Tonawanda News

February 19, 2013

CRITTER COMPANIONS: Get a smooch from your pooch

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Valentine’s Day was a few days ago, and whether you’re in a relationship or not, everyone enjoys a kiss for the holiday.

Puppy love or not, I have a way for you to get your wish and all it takes is a little training. If you have a pet you already know what unconditional love is, so why not train your pet to give you a wet one?

In order to get your dog, hamster, cat, bird or other pet to give you kisses, you will first need to train them to target.

Many targets for animal training look like a ball at the end of a stick. For farm animals I have used a tennis ball at the end of a 1/2-inch wide, one-foot long PVC pipe. I cut an X into the tennis ball and it fit so tightly on the pipe I didn’t need to use adhesive. For larger animals, like a sea lion or rhino, boat buoys at the end of wider PVC are generally used. For small pets, wiffle balls attached to pencils are cheap and easy to make.

To start training, present your target to the animal. Curious animals will come over and investigate. You will want them to touch their nose to the ball. 

Give them a treat once they bump into it. The clever thing about training is that the animal doesn’t need to know that they are being trained. This applies to humans as well. 

After the animal eats their treat, wait until their nose bumps into the target again and then reward. Repeat this a few times, then try to move the target a few inches. Then try a few feet. The animal will quickly start following the ball, so they can get a reward. After about seven repetitions my cat was chasing the target and me around the house.

After this is trained, start moving the target close to your forehead or cheek. Right before the pet is about to target say “nuzzle” or “kiss.” You can repeat this many times and eventually get rid of the target or you can make the target smaller. 

In addition to those steps, if at the same time you are placing the target on your face, with your other hand you point to your face and say “kiss,” the motion of pointing will help aid the learning.

Soon your pet will be targeting to your face for treats.

If this fool-proof training plan doesn’t work, you could just break down and rub some peanut butter or tuna fish on your face and get that kiss you so urgently deserve.

Kenny Coogan has a B.S. in animal behavior. Please email your questions to birdbehaviorconsultant@yahoo.com, or search for "Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan" on Facebook.