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30+ People Share How They Accidentally Conditioned Their Pets To Learn Unusual Skills Or Habits

It takes a lot of effort to train an animal. You must provide a pleasant, exciting, and stimulating environment for it, as well as regularly watch and react to the animal’s desired and undesirable behaviors. You should also prepare yourself with patience. The procedure can also appear to be going in circles a lot of the time. Two steps forward and one step back… It could also happen on a whim and go unnoticed!

Samantha Bell, a cat specialist at Best Friends Animal Society, told us, “We’re all unintentionally training our pets all day long.” “We’re instructing them every time we interact with them.” The explanation for this inadvertent training is a phenomenon known as ‘operant conditioning,’ which states that “activity leads to a reward, which leads to more behavior.”

Samantha has firsthand experience with this inadvertent training: her cat Yohan hops on the counter while she prepares his meal. Samantha doesn’t want to upset him, so she speaks nicely to him and kisses him on the head as she places him on the ground. Yohan perceives leaping on the counter as a reward for his love of attention and head kisses. So, instead of teaching Yohan to get off the counter, Samantha mistakenly taught him to jump on it.

“I’m also a feline behavior expert. It occurs to the most well-intentioned of us ” she started.

Redditor u/shoonpo wanted to know more about this occurrence, so he asked r/AskReddit, “What have you unwittingly conditioned your pet to do?” The article has approximately 64,000 upvotes and 13,000 comments as of this writing, many of which are amusing stories like Samantha’s!

(h/t: boredpanda)

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"Every day at 4:00 a.m., get a wet meal. During the week, I get up early and immediately feed him wet food. He doesn't seem to mind that it's the weekend. His inbuilt alarm clock is accurate to the minute. And, since he's a cat and a jerk, if we don't get up and get his food, he yells through the house, opens shutters, walks on our faces, nudges our noses with his he's relentless it's not even funny. However, we adore him."


"After my roommate got a cat, my dog answers to 'kitty kitty kitty' cause he wants to love and/or treats."


"Every time I open the veggies draw in the fridge my guinea pigs begin to squeal with excitement, thinking it is food time even if I just fed them..."


"I used to take one of my cats, Feist, about with me all the time when I was a kid. I'd use one of her outstretched paws to turn on lights whenever we entered a room because my hands were full with her. For amusement, the tiny jerk now turns them on and off."


"My father has our pets well-trained. 'It's time for all the pups in the world to go to bed,' he'd tell our Labradoodle since he was a puppy. He has always gone to bed at 9 p.m. We simply say 'all the puppies' now, and he walks downstairs to his kennel. He puts himself to bed if we forget. 🙂 My father works from home and will take a break to feed the animals and let them out into the yard. 'It's recess time!' he exclaims. And they all flee, including the cats! Finally, when my father plays the piano, the dog sits next to him and 'sings.' It's the most irritating bark/yowl combination on the planet. My father has a natural affinity with animals."


"I scooped up my kitty a couple of times to help me destroy some spiders up high. As a result, whenever I lift her up, she searches the ceiling for spiders."


"When I sneeze, my cat meows twice (like 'bless you'), and I respond with 'thank you.' She began to do it on her own. She won't stop yelling at me until she knows I'm okay since I stopped saying thank you a couple of times."


"My dog barks at any animal on TV, so I always told him if he could truly take the animal or not, and he's learned that if I say a polar bear will f**k him up, he shouldn't bark at it, but if there's a bunny, he has a chance of winning, so he can keep going. Now he growls, then looks at me for approval before proceeding to find out his odds."


"When my cat believes I've been playing for too long, he'll open the tray to my Xbox. Even if I'm just getting started."


"My dogs are familiar with the sound of the cheese drawer in the refrigerator. They could be sound sleeping somewhere else, but when you open the cheese drawer, they come running and sit down like good boys waiting for their cheese. They're herding dogs, so if the cat won't stop meowing at me while I'm busy or tries to scratch things, they'll herd her away."


"Every morning when I wake up I rub my dog's belly. Now, whenever I say good morning she will lay on her back for belly scratches."


"My cat is aware of my restroom habits. She'll dash into the bathroom when I need to pee after coming home from work and wait for me to place her on the counter. Then I turn on the water faucet, and she drinks it. I have no recollection of how it all began."


"I give my cat baths by allowing her to float in a plastic box. The box is kept in my closet. I've only been doing this for about a month, but she now runs to the closet and leaps into her box when I put on the bathwater."

However, according to the expert, some creatures are simply unmotivated and impossible to train. "If your pet doesn't seem to get enthusiastic about anything, including attention, treats, food, pets, or toys, you should have them checked out by a veterinarian to ensure they're in good health."

