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Catch them doing something good!

In the past as a foster parent I would always give others this advice, “Catch them doing something good.” There were plenty of times to criticize, complain or be upset by their actions, but the positive reinforcement in the form of praise was as necessary as food and water to those kids. It is the same with rescued pets.

This was Mariposa at first, frightened and untrusting.
Sara Simon

When everything is new, these pets will have lots of issues in the beginning. It takes a lot of love and patience to wait out the time it requires for them to get it all down pat .Sometimes, they never will and then the owners/caretakers need to learn how they can manage this pet with their bad behaviors. Keep in mind, their behaviors are usually not their fault, but were caused by people who didn’t care enough to try to fix those actions.

They have come from bad, sometimes horrific situations. They have been abandoned or surrendered at least once and may have been so damaged as to not trust humans very easily. However, they want to fit in. They want a forever home. They want to please you. They want to be loved, but still they are not going to grasp your rules or expectations right away.

The key is patience and instead of only being negative, you must catch them doing something good so you can praise them. Even the smallest thing will be helpful in their gaining a little self-confidence. These pets are often so timid and frightened they just need to feel safe at first. Your expectations should be low and just help them to trust again.

People have said that success breeds success, well this is a good example of that. Each time that pet is praised it feels better about itself. Each time they receive a positive reinforcement, they grow in the feeling that they belong here and can manage to live here happily. They start to slowly trust again and get more relaxed and less scared. It costs the new caretaker nothing to offer a pet praise and love. When they obey your command or cue, praise them. Even if the action is not quite perfect, give them positive reinforcement. They need to feel that they can do something right and that you are happy with them.

Anything they attempt to do for you says, “I really want to be good so you love me. I am trying to comply with what you want me to do.” Of course they may not understand your particular rules or you may not understand the correct command words that they were already trying to learn. The pet could be confused along with nervous and shy so they have a lot to overcome.

Everyone has bad days sometimes and so do your pets. When they are having a particularly bad day consider there may be something from their past that upsets them or they may just have too much stress. This is the time for being extra alert so you can catch them doing something good instead of only focusing on their bad behavior. They need your patience to show them it is okay they messed up, you still love them. A pat on the head, a word of praise and they can feel confident enough to start again. Think about how a positive word of praise or a compliment makes you feel. Your pets need that same feeling.

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