Many times I am asked, “What is the hardest animal you have ever trained?” My answer may surprise you, then maybe not. It’s not a certain species. My answer is ‘the ones with a long, unenriched, unsocialized history’. Those can also be the most dangerous to the uneducated public. Along with these histories come the labels as ‘unpredictable’, ‘neurotic’, ‘odd’, ‘aggressive’, ‘dangerous’, and more. I would also not call the training ‘hard’. It’s labeled that because it takes time, attention, and planning. All of which people call ‘hard’ because they are inconvenient to the lives of the people taking care of them. When shown the small signals to look for in behavior change, this isn’t hard at all. Many times people want too big of behaviors too fast. ‘Too big’ means, the animal doesn’t understand what you are asking or your intentions, because they haven’t yet been communicated through training and learning. These examples are often the cases of numerous returns to the shelters, euthanasia, chained to the garage, or covered in a cage in a basement.
The above conversation correlates to a recent example I heard someone describe. It is relative to a teacher saying “Sarah just graduated from the fifth grade and therefore I expect all fifth grade students named Sarah to be exactly alike. This worked for my last Sarah. Why isn’t this working for this one?” Genetics, history, nutrition, environment, medicine, and experience through consequences all play a major factor in the behavior of the animal.