Positive Reinforcement

 No More Bad Boy


Have you ever rewarded someone with a gift of a “Good job!” or a hug or a lollipop or a kiss on the cheek after they’ve done something you liked or approved of?  On the flip side, have you shown disapproval or yelled at or smacked someone because they did something you didn’t like?

Which worked better for you?

Children respond to positive reinforcement because it fulfills a need for approval and trust and adults will accomplish more and feel more appreciated when their achievements are focused on rather than their mistakes.  Animals are no different than humans when it comes to learning the difference between a desired or undesired behavior, but their need to please and sensitivity to their environment makes positive reinforcement an important training tool.

When was the last time you gave your kid a reward for picking up his toys?  When was the last time your boss thanked you for coming in on time or working hard all day?  Have you noticed that your husband is more willing to do you a favor if you promise him a reward?

When you punish your pets because you dislike something they did, it doesn’t teach them the lesson you’re trying to teach.  Instead of them seeing what they did wrong and wanting to improve next time, they see your anger and react to it with fear and distrust.  No matter if you’re training a dog, cat, rodent, or bird, the best way to teach them a desirable behavior is to reward them when they show any progression toward your goal.

In other words, don’t punish your puppy for peeing on the carpet.  Reward him when he pees outside.  Don’t yell at your bird if she chews on something valuable.  Distract her with an alternative pastime and remove your valuables from sight.  Your cat will be will be more responsive to your ideas when you work with him calmly and spurn you if you don’t.  Show him what makes you happy.

Whether you’ve had a pet for a while that has developed some bad habits or just adopted a pet with problems, patience and a positive attitude will help you retrain them and turn them into the perfect pet for you.  There are a number of positive reinforcement programs that you can try, even hire a professional trainer if you’re real ambitious, but there are some affordable sources of information you only need your computer for.

Each species has a unique way of seeing things.  You can’t teach a cat the same way you teach a dog because they think differently, they react to things differently, and they see life differently than a dog.  For one thing, cats would rather live life on their own terms than try to please you; dogs live to make you happy.  You can have it both ways with your cat, though, if you take a little time to understand your kitty’s point of view and work with them –  you can still train them with positive reinforcement.

Birds are a completely different animal.  Their thought process is all about survival – prey versus predator.  It doesn’t take much for them to distrust your actions and will lash out in fear if they have any reason to believe you mean them harm.

For good bird training information, Chet Womach and his brother Dave have created a great program.  It includes what not to do with your bird, how to feed and care for birds of all sizes, how to teach them to talk, and more. 

I love these guys.  I’ve been following them for years now, since I adopted a Myer’s parrot that tries to rule the house.  The Womach brothers came from a family that has always owned birds, and through trial and error they learned the differences in parrots species and how to read a bird’s body language. Then they  devoted their lives to teaching the rest of us how to do it.  They have blogs, videos, CD’s and a catalog of toys, cages and food.  Dave has gone on to train parrots for shows and Chet is the best source of bird information you can find.  Go to Birdtricks.com and see for yourself.

With the help of these guys I was able to tap into the creative spirit of my bird, Charlie.  I found I could keep her busy by giving her my junk mail to chew on, then I found art under her feet!  Check out Artfulbird.com to see some of her stuff.  Just a little understanding and a willingness to let my bird be a bird helped me keep Charlie happy and occupied and away from my personal belongings.

Chet has a dog training program also, and if he’s as good with dogs as he is with birds, I recommend you try it!  Go to The Dog Training Secret to find out what he has to offer.   He says all you have to do is learn how to get even the most stubborn dog to listen to you without having to resort to any form of punishment, and you can overcome any behavioral problem.

What ever animal companion you have in your care, remember not to focus on discipline as much as teaching them how to live in your human world.  You can have the perfect pet if you take the time to understand how they think.  A little positive reinforcement training will go a long way in keeping them safe, healthy, and happy, and give you peace of mind.

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