Blog .:. April 2009 6 Entries

Training Your Human, Part I: Getting in their Heads

18 April 2009 Comments

It is an unfortunate fact of life that many felines simply do not know how to train their humans, and after months of struggling give up with poorly-trained hominids who can barely manage simple tasks like feeding, watering, and litter box cleaning. If we all took the time to better understand how humans react to their environment, we could all achieve amazing results.

These lessons are not difficult. In fact, through my gazillion-step program, any feline, anywhere, can train their human up through the levels, from simple tasks like “feeding on demand” to party-pleasing tricks like “make the human throw balls.” For truly dedicated felines, we offer a graduate course, “Make your human will their estate to you,” which we are happy to teach in exchange for 30% of the estate on your human’s death.

But all hominid trainers must start at the same place: understanding the human psychology, or what there is of the human psychology.

It is important to realize that humans do not know their place in the world, and their existential anxiety explains many of their reactions. We cats, of course, are prey animals. We are used to behaving with stealth, working independently, and thinking two steps ahead of our dinner. Humans, on the other hand, cannot decide if they are predator or prey. You may hear them referring to themselves as predators, as they recognize the inherent advantages of being a predator. However, you only need to witness a human scratching in the dirt after vegetables and grain to realize they have not evolved far from the poor, dumb cow.

Thus in situations where we could calmly assess our strengths and make decisions based upon our skills and sure instincts, humans experience a momentary confusion. They do no know if they should act like predator or prey. Recognizing and using that moment of hesitation is crucial to training your human, as you can, with skill, encourage the human to go one way or the other.

So, for instance, in the first step of teaching your human the “run around like a ding-dong” trick, you need to teach your human that when you run, they should follow. The easiest way to do this is by jumping out at them. The human will pause, unsure whether to chase you like a predator or run like prey. You need to entice the human to be the predator. The easiest method is to scratch the hell out of them, but some schools of thought advocate biting. Experiment with both until your human gives in to the predator instinct, then run. The human will chase, and you will have succeeded in the first lesson: you run, they follow. The entire “run around like a ding-dong” trick is based on this first step, which is based on manipulating that moment of uncertainty the human feels.

It is important to remember, however, that not all training methods are appropriate for all ages of humans. If you attempt the above technique on a young human, you may send it into perpetual prey mode, causing it to run from all felines as soon as they are spotted, often with a great deal of screaming. This is counter productive; humans abused at a young age in this way can rarely be retrained later in life, and often have to be reduced to the level of Dog Keeper or Goldfish Feeder. They may lead productive lives, for humans, in these roles, but obviously a great deal of potential is wasted in this way.

Also remember that the prey instinct in humans is just as useful as the predator instinct. For example, once you are certain your human understands that their job is to feed you on a regular basis, you can begin training them to feed you on demand in the morning. As animals with prey instincts, humans are very sensitive to being watched. They do not like it and will do what they can to get away from intense stares. In the wild, humans would move away completely; in the unnatural world of the house, they cannot do this. Since they cannot change environments entirely, they will try to alter the environment they are in. You can use this instinct to your advantage.

As with all training, start small. A little before you would like to be fed, jump on the human’s bed and stare at them. Continue staring until the human wakes up, then release the pressure and go away. You want the human to understand that when they do something right, the staring stops. Over time, you can stare for longer and longer periods, changing when you give the reward from “waking up” to “getting out of bed” to “walking to the food bowls” and so on.

If your human is especially dense, they may go about their morning routine oblivious to what you are trying to teach them. Humans like to think they can “train the animals,” and they can be especially stubborn when they think they are “training” us. Do not worry; humans have short attention spans. Wait them out; you have more patience than they do. Stare at them while they eat breakfast. Stare at them while they drink coffee. If you have to, stare at them while they take a shower. While they get dressed. Whatever you have to do. The groundwork you put in now will pay off in the future, when your human is practically leaping out of bed in the morning and feeding you before they even realize they are awake.

No doubt you are already seeing the potential benefits that come from enlightened training techniques, but you may be wondering if humans can really be trained to do advanced tricks, like throw balls on command. The answer is yes! I am so confident that my techniques work that next week I will give you the complete instructions to teaching your human how to throw balls on command, from start to finish. This is because I know you will find my courses so high in value that you will be willing to shell out major bucks on my other courses later on. Rest assured I am not being altruistic here; I am a devoted scholar of human psychology, but I do not suffer from their vices.

Stay tuned!

Sardonyx, Human Trainer Extraordinaire

Tagged: Cats, Cats - Onyx

I feel cheated, somehowa

15 April 2009 Comments

Tomorrow, as you know, is National Post Office Solidarity Day, when the masses swarm together and congratulate themselves for meeting a last minute deadline. Which is silly, since many of us are getting a refund and should have filed months ago instead of letting the IRS collect interest on our money. But those of us who mail off holiday packages on December 24 so the date, at least, shows we cared on time, are also driven to mail off our taxes on April 15. I think that is mostly about showing the IRS we care enough to meet the deadline, but not enough to meet it early and spread their work out for them.

I actually did my taxes months ago, but I efiled. Last year when I efiled, I still had to mail something off, so tonight I sat down to review my paperwork and discovered I don’t in fact have to mail anything off. I’m a little disappointed; I look forward to the yearly proof that I can, too, put a stamp on an envelope and get it in the mail, no matter what my relatives say about me. I’m also relieved; I don’t think I have any envelopes in the house, so now I don’t have to run to the store and buy some.

