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By Published On: June 24th, 2022

People can use verbal language, in some form or another, to explain themselves. We can share the reasons for mistakes or transgressions we have made. Our excuses may be accepted or not. Even when they are, there may be a lingering bad taste left behind. During a volunteer stint at a dog rescue facility I was reprimanded (quite severely as far as I was concerned) by the owner. I had made the mistake of arriving too early at the start of my first day. I had interpreted their repetition of the time to be ready for work as don’t be late. But my early arrival caused the dogs to bark, which upset the owner. Later when offered an apology, I accepted, but never went back to volunteer for that work again. The damage had been done. 

The sins of others

We don’t have the luxury of explaining our actions to animals. Even when it’s for their own good we may not be cut any slack for our role in the matter. We can be held accountable for the mistakes others have made. When working with neglected or abused animals, chances are good that we will be. We can’t reboot relationships and learning histories the way we can a computer. 

How soon is right away?

Factor in how you are going to help an animal learn that you are reliably safe. Call it rapport or trust. At the heart of it the animal has to learn not to worry about you presenting any kind of a threat to them. It will require an evaluation of what must be done with or to the animal, what can be put off, or skipped. If it must be done, the urgency needs to be determined. Sometimes the urgency is easy to determine, medical emergencies for example. Urgency due to the time schedule or limited patience of an owner is trickier to deal with. Anything that has to happen should be done based on understanding the aversive conditions the animal is going to be subjected to. And their possible impact on the animal’s behavior.

Trainers and owners should think of themselves as bee catchers. Make sure to use plenty of honey.

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