Thursday, March 12, 2009

Animal Trainer Mantras

I have recently started reading a book with a twist - it is about applying the same methods used by exotic animal trainers on your spouse and children to "train" them. Like any profession, there are some sayings that (I have come to learn) exotic animal trainers live by:

"Treat every animal as if it is a killer whale."

Marine mammal trainers are at a significant disadvantage when they try to train Shamu: the animal is so large compared to the human trainer, it is physically impossible for the trainer to make the killer whale do anything. Even if you could get a collar and a leash on Shamu, you couldn't control the animal anyway. It could simply swim away. Plus, you could not physically discipline a killer whale. How do you spank Shamu?

So, the trainer has to entice the desired behavior out of the animal. If you have ever been to Sea World, it is obvious that Shamu's main motivator is simple: a handful of fish plopped in their mouth. What motivates my husband? My children?

"It is never the animal's fault."

Animal trainers believe that animals only do what they are trained to do or not do. When an animal's behavior is not what is desired, then the animal has not been properly trained. It is the trainer's fault. When I think about my small children and their behavior, I wonder if I have taught them what I want them to know. Or do I let them do what they want and then react to their behavior??

"Everything with a mouth bites."

Animal trainers learn to never lower their guard. No matter how tame you may think an animal is, the animal still has the potential to harm you. Like exotic animals, my children are not robots. No matter how much I "train" them, they will still have free will and can do things I don't want.

This post was inspired by the book "What Shamu Taught me about Life, Love and Marriage" by Amy Sutherland.

No comments: