Monday, May 18, 2009

How to train humans

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Looking cute with my head on my paws

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.

It doesn't hurt to practice your tricks in front of a mirror too.
It's hard to improve on how cute I am here.

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.

Does it look like I am doing a trick without a treat here?

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.

Sheldon was just off-camera with the treat.

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.

In this photo I reward my owner by sitting on her lap.

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!


  1. Caplin, you are an old cynic! :) delayed praise, gosh! where did you get this? :))

  2. He's very cute... I can't believe how big!

  3. Hi human owner!

    Congratulations on your blog, it is amazing that Capybaras are appreciated outside Brazil or Latin America (here in Brazil we don’t take capybaras as pat – lol).

    Some years ago capybaras start to live by the margins of Pinheiros River (one of the most important rivers in São Paulo capital area), which is amazing because of its non friendly environment.

    São Paulo is the world's 7th largest metropolitan area, Pinheiros River is extremely polluted, it does not propitiate the survival of fishes and the urban life is very intense near the region where they live. Although unlikely, capybaras really adopted Pinhieros River as home.

    I’ve also chosen capybaras as São Paulo city mascot - pls take a look at my blog (unfortunely it is in Portuguese, but you could translate that using Google Translator Toolkit – Brazilian Portuguese , it is very reliable)

    If you'd allow me to I would like to put a link in my blog to yours, and maybe promote your book here.

    Congrats again-cheers

    Luiz Pagano

  4. this is a very big hamster...I can't believe the sized is like that...^_^

  5. Your pet is so big? how could you grow him like that?

  6. What a nice blog.. I still can't believe that capibara may become a pet, wow.. it's amazing for me, How do you do.. please visit my blog at, i'll appreciate..

  7. Dog training is a lifelong commitment.The first thing in your dog is its health. A healthy dog is a lot easier to live with.
    Family guard dogs for sale

  8. Excellent! it is very useful post and tips for puppy training. How to train your puppies is a question asked by almost all dog owners. It seems everyone has advice and tips, and opinions on the best way to train your puppies.

    Puppies learn very fast with proper training. The primary few days at home are very important for puppies and the examples you set now will last a life span. Following these basic techniques as soon as you bring your puppy home will make sure a positive housetraining experience for you and your puppy:-

    * Ensure you give your dog lots of consideration and attention when he’s doing the right and good thing. Praise him plentifully when he’s been a good boy.

    * There is nothing intrinsically incorrect with telling your dog “no,” it’s just that it doesn’t give him sufficient information. Instead of “no,” instruct him what you want him to do.

    * Give your puppy recurrent admission to his toilet area for preventing soiling inside house. Reward the puppy for do so - give a special treat.

    * Nourish your puppy with 2 – 3 meals per day. Leave food out for 15-20 minutes then take away the leftover food. Never leave food out for puppy to eat at will. This helps you find out when she’ll have to go potty.