Is it possible to train a dog to avoid snakes without relying on punishment? That was the question discussed on the ClickerSolutions mailing list recently, and some fascinating strategies were suggested. One method involved associating the sight of a snake with an extreme fear reaction in the handler and then reinforcing any hesitation, avoidance, or fearful behavior shown by the dog. Another poster recommended teaching the dog to alert the handler to the presence of a snake, similarly to the way a detection dog might alert to drugs.
Why do you train? Is it because you need your animal to do certain behaviors, and you want to be able to elicit those behaviors reliably? Or is it because you've found that training helps you build a bond with your pet and is a rewarding journey for both of you? Reliabilty or relationship?
Medicating a sick pet is a source of frustration for many owners. On the Clicker Bunny and Critters mailing list, a list member needed to give oral medication to an unsocialized frightened bunny who had recently joined her family. She was using a syringe to squirt the medicine into her bunny's mouth, but the process was a struggle each time.
On the Positive Weight Control list, a common topic is how to reinforce the good habits they are working on. As one member said, to buy something for himself or to treat himself to something is, in effect, depriving himself of it in order to use it as a reward later. That just isn't very positive! One of the strategies list members have had great success with is to click or "tag" the desired behaviors and make collecting the tags reinforcing in and of themselves.
The phrase "pick your battles" is one most parents are very familiar with. Parents quickly learn that their kids don't act exactly as they want them to all the time. Much of the behavior parents don't like is what's called "junk behavior." It's not harmful; it's just irritating at some level. For example, when a parent asks a child to do something, and the child complies but with a lot of eye rolling and muttering and stomping around, the eye rolling, muttering, and stomping around are junk behaviors. Annoying, but probably not worth "doing battle" over.