Posted by: twodogtales | January 8, 2012

‘Buck’: lessons for dog people, too

As a lifelong equestrian and former horse owner I’d heard of Buck Brannaman, a “horse whisperer” who travels the country giving horse training clinics.

So the other night I took advantage of Showtime’s Free Preview weekend (Jan. 6-8) and watched “Buck,” a documentary film on Brannaman.

The movie won a 2011 Sundance Audience Award and has made more than a few “best movies of 2011” lists, including The Washington Post’s movie critic Ann Hornaday.

It is a fascinating profile of a man who overcame a childhood suffering at the hands of an abusive father to become world-renowned for his ability to train horses with kindness, not cruelty.

And there are many lessons dog owners can learn watching it, too.

Brannaman describes how people need to know how the animal thinks, and act accordingly. For example, when a mountain lion attacks a horse, they jump on their back and claw them around the neck. When a human tries to ride a horse, they’re acting like a lion, so the horse has to trust you before they can be trained to accept a saddle and rider.

He also says that getting angry with an animal is counterproductive, they sense it and react to you with fear, not respect and trust.

One entertaining segment features an interview with Robert Redford. He talks about how Brannaman was hired to advise during the filming of “The Horse Whisperer,” a 1998 movie starring Redford and Scarlett Johansson, and ended up saving the day when the trained stunt horses couldn’t perform on cue for a climactic scene.

Brannaman says, “A lot of times rather than helping people with horse problems, I’m helping horses with people problems.”

This certainly applies to dog owners as well. More often than not, a badly-behaved dog is a product of a misinformed or uninvolved owner.

The movie is funny, sad, inspiring and eye-opening. It’s an hour and a half you won’t be sorry you spent.

“Buck” is currently airing on Showtime, and according to the website the DVD is on sale at Amazon, Walmart, Costco and other retail stores.

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