Need to tame your tiger? Readers get advice
Amy Sutherland wrote about an animal training program in her new book, but she discovered some techniques can modify our loved ones’ behavior
In her new book, “Kicked, Bitten, and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the World’s Premier School for Exotic Animal Trainers,” Amy Sutherland chronicles students’ lives at the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at California’s Moorpark College, where they learn how to interact with cougars, baboons, snakes, wolves, tortoises, and more. The two-year program prepares students for jobs at zoos, aquariums, animal sanctuaries, and even Hollywood.
Sutherland, who also wrote “Cookoff: Recipe Fever in America,” found that some of the techniques students learned to train animals she could use on her husband to “nudge [him] towards perfection.” (Read an excerpt of her New York Times column on this topic, “What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage.”) Sutherland gives Today’s readers some tips on how they can change common, but annoying behavior using those same techniques she saw at Moorpark. Here are her suggestions:
Dear Amy: Can you help me tame my tiger? He is almost a perfect specimen with the exception of one little problem — his horrid road rage! I hate going to the grocery store with him much less on a real “trip.” Do I need a chair and whip? Or can just a few “whispers” do the trick? Can you help me? — Cheryl, Sacramento, Calif.
Dear Cheryl: This is a perfect example of when I would use an incompatible behavior. If you don’t like a certain behavior, you train an animal to do something else so that they can’t possibly do both at once. In this case, the incompatible behavior would be to have him be the passenger. That means you drive. Then, he is not in control. Even if he does lose his temper, he is no longer behind the wheel.
The trick I have found with using incompatible behaviors with humans, who tend read many meanings into our smallest actions, is to keep everything positive. I would just say something to your husband like, “I’d like to drive more.” I’d avoid pointing out to him that you want to drive because he scares you witless, even if that is the case.
Carole Baskin, Founder of Big Cat Rescue
12802 Easy Street
Tampa, FL 33625 MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org