What We Expect & How We Reward It

Responsiveness is an “issue”.

When dealing with humans and other animals, it’s easy to find yourself doing far more work than your human or animal partner. Have you ever heard this story: My kid never takes the trash out when I ask… My dog won’t come or sit… My horse won’t do what I ask… My husband doesn’t help with any household chores… Blah blah blah…

Here’s the problem: You’re working way too hard, and rewarding them way too often, way too much!

They can hear you, your horse is sensitive enough to feel a fly land on them. So you’re being understood, heard and felt, it’s just that they hold off responding until you apply a certain amount of pressure. Then they grudgingly go about the task you asked for. “Fun.”

If your dog won’t sit, you find yourself asking him to sit eight times and he sits on the eighth time: You’re actually training him or her to sit after you’ve asked for it eight times. How do we change that? How do you also get people in your life to take your requests seriously?

Ask for things lightly and positively, expecting a positive response. When you find yourself being ignored (dog doesn’t pay attention, horse doesn’t respond, trash isn’t taken out…) make some commotion about it. Prove that you are taking this seriously and you expect the same from them. Right when even the tiniest bit of effort is made, praise and reward!

But you want to set the pole higher in the future. The goal, in all areas of our lives, is to expect more, reward big. Your reward needs to match your request. So the bigger the deal, or the more challenging, your task is, is how big your reward should be! If it was a small thing that didn’t require too much brain or muscle power, give an appropriate, smaller amount of praise, while always making sure to match effort with reward.

So, here it is: to the degree you insist, you must reward equally. Big rewards for a big effort and small rewards for small tries. Keeping this balanced, and following through with it, will cause your animal and human friends to want to try harder. Why? Because…

  • If the animals and humans in your life make small efforts and you reward them big, they will begin to do less.
  • If they make a big effort and you reward them small, they will lose motivation to try

Keep this in mind, and balance the two. When there is much going on at once, it can feel like a juggling act, but, in the end, it is more fun for the both of you. You won’t find yourself working so hard for others to do just the smallest of things.

Good luck!

Lipizzaner horse displaying a huge effort: responsive to the lightest request

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