Be smart! (It’s science!)

By Barbara Bingham Deutscher, CPBT, CPBC

Harmony Animal Behavior
Barbara Bingham Deutscher, CPBC, CPBT
 – Behavior, Training, Consultation

“Nature is pleased with simplicity.” 
— Isaac Newton


Animals in the wild have evolved to learn quickly… if they didn’t adjust their behavior with their latest experience, they wouldn’t last long. Survival of the fittest is a great motivator for learning and adjusting behavior.

Staying ahead of these fuzzy, feathered, or scaly learning experts takes thought and preparation. Here are a few ideas to add to your knowledge for realizing “good” behavior and wonderful relationships.

Start slow and teach well.

  • Be aware that as your new animal adjusts to the new environment, he/she is learning what to expect in their new home.

  • It’s always smart to set expectations at a lower level so the animal doesn’t become upset as life returns to a normal routine.

    • Start with less time and attention and increase to more when starting out together rather than to have your animal expect to be the center of the world 24/7 and have time and attention reduced with real life.

  • Set your rules and boundaries now rather than reteach tougher limits later.

  • Be sure to have your new animal learn to spend time by himself especially while you are home. (Make the kennel / crate / cage a great place to be!)

Every interaction with your animal is teaching him/her how to live with you in your environment!

  • Be very aware what everyone in the house is teaching your animal.

  • If everyone in contact with the animal is consistent, the animal will know what outcome to expect from his behavior. He can then can choose his behavior to get the consequences he desires.

  • Pay attention to what your animal is DOING when you give him/her attention.

    • Give your animal attention for good manners, quiet or pleasant vocalizations and cute appropriate ways to get attention.

    • No attention for barking, yowling, screaming, pawing, nudging, throwing bowls, etc.

  • Be very aware what everyone in the house is teaching your animal.

You get to decide what is “good” behavior.  BE CONSISTENT.

  • If you want a behavior repeated then reinforce it (food, touch, play, toys, etc.)

  • If you do NOT want a behavior repeated, remove ALL reinforcers for that behavior.

Your animal decides what is reinforcing - observe his/her choices!

  • Learn what your new animal likes and doesn’t like. These are likely to change - be observant and flexible.

    • What are his/her most desired reinforcers.

    • What is reinforcing but of a lower value.

    • When is which reinforcer more or less  desirable.

  • Consistently offer desirable consequences (reinforcement) for behavior you want your animal to repeat.

  • Use higher value reinforcers for more difficult behavior.

  • Do not give ANY reinforcement for “bad” behavior.

Your animal will learn how to manipulate the environment (including the humans!) to get what they want and need when they want it. You will get to live with the behavior you reinforce whether or not you intended to reinforce it. You are responsible for the behavior you reinforce. You can create the animal of your dreams or a nightmare through your own behavior. Choose wisely!

(It’s science!)


“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson