The Golden Rule of animal training: Don’t ever, ever call your pet to you (or ask your bird to step up) then punish them. Animals are not stupid; they learn by association and consequences, and if there is an unwanted consequence for coming to you, they will be reluctant to do it again! Especially if you do this more than once.
You’ll also have to consider what your pet views as a “punishment.” Sure, a time-out, scolding, or taking something away from them (GIVE me back my sock, you bad dog!) is obviously a punishment. But, look at it from your pet’s perspective. If your dog loves playing in the park, clipping on the leash and going home is a punishment. If he doesn’t like go outside in the rain, putting him out to potty in the rain will be a punishment. If your bird hates getting a shower, that is a punishment. If your cat hates going in her carrier, that is a punishment. Look at it from your pet’s perspective. Is it a consequence they’d enjoy, or one they’d dislike?
If you need to do one of these despised things to your pet, you have several options:
1. Call me for a private lesson. I will teach you how to help your pet enjoy these things; then there will be no worries about accidentally punishing them!
2. Go get your pet. This is why dogs wear collars. If you have a parrot or a cat, good luck with that. (see option 1 above!)
3. Bribe. This is not our favorite option, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures, and it’s better than ruining your recall (or step-up). And don’t use your recall word! Just show the animal what you’ve got, then wait for them to approach.
The bottom line: no matter how much you want to throttle your little friend, reinforce the behavior of coming to you. This will make he behavior likely to happen again when you need it most. Then change your pet’s environment or training so that your dog can’t steal your sock, your parrot can’t harass your cat, the cat loves going in her carrier, etc. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results!
Next month we will discuss the difference between reinforcement and bribery (there’s a big one!) and why we prefer one over the other.
If you have an idea for the Training Tidbit, just let me know!