I was going through old photos on the laptop and came across a series of photos taken on the third day of the clicker training clinic I attended last year. This was the day where it all seemed to come together for me and Ben, where we walked together in harmony and which gave me great encouragement to continue with clicker training. Since then, I have asked myself many times, where I have gone wrong, just what I have missed that has led to such tension coming in.
I was quite fascinated to look at the photos. Where we were walking together there did indeed seem to be harmony, Ben relaxed and both of us walking in step together. But here are close ups of Ben’s face from moments where we had stopped and he was given the click and was getting his treat. He was not snatching, but I look at these photos now and I see tension:
The quality of the photos is not the best as I have cropped them to focus on his head. That stretched top lip is always a sign of tension with Ben: it may have been pleasurable tension – excitement about getting some food, or it could have been worry about food appearing and disappearing. Whichever one it was it shows me that already the foundation of the future aggressive behaviour was present and I did not see it.
I am not saying that tension in itself is bad. (I am talking about tension that arises in my presence.) Tension will often be present, during a hack for example, when calves crowd against a gate we are to pass and Ben recoils, or when we pass a young horse on its own in a field and Ben rises up to assert his presence. But, and I am thinking aloud here, these are naturally occurring incidents and Ben can move, stop, spook, or respond to my request to trot on and move the tension out of him that way.
But in these photos, Ben is on a line, with me close beside and has to contain himself and therefore the tension is not released, or is only released by the delivery of food.