I was recently asked a question for an article. What would you like all pet owners to know? Here are a few of my thoughts.
1. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. It can be easy to man handle our pets.
However using force to get your pet to cooperate can damage your relationship. Instead focus on teaching your pet to be a voluntary participant by rewarding him for cooperating.
2. Young animals are learning machines! When your pet is still young there is window of development in which he will be very receptive to new experiences.
Take advantage of this critical period by exposing your pet to things that will be important to his care in the future. These might include things like nail clippers, or travel in the car, or odd surfaces.
Be sure to pair these items or experiences with positive reinforcers such as food, treats, attention and toys. .
3. Pet parents play an important role in a well behaved pet. Your pet is not inherently bad or good. By focusing on rewarding your pet for good behaviour you can create a little angel instead of a little monster.
Your pet will learn desired behaviour earn more reinforcers and are therefore worthwhile doing. Although it is easy to forget, be sure to make the effort to frequently reinforce your pet for being good.
4. Here is a technique to apply when your pet misbehaves. Our tendency is to want to punish our pets with aversives when they misbehave.
Unfortunately this can be damaging to our relationship with our pets. A more trust building approach is to ignore the undesired behaviour and reinforce your pet for doing a different acceptable behaviour instead.
For example instead of punishing your puppy for jumping up on you, take a step back. The moment his four paws hit the floor lavish him with praise and attention at his level. This will teach him to keep four paws on the floor instead of jumping in order to earn attention.
Best of all you get to be the good guy, instead of the bad guy in your pet’s life.
This was originally published on Barbara’s blog in July 2012.
Barbara Heidenreich has been a professional animal trainer since 1990. Her company Barbara’s Force Free Animal Training (www.BarbarasFFAT.com) provides animal training DVDs, books, webinars and workshops. She has been a featured speaker in over twenty countries and has been published in nine languages. Barbara works with the companion animal community and also consults on animal training in zoos.
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