Dog, cats, horses. Any creatures that live with us humans for any length of time eventually learn how to push our buttons. Make no mistake, they are manipulative and they know what they are doing. But this isn’t the primary way they get what they want. Because, let’s face it, humans can be obstinate and we don’t necessarily like to be manipulated.
I’ve lived with several different kinds of birds, two kinds of hamsters, mice we caught in our basement, guinea pigs, dogs, cats and horses. I’ve also had fish and lizards, but those are much harder to relate to. Especially the fish.
They all have two things in common: (1) at any given moment, they know exactly what they want, and (2) they ask for it. Plain and simple. Just because I may not have the capacity to understand what a fish or a lizard wants doesn’t mean they don’t know what they want and doesn’t mean they aren’t asking for it.
Sometimes the asking is amusing or charming. Sometimes it’s annoying. Usually it’s effective.
My horse always knew when I had a couple pieces of carrot or a cookie in my pocket. She’d put her nose right on my pocket. If I ignored her, she’d do it again. If I continued to ignore her, she would bump me with her nose. If she still didn’t get the treat, she’d bump me harder. But she never bit at my pocket as some horses might do because she’d learned that if she did that, I’d walk away. No treat.
Eventually, she’d get the treat and so I reinforced the behavior. Some things just can’t be helped. Nobody wants a pushy horse. They’re way too big to let them get away with much. So I kept some boundaries. Really I did.
Our dog, Maddie, is a whiz at getting what she wants. She’s a really good little communicator.
To get my attention, she bumps my calf or shin (she is very short) with her nose. If I ignore her, she’ll bump me again a little harder. If I continue to ignore her (which gets really hard sometimes), she’ll clap her jaws together several times very rapidly. It makes a very distinctive sound. If that doesn’t do the trick, she brings out the big guns and growls (it’s a cute little growl, only half serious). But she rarely barks because she’s learned that we don’t really want her to bark and I am likely to just walk away if she barks.
She doesn’t always want a treat … really. Sometimes she wants to play and all I have to do is look at one of her toys and then we are going at it.
So how do we, as humans, get what we want? Do as they do. First, know what it is that you want. Don’t be wishy-washy about. Don’t be general. Be specific. Secondly, ask for it. And keep asking for it until you get it. Don’t give up, but ask appropriately to the situation.
If you can create a perception of need and if the need is genuine and you’ve asked nicely, chances are good that you will get exactly what you want.