All I can do now, I suppose, is salute those of you who will descend upon the mailboxes tomorrow with your returns, and cheer for you in spirit.

Somewhat related, I recommend Jennifer Government, a novel by Max Barry. I would summarize, but the dust jacket does just as well and requires less brain cells: “Taxation has been abolished, the government has been privatized, and employees take the surname of the company they work for….” Not quite as farfetched as it might sound; wasn’t there a town in Texas that agreed to change its name to some satellite or cable TV provider? It’s a fun satire, at any rate, in which a corporation murders ten kids as part of an advertising campaign and events spin out of control from there.

It’s fun, with some wry humor through it. If you’re hating the government right now, it’s not a bad book to read. The NRA gets contracted to take out the government. Do I really need to say more?

Tagged: Jennifer Government by Barry, Max Barry

The Horse exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History

12 April 2009 Comments

The exhibit is already over, but there’s a cool website at

The exhibition and site are directed towards a general audience, so you probably won’t find the information particularly earth shattering, but it’s nicely presented and does a particularly good job at giving an overview of the place of the horse in history.

Especially check out the “Biology of the Horse” interactive bit. Again, all very introductory, but very well presented. The comparison between horse a horse’s legs and human legs/arms is actually really effective in terms of comparing two different structural types. Also, you can feed the horse, watch him digest, and then make him poop. Heh. What? I am easily amused.

For kids, there is the Horse Ology site, which has a quiz, some information on coat colors, and (what I would have killed for as a kid) a paper-doll type thingy with a horse stencil and six different types of riders/gear you can put on him.

Tagged: Horses, Learning Education & Research

Help! I need to be distracted!

5 April 2009 Comments

I think everyone has that tool or equipment that they absolutely love and can’t believe people don’t know about.

For me, it’s those Slick ‘N Easy blocks. Oh, most people know about them as shedding products. But I love, love, love them for grooming grays in general, because they are almost as effective as Cowboy Magic and similar products, but don’t get the horses soaked. And they are gentler than using rubbing alcohol. (All important considerations at a previous barn, where horses were spotless for every lesson and none of us wanted to ride a wet horse in sub-freezing temperatures). It just shocks me that more people haven’t figured out how great these are for getting stains out year round and view them as a shedding-season-only tool.

I also heard recently about cactus cloth, which I’m eager to try out. I’ve always been a fan of grooming with a hard and medium brush and using a towel or fleece rub for anything other people would use a soft brush for, and the cactus cloth sounds like it is even better than a regular towel or fleece rub.

Or elastic bandages—I like them so much better than polos. You have to be careful about wrapping with them, of course, but I think they offer more support than polos without the heat and bulk. Or maybe I’m just sentimental, because it was something of a right of passage for those of us who groomed for my trainer in the Frozen North. It meant something about our wrapping ability when we were finally allowed to put them on her personal horses.

So, out with it: what are your personal favorite/can’t-do-without tools and equipment? Either brand name stuff, or just types of equipment regardless of brand?

My problem, you see, is that I’m window shopping for horses and it’s becoming increasingly hard not to call the sellers, but I don’t want to call sellers until some events shake out this spring and I’m 100% sure I’m buying. Up until that point, I’m tire kicking.

But there is a mare that is just calling my name, so please, please, please distract me. I know what I “need” as a horse owner; help me figure out all the cool stuff that I want, even if I don’t know it yet.

Tagged: Horse Care, Horses

If queens can’t have their cake and eat it without getting their heads cut off, why should you?

2 April 2009 Comments

An amateur vs. pro debate is currently brewing over on COTH. Again.

I have a solution.

If you are mature enough to recognize that sometimes, when you make a decision—like to accept money for up-down lessons—that decision has consequences, you get to be a Pro. You can stand over here and have a gold star.

If you want to whine about how you just want to make a little money, not a lot, and still be an amateur, then you can go over there. Especially if your logic is “I should be allowed to make a little money, and not have to show against the pros, because I can’t win against the pros.” Really? This is about how teaching up-down lessons will drop you out of the ribbons? Seriously, go stand over there. No, further back. Way back.

Now look over the entitled landscape of your life and tell me where it says you deserve a blue ribbon. I’ll wait. Go on, look.



Ever think that if you can’t stack up against the pros at big shows, you could drop down and compete at a lower level? Show at B shows instead of A shows. Show at C shows instead of B shows. Show at barn shows. Whatever. Find your level where you are competitive. You’re the one who hung out your shingle and said “I’m good enough to train others!” So compete against others who also train.

But what I really love? The people who in one breath say “Up-down lessons shouldn’t make one a pro” and in the next whine about how shamateurs have found ways to make money and still show as amateurs. ‘Cuz that’s not at all what the not-pros groups wants to do. Nope. They want to make money and… still… show… as… amateurs. (Oh, I hear the objections already: the shamateurs are breaking the rules to do this. Of course it’s bad. Of course they should be punished. I just find it oddly hilarious that the people whining about it are also the ones whining about how the rules should be changed to they can do pretty much the exact same thing.)

I think I’ve done this rant before. It stinks in familiar ways.

I need to get on a horse again. This is bad. I could be doing so many better things than reading entitled rants about rules by people who have no intention of doing anything at all about the situation.

Freaking apartment deposits. They suck the lift right out of a monthly budget. Only four more weeks to May, though, and then I’ll be moved and all resituated. And scheming. Oh, I have plans. Evil, cackling plans.

Tagged: Horse Shows, Horses

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