Lately I’ve had quite a few animal friends–anipals as we call each other–comment on how well-trained my humans are. In fact, my references to my female human as my owner seem almost ludicrous considering that the asymmetrical aspects of our relationship are all in my favor. If one of us owns the other, clearly I own her.
After much consideration, I have decided to share some of my human-training tips with all pets in the spirit of making the world a better place. Please read this blog completely, take notes and study the potential application of these methods to your humans before attempting to apply them. Use caution: we don’t want any accidents.
Rule 1: Be cute
This is almost too trivial to mention but it is the foundation of all human training. Your power over humans is based on your inherent cuteness and humans’ obvious ugliness.
Just because being cute is easy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice. Find a full-length mirror or other reflective surface. Lie down in front of it and rest your head on your paws. Practice looking up in a wistful way. Don’t forget your ears! If you have floppy ears like some rabbits, try different positions. Do the ears look best lying flat along your back or draped over your eyes? For cats, try holding a toy such as a catnip mouse in your paws. Dogs should have a stick or a Frisbee, that serves the double purpose of making you look cute and your owner feel guilty.
Rule 2: Don’t do anything without a treat
Here’s where most dogs go wrong, cats generally get this right. Don’t chase that ball, shake that hand, or roll over if there is no obvious reward waiting for you when you’re done. After you do your “trick,” sit down and wait as long as it takes to get the treat.
This rule is critical! Breaking this rule even once leads your humans to believe that they are in control. This must not happen. The first few times may take a while but eventually your human’s response time will shorten and the treat will be available immediately upon completion of the requested task.
If you have broken this rule in the past, a great deal of patience and repetition will be required before you can retrain your human to the correct behavior. As you’re waiting, remind yourself how you got into this mess and don’t give in again.
Rule 3: Don’t forget the praise
It is important that you reward your human’s good behavior with appropriate praise. After I get a tasty treat, I always remember to wiggle my ears. My humans love this, but yours may be different. Pay attention to your humans, what small thing can you do to make them happy? Then do that promptly after they’ve behaved correctly. Remember, delayed praise does not work with them, the more quickly you respond, the better.
Rule 4: Eeep so they can’t sleep
This rule firmly establishes you as the dominant member of the pet-human partnership. Don’t let your humans think they have control over when you deserve a treat. The best way to prove that you are in control is to wake your humans in the middle of the night and demand a treat. This will prove, even to their self-centric minds, that you are in control.
I implement this rule by jumping into my humans’ bed and eeping loudly in their ears. If this doesn’t work, I tap them on the face with my paw. Dogs may bark but not too loudly. If there are small children or babies in the household, you don’t want to wake them or your humans will have to deal with that rather than giving you your treat.
This is another rule that is difficult for cats. No biting! Kneading is okay as long as it is not too painful. The goal here is to get a treat, not to be locked out of the bedroom. It is best if you can just purr very, very loudly. Humans find it almost impossible to get mad at you for that. If all else fails, sit on your human’s face.
That should be enough to get you going. You can leave questions or additional tips in the comments section.
And remember, only positive feedback works with humans so don’t bite the hand that feeds you!