Honesty and the Care of Animals

IMG_0666The fact of the matter is and what most people don’t realize, is that if you have an animal under your care, you have to be extremely honest with yourself. To be the best possible provider for another living being, requires an exceptional amount of maturity and with that comes the ability to be honest with yourself.

Naturally, as an animal trainer, the biggest thing I deal with on a day to day basis is behavior. I can’t do my job without an understanding of animal behavior and I can’t be any good at it, without a phenomenal amount of understanding it. What people don’t notice in the day to day activities with their own pets, I do. But, that’s my job, that’s what I was trained to do, to go well below the surface and seek answers where others didn’t even knew existed.


Most people who are pet owners, always run into a problem they need a solution for. “My precious pet has always been well behaved, but lately, they have been a complete nightmare and doing all kinds of things that is not normally in their nature.” As an animal trainer, I need to know all the details in order to properly assess the situation and find a solution. This requires a large amount of uncomfortable honesty, because who really wants to admit that they have failed their pet in one form or another?

Animals don’t just suddenly change without a good reason. One of the first lessons I ever learned when I attended the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program is, it is never the animal’s fault. Have you let that sink in? I know there are many people who can’t grasp this concept. “That animal bit me! It’s not my fault, it’s their fault!” No, it’s not the animal’s fault. Depending on the situation and the type of animal, it’s either your fault for not reading the warning signs leading up to the bite or it’s poor training on the owner’s end.

So when it comes to sorting out behavioral issues among animals under your care, it’s important to be extremely honest with yourself. Common changes that lead to changes in your animal’s behavior are:

  • environmental – have you moved? Have you moved the animal’s things? Are there changes happening in your neighborhood, i.e. construction? Have you moved where the animal sleeps? Eats? Relieves itself? Changes in weather?
  • Additions to the family – Is there a new baby? A new partner? A new roommate? New animals?
  • Species related – What kind of animal is this? What characteristics are associated with its breed? Is it breeding season? Is it molting season? etc..
  • Changes in your behavior – are you suddenly more busy? More lazy? Preoccupied with other animals, people?
  • Changes in diet – Have you changed the animal’s diet? New treats? Gotten rid of some favorite treats?
  • Changes to schedule – Animals, like children, enjoy having a schedule. They like having a set of things they can count on during the day. A set time for eating, for training, for relaxing, for exercising, etc.
  • Medical – medical is usually the last thing you may be aware of and usually the last resort, unless you are already aware of a medical condition with your animal. When all things can be positively accounted for, sometimes its the one thing you are unaware exists that it causing the problem. This is when a doctor should be brought into the picture. Perhaps something medical is going on that you are unaware of that is changing your animal’s behavior. Always be aware of what you can see on a daily basis. Is urination and fecal matter normal? Vomiting? Are they eating? Sleeping? Pregnant? etc..

Once we’ve established all of the above, only then can we really come forward with a plan and a possible solution. This requires the animal’s care taker to be extremely honest. You have to be able to admit your faults. This is the kind of maturity that needs to exist in any kind of relationship and your ownership of your pet, is a relationship. It’s a beautiful and unique relationship between two beings that often depend on each other. Animals don’t live in the past and they don’t look into the future. They live in the here and now, which is important to remember when getting ready to do any amount of animal training, but I digress. Living in the present means your animals will always give you their honest behavior, they deserve yours in return.

“I swear she’s doing this bad behavior on purpose, just to get my attention!” You’re probably right. Maybe she is doing all of this bad behavior just to get your attention. Attention is attention, even if it’s your negative attention. Any parent will tell you the same. Perhaps you are not investing enough attention when your animal is being good? Maybe the only time you really pay attention is when they act out? Sometimes. we just take things for granted. It happens. You have to be honest with yourself though and accept that you will make mistakes. Accept that from time to time, you let things slip during your care. It’s ok. Let it be a lesson learned and move on from there. There’s always something new around the corner to discover. Always have their best interest at heart, not yours. You’re responsible for their well being, so act like it.

“May you always be the kind of person your dog thinks you are.” – unknown

© Semi-Charmed Life


2 thoughts on “Honesty and the Care of Animals

  1. This is all so important. I know I view our pets as members of our family and in our care, with their own personalities & behaviors. But I do know people who if things get, let’s say problematic, they are considered just animals, possessions, and easily disposed of and replaced. I cannot understand this attitude.
    It may be unspoken, but I have made a promise to care for any animal that comes into my home, ‘good’ behavior or ‘bad’.

  2. I love your wealth of knowledge.. Now I’m a dog owner {highlight on the word, Owner} and if you own something, by the very nature, you look after it~ I read so much of this piece and nod with passion. I’m learning how to train him, but it certainly doesn’t stop me from being a conscientious pet owner & doing the very best by him. After all, I need him as much as he needs me.

    I will always refer to your knowledge.

    Pea ~x~

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