Friday, July 13, 2012

What All Pet Owners Should Know

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 behavior you can create a little angel instead of a little monster. Your pet will learn desired behavior 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 behavior and reinforce your pet for doing a different acceptable behavior 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.

Barbara Heidenreich 
Copyright 2012


Unknown said...

Do you remember Achilles Barb? You liked the fact that she's a blind bird that steps up without the use of coercion. We live and breathe by the "Just because you can doesn't mean you should" rule and our relationship is much better for it!

Here is Achilles just in case you forgot about her.

Barbara Heidenreich said...

I do remember Achilles! Love the video clip and the wonderful work you have done with her. Keep posting her training. It is such great info and inspiration.

Unknown said...

Barbara, do you have a place where you recommend and list reputable breeders?


Barbara Heidenreich said...

Hi Justin,
I dont have a list posted anywhere, but I do often recommend Wendy Craig of Also take a look at members of the Parrot Place. They raise babies specifically to be companion animals.