Help yourself! (and your animals)
By Barbara Bingham Deutscher, CPBT, CPBC
Harmony Animal Behavior
“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson
BEHAVIOR is the method in which living beings manipulate the environment around them. How each being chooses to behave is largely a function to gain the consequences for that behavior.
Animals in the wild have evolved to learn... if they fail to adjust their behavior following their latest experiences, they do not live 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 the realities that you will encounter. Use these lessons to create “good” behavior and wonderful relationships.
Be aware to teach well from the start.
- As your new animal adjusts to their new environment, he/she is learning what to expect in their new home.
- Start with less time and attention and increase to more when starting out together rather than having your animal expect to be the center of your world 24/7 and later have time and attention reduced with real life. This sets expectations at a lower level so the animal doesn’t become upset as life returns to a normal routine.
- Decide and teach 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!)
Your animal is learning from every interaction.
- Your animal is constantly and continually learning how to behave in order to get the consequences he/she wants. Therefore, old behaviors will fade away in favor of behaviors that currently work to get the consequences the individual desires.
- Consistency allows your animal to choose their behavior depending on the consequences they want.
- Pay attention to what your animal is DOING when you give him/her attention. (Be aware of what behaviors you are reinforcing!)
- 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. (unless you want to see that behavior repeated!)
Decide what is “good” behavior and BE CONSISTENT.
- If you want a behavior repeated then reinforce it (praise, food, touch, play, toys, etc.)
- If you do NOT want a behavior repeated, remove ALL reinforcers for that behavior.
Your animal (not you) decides what is reinforcing - observe his/her choices!
- Learn what each individual animal likes and doesn’t like.
- What are his/her most desired (highest value) reinforcers?
- What is reinforcing but of a lower value?
- When is that specific reinforcer more, or less, desirable.
- Is she/he hungry or just ate (satiated)?
- Full of energy or exhausted?
- Not feeling 100% because of illness or injury or dramatic experience?
- A change of environment at or away from home?
Reinforce good behavior: Consistently offer desirable consequences (reinforcement) for (all) behavior you want your animal to offer again.
- Teach your animal what to do.
- Use higher value reinforcers for more difficult behavior.
- Do not give ANY reinforcement for “bad” behavior.
- ALL animals learn - no matter their species, breed, age, experience - when the teacher is clear, consistent, patient and knowledgeable.
- For help, please contact Harmony Animal Behavior - Barb@HarmonyAnimalBehavior.com.
(Behavior is not a surprise, it's science!)
Your animal will learn to manipulate their environment - including the humans - to get what they want and need.
YOUR ANIMAL IS A MIRROR OF YOUR OWN BEHAVIOR: You get the behavior you reinforce - whether or not you intended to reinforce it.
You are responsible for the behavior you reinforce. You create the animal of your dreams or a nightmare through your own behavior. Choose wisely!