Here’s a reason to train your pet: Should little Elvis ever need radiation, a foundation of good training might ensure that he won’t ever have to be quarantined — alone, scared, and sick — in order to keep you from getting exposed to radiation too.
According to this article by Matthew L. Wald in the The New York Times, in October Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, complained to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that “its policy on human thyroid patients was creating dilemmas for patients, some of whom are sent home immediately after radiation treatment to households with children or pregnant women.”
Right now, although dogs receive far less radiation per treatment, the guidelines for returning the animal to the home are much more stringent than the ones that control when a human can be returned to civilization post-radiation. In fact, the radiated human animal can just go home and jump all over whomever he pleases. The radiated dog, who may have only received ten percent the human’s radiation, might be separated for his family for as long as five days.
The Times article tries to find answers to why there is this senseless disparity.
“With our veterinary patients, I can’t control where they salivate, urinate or defecate,” said Dr. Debra Gibbons, the chief of the nuclear medicine service at Colorado State University’s veterinary teaching hospital in Fort Collins, Colo.
“I can tell you to go to the bathroom,” she added. And humans can be told not to sleep in the same bed with another person, or not to cuddle people who might be vulnerable, including children or pregnant women.
“Animals, especially cats, do not follow directions well.”
Not true! First of all, “animals” is a word that encompasses humans. So it suggests we are not good at following directions. Actually, I guess that makes sense. I’m not so good at directions. When I get someone’s voicemail, for instance, they’re always trying to tell me to leave my name, number, and time of my call. I’m like “It’s me call me bye.” I will not be boxed in!
Dogs, on the other hand, can follow directions beautifully, but most of the time they won’t do what we’d like them to do because they cannot understand us. We are often at fault on this front because we sometimes don’t put a lot of thought into what we’d like them to do. Or we aren’t consistent about how we ask for these behaviors, and how we reward them. Or we forget they have a very limited ability to understand language, and we neglect to consider all the gentle, non-verbal ways there are of helping a dog understand what you want.
Clicker training is a method of opening up a new line of communication in order to tell your pet what you’d like it to do. A clicker-savvy animal –dog or cat or bird or whatever–can be even better at following direction than some humans I know.