Updated: Aug 19
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There's a chocolate cake on my counter right now.
That's great Laura, but why are we supposed to care? We can't even feed chocolate to our pets.
I know! But bear with me, because this chocolate cake is going to help you better understand your pet. It's going to help you do a better job of setting your pet up for success.
And it's not even a magical cake (although it is pretty magically delicious)!
Ok, I promise I'm going to actually explain myself and this cake now!
It's my birthday today, and I baked a delicious chocolate cake to share with my friends over the weekend. Unfortunately, they didn't eat all of it so now I have this chocolate cake sitting on my counter. I know how delicious it is and oh mylanta, do I want to eat it! But I also know that I don't want to kick this new year of my life off with a stomachache and gaining a gazillion pounds. So instead of eating it all right now, I'm going to finish up this blog post and then head out for a hike with the dogs! Even though I know it's sitting there on the counter, I have something else to focus on -- my blog and my hike. Having things to do makes it easier for me to choose a better, healthier option than eating all the cake! However, my self control isn't the best. It's pretty likely that I'm going to eat a giant slice of cake before the hike... and possibly another one when I get home. (Calories don't count on your birthday, right?) But at least I'm not eating it right now! It's important to celebrate the little victories! What does this have to do with you and your pet? SO MUCH! Let's replace that chocolate cake on the counter with a visitor walking in your front door, yummy-smelling chicken sitting on your dining room table, oh-so-tempting shoelaces on your shoes just waiting to be chewed... are you starting to get the idea? Think of something that your pet finds pretty irresistible! If you don't want your pet to jump up on your visitor, steal the chicken off the table, or chew your shoelaces, I have a very simple solution for you -- give them something else to do! Writing a blog post probably isn't an option (but if it is, I'd love to talk with you!), so maybe you want to tell your pet to sit, lay down, or go to place. Maybe you want to take them on a hike or play tug or fetch! We can always manage our pets' bad behaviors by giving them another incompatible behavior to do instead.
Don't jump, sit and wait for attention instead.
Don't eat food off the table, lay in your place during our meal instead.
Don't chew those shoelaces, go on a walk with me instead.
This is a great management technique. Instead of just telling our pets, "No! No! No!" we'll be able to mark and reward when they complete the good behavior! We're able to say, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" And guess what? That makes it way more fun for our pets to be around us! Instead of expecting them to magically read our minds, we can actually show them what behaviors we like. Sometimes, in pet training, it's tempting to end there. We can stop the jumping by getting our pet to sit, so we're all done, right? Wrong!
What if your family stops by and walks in the door before you're able to tell your pet to sit
What if you have to go grab something from your car while your meal is on the table?
What if your pet still tries to chew on your shoelaces and you're too tired to take them on another walk?
Training can, and should, go beyond management! We want to teach our pets to have self-control, to choose the good behaviors without us mandating their next step all the time! This is why marking and rewarding good behaviors is so important. It shows our pets that those behaviors are going to get a better result. It helps our pets to choose those good behaviors because they know they get something good out of it too! But here's the thing, even if they have been rewarded for these good behaviors a ton, if they are too excited to think they still might make a wrong choice! We also have to teach them calming techniques, so they can remain calm even around really tempting things. This is why you constant hear me talking about drills like place, sit on the dog, and behavioral downs! These calming techniques are crucial for actually enjoying life with your pet. They give you the chance to spend time with your pet without having to closely manage their every move! Do you need help with teaching your pet to remain calm? Click here to grab your FREE copy of The Ultimate Guide to Actually Enjoying Your Next Adventure with Your Pet! This guide includes photo and video tutorials to help you teach your pet to choose calm!
The next time you get frustrated with your pet for their behavior, don't forget to think about chocolate cake!
Can you give them something else to focus on besides that chocolate cake?
Can you teach them to choose not to eat that chocolate cake all by themselves?
Can you do a better job of setting them up for success?
Full disclosure: I just served myself a big huge slice of chocolate cake! Looks like I could use a little more training and consistency! Maybe I need to make a training log for myself... after my birthday :)