It’s a simple question, really: if you were trying to learn something new would you want whoever is working with you to use the words above? Words that let’s face it are negative, condescending and judgmental. Or would you rather hear words like “yes” and “good job” with lots of enthusiasm thrown in for good measure?
As a sentient being you’d likely choose the latter. Because as a sentient being, you’re also having some thought or feeling about whatever it is you’re doing. Like maybe how hard (or easy) it seems to you and perhaps some question about whether you’re doing it right.
Your body is constantly sending you feedback about your environment and your actions, thoughts, and emotions. And especially when undertaking something new your body is likely to be on heightened alert status simply because it’s new. Your body wants to make sure it can keep you safe and alive in new situations because that’s its main prerogative. So, you have even more information flooding your nervous system which for some of us increases our anxiety about the new. Speaking to the folks with the trait of high sensitivity out there – www.hsperson.com.
Now imagine that the person with whom you’re working doesn’t share a common verbal language with you. And as a matter of fact, they’re also a different species from you with an entirely different way of processing information. Not only that, they’re completely responsible for your livelihood in that they give you shelter, food and companionship. Feeling any increase in performance anxiety yet? I’d be surprised if you weren’t.
All of this is the reality of our companion animals with whom we share our lives and our love when we attempt – key word – to “train” them. When viewed through the lens of how it would be if the situation were reversed – animal training human – the perspective shifts quite a bit, right?
Nothing except “yes”, “good job” and targeted praise is going to work with them because they’re no different as sentient beings than we are. Certainly, hearing the words “no”, “bad” and “no way” – as I did yesterday walking by an adorable 10-month-old German Shepherd puppy and their obviously frustrated guardian –will simply not in any way speed up the training process. Nor will it support positive communication and feedback between dog and human because the most important factor I’ve not mentioned is energy.
Animals are masterful at interpreting and decoding energy behind actions and words from humans. It remains their default “language” and we’re simply being naïve if we think that because it’s not a human language Animals aren’t extremely well-versed in its meaning. They know the difference between “bad” and “good” because you do when you say it. And I’m not talking about the tricks we like to play on them – annoyingly so – of saying one thing in a sugary voice that usually has an opposite meaning. If anything, that just confuses them and makes the whole relationship you think you have with them fraught with tenseness that may or may not get worse over time.
So, dear human, buy a clue from Vanna. If you want them to get better at something encourage them, don’t discourage them. You’ll get a lot farther faster and not only that you will be building the bond of a lifetime between you and another sentient being of a different species. And isn’t that worth it, after all? Animals certainly think so.