eileenanddogs

Tag: consent test

Let Rats Decide

Let Rats Decide

Wait a minute! I thought this was Eileenanddogs! Well, just for today, it is Eileenandrats.

I write a lot about dog body language in this blog.  I discuss letting animals have a say in how and when they are handled and touched. I talk some about how to perceive their answers through observation. And I have shown, in my most popular post of all time, dogs communicating “yes” and “no” about whether they want to be touched. It’s a mini lesson about body language as well as a proposal that we let the dogs decide whether they want to be petted.

So you can imagine I was delighted to come across Gwen Lindsey’s work on rat body language and giving rats the chance to say yes or no to handling or other actions. She discusses the issues on this page, Let Rats Decide When, and has a lovely video on the same topic (embedded below). Gwen is the owner of the website JoinRats.com, a site that is chock full of advice for people who have rats as pets.

Small Animals

Mr. Robin Rat is thinking hard and super curious about the strange photographer and her noisy clicking machine. Staying out in the open is a sign that he is handling the strange situation very well.
Mr. Robin Rat is thinking hard and super curious about the strange photographer and her noisy clicking machine. Staying out in the open is a sign that he is handling the strange situation very well.

In the dog training community, it is still a fairly foreign idea to let dogs have a choice about being handled. They are legally only property, and to some people that seems fine and natural. Others of us don’t think it is fine, but even so, can still carry around the underlying assumption. It can be hard to shake off.

So if it’s that way for dogs, what might people’s attitudes to very small pets be? Not only are most of them much easier to force our will upon, simply because of their small size, but they don’t have the historical partnership with us that dogs do. And I think most people have kind of a rough assumption that any pet smaller than a cat doesn’t have much of a personality, and that we just don’t need to concern ourselves with what they might want.

I hope Gwen’s video can persuade people otherwise. It certainly was a revelation to me, seeing how her rats interacted with her. It’s the same difference that crossover dog trainers start to see in their dogs. I have always loved my dogs, thought they were brilliant, and appreciated their personalities and quirks. But they blossomed after I started to use positive reinforcement and desensitization/counterconditioning to “converse” with them. It added a new dimension to our relationships, and added freedom to their lives in ways that were visible in the smallest elements of their body language. 

I had pet rats in my teens and twenties. I was very fond of them, and good to them.  But at that time no one talked about enrichment or training for small animals. I know that my rats associated me with good things, but I could have built such a better life for them, and had such a better relationship, had I known then what I know now. They could have blossomed. too. Ahh, for do-overs. 

For now I hope some of you out there will enjoy, as I do, the happy, trusting rats in this movie.

 

Link to the video for email subscribers. 

I know there are some folks out there (and rats or other small animals) whose lives will be changed if they see this video. So please feel free to share it, either directly from this URL or by sharing this blog.

Gwen has tons of great information on pet rats on her website but is also revamping a lot of things right now. Another really nice page of hers for rat owners who are new to training their rats or enriching their lives is Using Positive Reinforcement to Help Rats Trust.

I bet some of you have a lot of questions. Gwen can be reached by email here, and will also answer questions in the comments section below.

I am hoping to find some rattie lovers out there among my readers!  

Coming Up:

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

Copyright Eileen Anderson 2014

Dogs Who Like to be Petted or Touched

Dogs Who Like to be Petted or Touched

Today I am offering more examples of dogs who enjoy being petted, or enjoy other types of human touch. (This is a followup to “Does Your Dog REALLY Want to Be Petted?”) And I’m encouraging humans again to figure out what their dog likes and doesn’t like. If your dog doesn’t like petting, maybe you can figure out an alternative behavior for yourself that both you and your dog can enjoy.

I am blessed with Clara, who thrives on touching and being touched, and has since she was a baby. Here she is at 12 weeks and 14 months. I am doing the “consent test” in both clips; stopping the petting and waiting to see if she solicits more. She generally answers with an emphatic Yes. There’s also a “stupid human” trick though, when I am continuing to ooh and ahh and pet her while she is squirming and obviously done with the whole thing. Oops.

Some dogs like other kinds of touch from humans. Here is my friend’s chihuahua, who blisses out when I gently, gently wobble her body back and forth.

And here is elderly Cricket, who really enjoys wiping her face all over any part of my body or clothing that she can reach. I think it makes her feel safe that she can control the touch this way, too. If I were to handle her the way I handle Clara, she would be desperately trying to escape.

In a previous post we saw Zani saying “No” to petting, but she enjoys lap time and snuggling up close.

Zani isn’t interested in being petted, but she likes to snuggle

I scoured YouTube one evening as well, and dug up videos of a few more dogs who seemed to enjoy petting (and saw dozens who didn’t). In many of these videos, the dog doesn’t enjoy every single thing the human does. But they appear to enjoy the petting and touching in general and ask for more. If you can find some more good ones–or think that any of these aren’t good examples, let me know. You can tell from the titles that these folks have all done something like a consent test, whether they knew it was called that or not. (In some of the videos, the people appear to have reinforced  demanding behavior from their dogs. That’s a subject for another day!)

If you are going to watch only one, watch the first one. It is especially moving. The Doberman in the movie is a rescued stray and is so obviously pleased with human touch and contact. (As of 9/16/12 he is available for adoption through Doberman Rescue of the Triad, covering Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, and West Virginia in the U.S.)

Beamer – Rescue Doberman

Cutest dog ever: don’t stop petting me (rat terrier mix?)

My Pug will not let you stop petting him

Don’t stop petting the dog (labrador)

Pierre – CDC foster dog/” Don’t stop petting me!!!” (poodle/chihuahua mix)

Get Pet 101: Obsessive chocolate lab wants to be pet more

Thanks to Nancy S. for helping me look over these.

Discussions coming soon:

Thanks for reading!

Does Your Dog REALLY Want to be Petted?

Does Your Dog REALLY Want to be Petted?

Newsflash. Not all dogs want to be petted. But you wouldn’t know it from watching videos on YouTube.

What you can learn on YouTube is that there are lots of dogs whose owners _think_ they are enjoying petting. But they aren’t. This is another one of those disconnects between dog and people language. People who adore their dogs–and whose dogs love them–post videos of said dogs saying in every polite way they know how that they would like the human to STOP.

Continue reading “Does Your Dog REALLY Want to be Petted?”
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