Nine ways to invite your animals to work with you

Can’t catch your horses? Afraid to let your dog off the leash? Kitty, kitty, kitty…kitty, where’s kitty?

Sad when the animals that are supposed to love you don’t want to join you. I’m thinking that ‘unconditional love’ is overlooking some pieces of reality. And nagging or yelling or otherwise threatening to make them cooperate isn’t really a gateway to enjoyment for you or them. Crying (whining) why don’t you like/love/respect me doesn’t do it either.

1. Know your animal, what are they doing when they’re not wanting to be with you. There’s important information there…on interest, focus and the rewards that get them charged up.

2. Know what foods they like best. Food works on people and pets both. Don’t waste dinner/feeding time by ignoring its potential.

3. Know what activities, games they like best.

4. Use what you know to build the relationship. However remember that threats, negatives can disassemble the relationship quickly and produce the ‘everything is more interesting than you are’ attitude.

5. Meld together their likes and your wishes. Your job is to get them to like what you want them to do. Balance.

6. Be prepared, set yourself up so you are actually prepared and have what you need with you. If all you have is the lead/leash and your voice, you are not prepared.

7. Try stuff, then think about what actually happened and what worked and where you want to go next to make it work better.

8. Think of easy things, easy successes to reward first. Don’t push too hard for some kind of idealized perfection.

9. When they want to stay with you and do things even when there is no leash, no lead and nothing preventing them from going you are on the right track.

Some clues to likes: dogs almost all like smelly cheese, chicken, beef & peanut butter and tug (but sometimes they have been reprimanded about picking up things and so they’re suspicious);   cats almost all like fishing pole games with fur or feathers and most cats like bits of tuna (real/canned); horses almost all like cut up apple, carrots, and Tbs. sized portions of sweet feed pellets.   Initial relationship improvement training that works well with all three are touch/target games, for dogs & horses touch nose to palm and get a reward from other hand, for cat touch nose to fingertip and get reward from little platter with bit of tuna on it.

I think that when the animals I live with understand the rules of the relationship…fair, I do this, you do that, trust, fun…well then there can be ‘unconditional love.’


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