There’s one question we always get when it comes to the Drinking Post… “Is my animal smart enough to learn this thing?”. It’s a fair question since the Drinking Post requires the animal to activate the water flow. But, the answer is YES! Your animal is smart enough to learn the Drinking Post (and no, it doesn’t matter how old or stubborn they are). Most people think transitioning to the Drinking Post will take a long period of training – especially since most animals are accustomed to a stock tank or trough. However, it’s much easier than you might think… almost too easy, in fact – a lot of people who have issues with training are just doing too much! In this article I’m going to outline training for you and give you some helpful tips and tricks as well. Once you’ve read this, you’ll have all the info you need to get your animals trained on the Drinking Post.
Step 1: Take away all other water sources
Before you start your training you’ll remove all other water sources that your animals could access. If they have water available in another (easier) form, they’ll take the path of least resistance and won’t be motivated to learn the Drinking Post. I mean, who can blame them? Work smarter, not harder, am I right? If they want water, they’ll have to go to the Drinking Post to get it! Don’t worry, they’ll thank you in the long run.
Step 2: Install the correct paddle (the Trainer or a specialty paddle)
Next, you want to make sure you have the correct paddle or paddle attachment on your Drinking Post.
- If you have horses, cattle, or other similar animals (donkeys, mules, mini horses, etc.), you’ll use a Training Paddle for the first few weeks. Then you’ll switch to the Standard Paddle.
- If you have goats, sheep, or alpacas, you’ll use the Livestock Paddle.
- If you have pigs or hogs, you’ll use the Pig Paddle.
Now that you’ve identified the correct paddle style for your animal, you’ll need to put it on the Post. If you have the original Legacy Drinking Post for horses or cattle, you will remove your standard flat paddle and replace it with the Training Paddle. If you order the Legacy sheep, goat, alpaca, or pig waterer, the Specialty Paddle will already come attached – just verify you have the correct paddle for your animal type. If you have our new Ultimate Drinking Post, you’ll simply attach either the Training Attachment or the Specialty Paddle Attachment directly to the standard paddle.
Why does the Training Paddle/Training Attachment work?
For horses and cattle, you’ll use our Training Paddle for Legacy Posts, or our Training Attachment, also called the Easy Riser Attachment, for Ultimate Posts. The standard paddle is flat, whereas the Trainer has a rounded shape that sticks up. It takes up more surface area in the bowl, so it’s much easier for the animal to activate the water. The Trainer allows them to inadvertently activate the water while they’re just checking things out or playing with the Trainer. Most animals will bite, lip, or lick the Trainer when you install it – let them do this, it’s how they learn! In addition to inspecting it on their own, you’ll also do a daily training session (explained in Step 4). During this training session, your animal will drink water from the bowl. As they drink the water down, they’ll likely reactivate the paddle because of the size and shape of the Trainer. When this happens, the lightbulb turns on and they start to learn!
Why does the Livestock Paddle and Pig Paddle work?
You will use the Livestock Paddle (Legacy) or Livestock Attachment (Ultimate) for sheep, goats, and alpacas. This helps them to use the Drinking Post because it plays on their natural behavior. These animals like to butt things with their head. This specialized paddle features a weighted block that juts upward, providing a broad surface for them to head-butt, playing on their natural tendencies. This allows them to use the Post in a way that makes sense for them! Also, since the block is weighted, it makes it easier for smaller animals like goats and sheep to push the paddle. The Pig Paddle/Pig Attachment is very similar. It’s also a weighted block, it’s just a bit smaller. The pig will push it with their snout. Again, this is natural action for the pigs. Unlike the Trainer (which is removed once training is complete), you’ll keep these specialty paddles/attachments on all the time.
Step 3: Make sure they are thirsty
Before you show your animals the Drinking Post, you should make sure they’re thirsty. They’ll be much more motivated to learn the Drinking Post if they’re thirsty and interested in a clean, cool drink. Since you’ve already removed their other water sources, they’ll be so happy when they realize the big white post that showed up the other day is their ticket to a cool drink!
**Keep in mind that you want them to be thirsty, not dehydrated. Don’t let them go too long without a drink.**
You can help them work up a thirst quicker by feeding them hay (this is more effective than training after they’ve been grazing, as fresh grass has water content). You want them to be thirsty enough that they’ll be interested in the Drinking Post during training and will drink the water when you fill the bowl. If it’s summer time, you’ll need to balance training with hydration. If you’re worried about leaving them without a water source during the heat of the day (and they aren’t quite trained on the Drinking Post yet), you can do your training session mid-morning after they’ve eaten their hay and worked up a bit of thirst. That way, you’re not leaving them without water during the heat of the day.
Step 4: Daily Training Session
It’s showtime! Now that you’ve finished your setup steps it’s finally time to show your animals the Drinking Post! Walk your thirsty animal over to the Drinking Post (or you can fill the bowl and splash some water around – a thirsty animal will get curious and come over). You can also halter your animals and bring them up to the Post for more individualized training. Once you have a captive audience, push the paddle and fill the bowl to the top. Then, let them drink the water down. As they drink it down, we hope they’ll reactivate the Trainer and the bowl will refill. The lightbulb in their head should being going off at this point!
Once you’ve shown them once, just walk away! This can be the hardest step. Most people want to sit with them and keep watch, but that’s a big no-no! You just have to trust they’ll figure it out (and they will!). Do one Training Session per day until they figure it out. Some animals learn after just one demonstration. Some need a few days to get the hang of it, but every animal will learn! Don’t worry!
- Don’t push the paddle over and over for your animal.
- If you need to give your animals additional water for hydration, bring them to another area. When they’re in with the Post, they need to use the Post.
- Only give them additional water after your daily training session.
- Put molasses (or another sticky treat) under the paddle and on the Trainer. This will encourage interaction and hopefully they’ll push the paddle as the lick it off.
- If you have a group or herd, you don’t have to teach each animal individually. As soon as you have one animal going to the Drinking Post, everyone one else will follow.
- If you have a mama and baby pair, the mom will teach the baby. Focus on training Mom.
- Make sure your animals are safe and hydrated through out training. Use the Pinch Test – pinch their skin (usually on the neck) and then let go. If the skin snaps back immediately, they’re hydrated. If the skin moves back slowly, this is a sign of dehydration. Get them water right away! Also, take a look at their gums. If their gums become discolored (more white than usual), this is a sign of dehydration. Get them water right away!
- These training steps are the same for every type of animal.
- If you’ve followed all these steps and are still having trouble, you may have a special situation on your hands! Don’t fret, your animal will learn, just give us a call and we can help you figure it out!