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break the mould, lose the system and go with the flow

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In our quest to do right by the animals we adore, we stuff up so regularly.  One of the main things we do wrong - is try to be right...Confidence comes - not from always being right, but from not fearing being wrong.  We can google how to back a horse, or train a dog to heel. And the information will no doubt be helpful. The question then is – will we be able to carry out the recipe and ensure that we are respecting the angel before us.  That is more important than the recipe... Of course - understanding behaviour and motivation and definitions assists us to achieve amazing feats with the incredible animals in our lives.  We can problem solve concerns, logically see things from the animal's point of view using all the behaviour theory.  The fundamentals to relationship can however be summed up in one statement – “do what you do with respect, and own your actions”.  In other words, don't blame the animal, the situation or anyone or anything – Rather - see what is right befo…

PS. it is all about control

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I may sound like a stuck record.  If the sound is annoying you, I implore you, look at the annoyance.  Look to see if you are really affording control and choice in relationship with animals.

Thankfully I have a stuck record of my own in Sage. She is crazy about succeeding.  It keeps her level headed and adds to her enthusiastic nature.  She loves to please.   Sometimes she gets so excited that she cannot even think straight.  Like when I arrive home from work, her greeting is to jump up and - oops - this is when it becomes difficult.  She knows she may not jump up.  She may even have someone yell at her when she puts those muddy paws on the designer label t-shirt.  Then she is no longer succeeding.  She is failing.  She becomes anxious because she is not pleasing us, and her behavior becomes more and more erratic and anxious.

I travelled away from home on two occasions.  Left reams and reams of notes on how to take care of the menagerie.  When I returned after the first trip, Sage wa…

Part of something bigger

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My current favourite past time in the uShaka Sea World aquarium is to watch a small school of anchovies Plus 1. The Plus 1 is a yet unidentified fish who is finding sanctuary with the band of anchovies. He is bigger than them. But fully accepted into the ranks.
I watched them for some time yesterday. Fascinating behaviour patterns began to emerge. Because he is easy to recognise it was easy to see his behaviour relative to the group. Anchovies usually swim too fast and erratically for me to be able to monitor one I individual. Plus 1 on the other hand is a stand out dude with his own look. So easy to follow.
Anchovies swim constantly and school.  When threatened they tighten their ranks.  Large schools look like symphonies when they behave this way. Dancing in a manner that inspired Disney's Fantasia and more. Why. Because there is safety in numbers.
Makes sense why Plus 1 would join the merry dancers. It is safer to hang with the gang. Makes for a large picture for predators to enco…

when the student is ready an animal appears

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I feel so liberated at times - and other times I am still a reactive bitch - but the feeling of liberation is growing - thanks to animals

I notice - as a result of how much they steal my heart - what gets my hackles up.  I have practised noticing while with animals.  I have practised looking at their reactions and working on being clearer so I don't get their hackles up.  It is the funnest thing to do.
Thank you to an endless list of critters for being the best teachers ever - and the lessons continue.

So, what does this have to do with anything - yesterday I was accused of being passively annoying.  "You have changed," they said.  "You used to shout for what you wanted.  You used to fight."  And I giggled in a tumultuous roar of appreciation.  This face and heart and soul is anything but passive.  What I have learned - from the beasts in my life - is that a fight is not a loud and fist pumping one.  It is loving, rational, fearless and fun.  This is how this i…

Czech book - launch gratitude

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Thank you again to my Czech friends and colleagues for making this possible.  I am again, so grateful for the wonderful opportunity to learn from all of you, and contribute towards our greater perspective in relationship with animals. I am truly amazed.  I have been considering the lessons I have learned, personally, on my journey through the world of animal relationship with human kind, and furthermore, how the behaviour management and animal welfare industry have grown.  We are considering and doing things now that were completely foreign concepts just 10 years ago.  We have changed our attitudes towards animals almost 360 degrees in the last 100 years.  We are looking at how we can provide more choice and control.  We are scientifically investigating empathy between animal and human.  We are looking and seeing things from the animal's point of view.  We are focussing on partnerships and psychological well-being.  And so much more I look forward to more lessons.  I look forwar…

WHO ARE WE

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I wrote this post as a guest post for Zoospenseful. 

Animal trainers?Behaviourists?Zookeepers We debate what to call people who work with and train animals.It may be more pertinent to call us Animal Behaviour Managers.Here is why. Anyone can train a trick.It is basic conditioning 101 that enables our ability to do this.Ensuring the welfare of animal’s in our care is greatly enhanced because we can train tricks.Examples of tricks that are good for welfare of animals in human care: -Easeful medical behaviours that enable proactive animal care -Fun engaging mental stimulation in the process of ‘talking to animals’ -Animal’s exercising in the game of training Is training ‘tricks’ enough?The best animal care specialists out there say no.In the larger scheme of things, we need to take full responsibility for the psychological welfare of the animals in our care. To illustrate, let us look at our family pet – Scruffy the Labrador.He has some trick training in his day.He knows how to do a few things …

one thing at a time - really really - only one thing at a time

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I am guilty – woman-can-multitask label that I have worn as a 'compliment' too often.  It does not work!!!  Especially when I project my stuff onto animals while trying to communicate with them.  Not only am I guilty of multi-tasking, I have another confession.  I communicate with humans by expecting them to read my mind. Those that are still around in friendship with me have become really good at reading me and making up what they think I mean. Animal behaviour management is a fun game in self reflection. It has taught me to STOP!  And focus – and see one thing at a time.  Sometimes... It has taken years for me to learn to break behaviours into simple understandable steps. You may think this is fundamental. I would like to challenge you to reconsider.  I learned from some really good people last week. While watching I realised that an animal's attitude to a behaviour is a part of the learning process. At some level I knew this, but I had never considered attitude to be a par…