The Golden Rule of Animal Training

The Golden Rule of animal training: Don’t ever, ever call your pet to you (or ask your bird to step up), then do something they don’t like.  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.

Never ask your pet to come to you, then punish them.

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 effectively be a punishment.  If your bird hates getting a shower, that is considered a punishment to him.  If your cat hates going in her carrier, that is a punishment to the cat.  Look at it from your pet’s perspective.  Is it a consequence they’d enjoy, or one they’d dislike?

But what if I need to do something he doesn’t like?

If you need to do one of these despised things to your pet, you have several options:
1. Contact us for some training. We will teach you how to help your pet enjoy these things; then there will be no worries about accidentally punishing them!  Cats can learn to enjoy their carriers; birds can learn to enjoy showers; dogs can learn to come in the park even though there’s a chance you’ll put the leash on and take them home.
2. Go get your pet.  This is why dogs wear collars and leashes.   If you have a parrot or a cat, good luck with that.  (See option 1 above, and call us for help!)
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 cue). And don’t use your usual cue word, like “come.”  Just show the animal what you’ve got, then wait for them to approach.  Don’t say anything.

The bottom line: no matter how much you want to scold your little friend for being naughty or not coming back to you, reinforce the behavior of coming to you anyway.  This will make the 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! Need help? Ask us!

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