I visited one of my clients last Friday to do some lessons at her barn. When I arrived, her three baby goats were enjoying some fresh air outside the barn.
However, for their safety, we needed to get the goats back in the barn, before we started our lessons with the horses.
But, the goats had a different agenda!
They wanted to munch on the delicious young oak trees on the edge of the wooded area across from the barn.
I tried using a few treats to entice them to follow me away from the trees. They were not impressed by the treats and ignored me.
Then, Paula had a better idea. We cut off a few tree branches and used the branches to lead the goats. They happily followed us back to the barn.
Once in the barn, we put the branches in their stall for a bit of extra browse and enrichment. All three goats were peacefully munching on the branches as we left.
What does your animal want?
Sometimes, when we interact with our animals, what we want conflicts with what the animal wants.
In these situations, it’s tempting to reach for solutions that meet our needs but that don’t meet the animal’s needs.
What’s better is if we can find solutions that allow the animal to access the reinforcers they desire while also allowing us to obtain the reinforcers we desire.
The first step in this process is recognizing that our animals are living beings with their own unique wants and needs.
Next, you can ask yourself, “What does my animal want right now?”