiding and over enthusiasm has reached the point of being dangerous. The whole herd is interested in what’s going on and want to get closer. Poppy thinks all these young kids should get out of the way and let the matriarch have her share. She isn’t above forcing them out of her way.

It’s a good way to get smashed.

Does that mean that feeding treats, training with food, creates a monster? Is this an example of how hand feeding teaches bad habits, is dangerous, and should never be done?

Many people believe that horses, or cattle 😉 should never be hand fed. They believe it will ruin a well behaved animal and make a poorly behaved animal dangerous. It is long standing tradition, for many people, to never give treats for these reasons. They feel very strongly about this and any conversation about it can turn quite heated.

Do I believe this is the problem with Ghost? Am I going to turn aside from my wicked ways and never feed her treats again?

In a word.


The problem here isn’t the feeding of treats. The problem is my training.

That is the same problem all these people who have had trouble with hand fed animals face. It can be hard to accept that we have personally created a monster and much easier to blame it on something else. Like feeding treats.

In truth though, lots of people feed treats regularly without bad results. Even more, many people train animals that can do amazing things happily and willingly with the best of manners with no more tools than a treat. It has been well proven that it is possible, even common.

So why is it so easy to believe the problem is in feeding treats and not the training?

It can be hard to go against tradition. It can be impossible to find an alternative when the alternative is not something we are familiar with. It can be hard to accept that we don’t know everything. Ego is a humans biggest down fall. Saying we might have been wrong, admitting that we are unable to do something that works so well for others, can be nearly impossible.

Instead of giving these two darling animals up as a lost cause, I am going to train them better.

How am I going to do that when I just got done saying I am going to stop training?

Sometimes training requires a certain location or set up. Not a round pen or anything fancy and expensive like that. All I need is a fence and a place away from the rest of the herd. What we need here is protected contact. To keep me safe and to make it easier for them to understand what I am asking of them.

Because that isn’t available in the middle of a pasture surrounded by the cow herd, our training will have to be put on hold for awhile. Unless I am able to catch them near the perimeter fence and away from the herd. That is a difficult training situation to set up.

I can wait. We have time. The important thing is to look for the root cause of training issues, acknowledge when we are the cause, and figure out the steps needed to fix the problem.

Blaming a training aid that is well proven to work doesn’t fix anything.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *