Kindness for All
By Joseph Baker,©2011
Joseph Baker, who writes this post on behalf of Sears, is an avid horse rider and ardent jumper who believes that working with horses improves all areas of life, from patience to proper communication. Additionally, Joseph knows that any miscommunication between him and his horse is probably his fault.
Whether you are a horse owner, or the owner of another kind of animal, it is sometimes easy to take your position for granted, and expect your animal to bend to your will at all times. However, any seasoned animal owner will tell you that, as soon as you have set your mind to a task for your animal, he will dig in his hooves (pun intended) and refuse to comply.
Raising your voice, using intimidation tactics, and punishing your pet won't change this scenario. So how should you react when you are faced with a truculent animal? Kindness and understanding shows your pet that you respect him, and will go a long way toward mollifying your animal, and coaxing him to do what you desire of him.
Comfort Is Key
Oftentimes, when a horse or other pet is misbehaving, it’s because he is trying to communicate something to you. Much like a child who hasn't yet learned to speak, if your pet is uncomfortable, he will try to let you know in whatever way he can. Look around.
Are his quarters clean and comfortable? If not, why not spruce up his surroundings a bit? If his space is dirty and cluttered, take the time to clean it thoroughly. If he is staying where it is drafty and cold, try plugging up any holes and placing a few heaters to warm things up a bit. Remember: a comfortable animal is a happy animal. Take the time to address any needs that your animal may have, and he will thank you for it.
Positively Positive Enforcement
Positive reinforcement works for people and animals alike. Instead of punishing your animal for disobedient or unruly behavior, praise him and offer treats when he does something right. In this way, you are essentially ignoring poor behavioral choices and only focusing on the positive, which naturally encourages more of the preferable behavior.
After all, if given the choice between being in the proverbial dog house and receiving goodies and praise, which would you choose? When administering treats, be sure that you are always consistent and that any treat or praise happens right after the positive action, so your animal will make the association between what it is that he did and the prize that was won. After a while, you should be able to offer fewer treats while receiving the same good behaviors.
Just a Little Patience
Impatience is usually based upon frustration at events that are going counter to how we believe they should. When interacting with your animal, it is important to practice patience at all times. Animals can sense hostility, even when we have taken pains to hide it, and they will react accordingly.
Try to put yourself in the place of your animal; listen to your tone of voice and observe your body language. If you are exuding impatience, then take a step back from the situation, take a deep breath and count to ten, and try again. Learning how to be patient will benefit every aspect of your life, from your interaction with family and friends to the way that you handle everyday stressors at work. In this way, your animal can be your teacher every bit as much as you are his teacher.
For animal owners, the key is to treat your animal the way that you would like to be treated. By showing respect and admiration, rather than being overbearing and punishing, your animal is far more likely to learn the proper behaviors much more quickly than they would otherwise. Just remember to be thoughtful, positive and patient, and the rest will fall into place.