Opening the animal’s mind

We all learn differently, yes similar but not the same. So many things affect that – our character, health, age, motivation, connection with teacher, subject matter, learning history, etc. Same can be applied to other animals. Because of that, when working with animals we should think outside of the box, get creative and find ways to help them understand what we want from them.

For some animals it is not about motivation, or how clear we are. It is about how much “open“ their minds are. By “open” I refer to THEIR ability to think outside of the box and get creative in how to guess what we want from them. It can be enhanced through new and different learning opportunities that will make new brain connections.  That also includes their body awareness – being more aware of how their motion (movement) affects communication with us and the environment.
For some animals it is very natural and they make connections very quickly. While some animals need our help for such new connections to be made.


It can be of great benefit for all animals, especially those that have very high energy and have trouble to “quiet their mind”, so they just romp around sometimes mindlessly. When we present animals the opportunity to think differently it can in the long run help them harness their self control.
That also applies to fearful animals because most probably they never or rarely had an experience and opportunity to “open their mind”,  since most of the time their body was in state of flight or fight and there was no space for learning. Same goes for reactive dogs.
Different learning experiences can help them think on different levels which will give them much needed confidence.
All mentioned cases also have disturbed body chemistry that affects learning abilities, so “opening their minds” can assist in balancing that out. That is because we ask their reason to become stronger than their emotions.
It is also great for puppies; it is great way to prepare them for the world.

IMG_7594Picture of high energy dog that had fear aggression issues towards people.
I tough him also some tricks that gave him confidence and occupied his mind in a different way.

Marker training is great way to help animals create “new paths” in their brain. Shaping is one of the best ways to do so. More experience animal has in learning through shaping it will become more and more aware of some subtle things they are doing that might get them the reward. Also puzzle games, scent work, agility type exercises, body awareness exercises, and having different life experience in general – that all helps.
In addition, as in all learning experiences there should be adequate learning environment,  learning should be done at appropriate pace and it should be fun! 🙂
When animal gets stuck in the learning process that is where such “brain and body training” is very useful, it will create a new platform where learning can be continued.

3757_514926431853849_1980912102_nPicture from one of my puppy classes.
I did with them combination of body awareness and learning new life skills (this puppy was a rescue pup).

Frustration is main potential obstacle. In order for animal to use mind differently we should know when to stop asking for that. There is a thin line between being curious and willing when brain encounters something new and just not getting it. This means that we should be very careful in how to motivate animal to keep her/him interested, in the same time slowly push them further but be careful not to lose them and make them frustrated. That is why it is called the art of training. Therefore, we should be able to read the animal’s body language well and also be able to discipline ourselves not to go over board or make also ourselves frustrated.

Such mind opening experience takes time, for animal and for us – in finding the best way how to open them and how to balance it all. If done correctly it will enrich their life, boost their confidence, and enhance our connection and relationship.


Previous Blog: The Power of Cues

* Please excuse my English, it is not my primary language. 

Jelena Kallay – Vagabond Positive Animal Communication
Dip. Animal Behavior Technology, Dip. ABT – CASI
Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Professional Program, KPA – CTP