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Social Connections Matter

There's a petition doing the rounds at the moment. Channel 4 have a program due to air called, "Train your baby like a dog". The doggy expert reckons we can train little kids like we do animals, through behaviourism and simple operant conditioning. Certainly well timed instructions and praise will help guide good behaviour. But kids want more than a sweetie for doing the right thing, they need connection with their families - kids craving attention are kids wanting a relationship. It's a social, emotional thing to keep us safe, secure and belonging in our world - bottom line for survival. And if we think we can train our companion animals, like dogs and horses, by the simple rote, behaviouristic conditioning of learning theory, we might also want to think again. Both dogs and horses have been scientifically demonstrated to do things like follow our gaze and recognise our facial expressions. Dogs can also suffer separation anxiety wen apart from their human families, so connection to us is intuitively important.


In this following video I talk about attachment in people and horses, watch out for little Felix reflected in my sunglasses and also at the end, it's relevant!




Fast forward to now and Felix has a little brother or sister newly arrived (Mummy Flicka would not like me to come close enough for a proper inspection yet so watch this space). I often spend time with Felix when I visit the field. Today I saw that he had a new sibling, a first for him, and a second for big sister Felicity. This is new and exciting, just a like a new addition in a human family. The occasion motivates us to affirm our connections and tired, protective mothers of newborns are not always keen. I film newborn Folly (for being born in this wild wet weather) getting to grips with keeping up with mum and with learning about life outside the womb. While I do so I use Felicity as protective contact so as not to invade Flicka's space, and part way through, Felix asks for connection with me. I cut filming at this point because it is an exciting occasion and I need to engage in real life and not through a lens. I wish I had kept filming as Felix didn't just want to share his thrill of a new sibling with me, he was keen to bounce on Flicka too!





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Jenni Nellist Clinical Animal Behaviourist

Jenni: 07974 569407

1 Orchard Close, Port Eynon, Swansea, SA3 1NZ

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