Bridges are a lifeline between the trainer and the working animal.  Photo courtesy of Deidre Muccio, and her guide, Louise.  


Building bridges over communication gaps:  blindness, deafness, and the need for silence

For most animals, and most applications, an audio bridge works best.  Sound travels in all directions at once.  The animal gets the information even if he is not in a line of site, or right next to you. And you can be a distance away and still connected with bridging.

However, it is necessary to use tactile and visual bridges with animals that are blind, and deaf, respectively, and also in situations where silence must be maintained, as in theater, on movie sets, during television work, or in some tactical applications (If you are sneaking up silently on someone, you cannot be using verbal bridging, right?).

In fact, all animals should be taught these bridges. They are fast and simple to teach. In this video, I show how it takes less than a minute to teach a tactile Terminal and Intermediate Bridge, and a visual Terminal and Intermediate Bridge.

You may wonder, if the point is to be able to be silent, why am I talking. Because I am teaching this information, so I layer perception modalities, as we do with cues in many situations. So, if I use a verbal cue, I will often pair it with a visual cue, like a gesture. Why? Because if a dolphin is in the water and it is lapping over his head, he may not see the instant the cue is delivered, or he may not hear it perfectly. When we use two cues at once, the animal has a better chance of getting the cue correct, regardless of distractions and interruptions. Similarly, when I teach, I use visual, tactile, audio and verbal information. Later, I will tease all of these apart, to be sure that the animal can operate off of any single cue given, as well as off of any combination of cues given. In fact, when training, I am careful to describe what I am doing, in words, to the animal, as I also form pictures, in my mind, of what the outcome of the lesson will look like. If you are wondering if I am trying to tell you animals are psychic, I will say, they may be, so just in case, I will do this, as it costs me nothing. It also helps keep me solidly focussed on the work we are doing. Long and short, it works very well, and takes very little time.

Try it and let me know in the comments how it works for you. If you have multiple animals, try it with pictures for some and without for others and let me know what happens! Inquiring minds want to know.

Here is the video of the actual work session:

If you are interested in seeing this applied in real life, real time, you can watch the following video showing a stray cat learning tactile bridging, body parts, body movements, to relax on request, and to maintain a position for x-rays.  Oh yes, and we had to explain it all to the vet also, Dr. Alan Hoof.  It took about 13 minutes to get the full-body x-rays, with no sedation.  It normally takes about 16 minutes, with sedation.  It took less time, no anesthesia or additional drugs, and the cat was relaxed by the procedure instead of stressed.  A lot to like there.  Here it it:

Your likes, comments and shares help get the word out, to help other animals.  Thanks for supporting this work!