three fireworks in a dark sky
2016 is coming!

What will you train your pets to do (or not to do!) in 2016?

A new year is right around the corner, and, like many people, my mind is turning to the things I want to do next year.

Although I adopted Nefertiti in 2007 and Sirius Black in 2009, there are always more things I want to do with them. Some of these come from friends, training colleagues, and clients. Many others come from the part of the training process that i sometimes describe as whackamole (an inelegant turn of phrase that I promise does not involve any actual whacking).

Inevitably, any training or behavior modification regimen will bring to light new things you want to work on with your pet. Some of this is because successfully addressing one issue makes one that seemed minor in comparison more pressing. Other times, some part of the solution or management routine can actually contribute to a new problem or solving one problem may allow the pet to be present in new situations that necessitates a new form of training.

This process of constantly reevaluating and adjusting training priorities is what I characterize as whackamole. However, it should not be perceived as a negative. In fact, the training process has many benefits: training is mentally stimulating for your pet; provides a bonding experience for pet and person; and regular training ensures frequent interactions that are a good time to check for physical and behavioral changes in your pet.

black dog looking to the side of the camera.
Sirius, ready to learn!

For 2016, I have important training goals to work towards with both Sirius and Nefertiti. With Sirius Black, I want to improve his recall, which has always been a weak point in his basic manners skills. I often tell clients about the time, in a basic manners class, that he suddenly veered away from me during recall practice, heading for the class instructor and her meatballs. With Nefertiti, I want to work on her polite food behavior. Several years ago, I taught her to sit and wait for her dry food, but I never extended that behavior to her wet food, which is where she gets really excited, trying to shove her head in the bowl before I am ready. This move sometimes results in wet food all over the floor—or her head.

I will keep you posted on my progress towards these goals over the next year. Please share your 2016 training resolution in the comments!

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