Many of the listed habits are safe and enjoyable, but unintended training can lead to dangerous circumstances. Consider how your cat hides whenever you get out of a carrier since it indicates it's time to go to the clinic. Perhaps you don't need to conceive this scenario; perhaps you've already lived it! Isn't it annoying? In addition, the animal is under additional strain. However, there is almost always a way out. "A frequent solution for [the previously described problem] is to keep the carrier out all of the time and make it interesting to the cat by putting a nice blanket, toys, and catnip inside," Bell explained. "Then you've taken off the bit about getting the carrier out that makes them hide. The cat is then rewarded every time they enter the container on their own."


"My cats adore blanket caves and other similar structures. I was wearing a long dress one day and accidentally covered one of my kitties with my skirt as a joke. She sat down and began purring like a machine. She will dash under my skirt, make herself at home, and begin purring whenever I wear a long skirt and crouch down to their level. I'm worried about the day she sees someone wearing a skirt and dashes in like a pervy creep."


"My niece enjoys FaceTiming with my mother to chat with her dog. When my mother FaceTimed with the dog when she was a puppy, she would pull her onto her lap. When your phone or tablet starts making the default FaceTime ring, the dog will leap in your lap."


"We managed to instill the concept of trading in our dog. When we eat something she really wants, she'll go retrieve one of her bones or toys, and if we take them away from her carelessly, she'll casually try to take what we're eating, as if we've agreed to a trade."


"My ex had a parakeet who had the greatest personality of any bird I've ever met. The bird used to imitate the 'beeboop' sound made by an android when it was plugged into a charger and recognized when it was time to go to bed. When the bird was exhausted, it would make that noise, which signified it was time to go to sleep. It was so accurate that I found myself checking my phone whenever the birdy was taking asleep. Pistachio, I miss you!"


"When I was younger, I owned a dog. I used to pet him every time I put my shoes on (he used to hang out in the coatroom). In exchange for head pats, he learned to bring shoes to me."


"Please bring me your soiled laundry. My cat brought me a sock one day, and it was so cute that I petted him and complimented him. That created a cycle, and now he brings dirty laundry to me on a regular basis."


"With rewards, pets, and plenty of 'good boy, good boy,' I trained my cats to use the scratching post. When I have to tell my one cat to stop chewing on something or anything, he goes to that post and scratches violently, looking at me like "but I'm a nice guy!!" for the past 7,5 years."


"My dog knew he'd always receive some ice to chew when I walked to the refrigerator, so he'd rush in whenever he heard the ice maker start. He could feel the tremors on the floor once he went deaf, and he knew it was ice time!"


"During the week, my wife and I have fairly consistent sleep routines. Our dog gets VERY huffy/offended if we stay up later on the weekend or anything, and will sigh passive-aggressively at us until we go upstairs to bed. Oh, and when one of his bowls is empty, he licks it (passively-aggressively) before making direct eye contact."


"My cat once discovered a spider on my wall, and because he was staring at it so intently, I was able to detect it as well. I offered him cookies and cuddles because I was grateful. He tried it again a week later, and it was the same. Then, one time, he glances about anxiously, and I leap up to investigate, but there is no spider. He gives me a hopeful gaze. After a few instances like this, I understood he had learnt that intensely looking around at things equals goodies, love, and attention. It's been 4,5 years, and he still looks at me, then around the flat, then back at me, as if he expects a reward. Has he been able to spot the odd bug as a result of it? Yes, especially now that I've learned the subtle difference between his genuine look and the phony 'I want goodies' expression throughout the years. Even though I know it's all a deception, it still throws me off, and I give in and look anyway. Maybe it's just me, but the fluffy jerk always appears satisfied afterward."


"My cat thinks it's normal for me to roam about making talkative noises all the time because I talk to myself all the time. He's talking if he's awake. I think it's adorable, but it drives my husband crazy, resulting in a lot of ranting from him (don't worry, the cat isn't bothered). Now the cat thinks that's how my husband speaks, so every time he sees him, he imitates him by yelling at him really loudly. My cat will stop whatever he's doing and yell SO LOUDLY in my husband's face as he walks into the room. It's hilarious; the guy got exactly what he deserved."

u/shoonpo told that the idea for the article occurred to them while they were... on the toilet! "When I go to the restroom, one of my cats has discovered that he receives a lot of attention and scratches. He constantly looks forward to going to the potty since he knows he'll get scratches. I was curious whether anyone else had inadvertently conditioned their cat in this way, and I posed the subject in the hopes of hearing a few adorable pet anecdotes." says the Redditor. However, as you can see from the list, cats aren't the only ones who can learn quickly!

Any reward-motivated animal, including dogs, cats, chickens, and even fish, is the easiest to train, according to Bell. "When it comes to training, their species don't matter as much as you may assume! The more treats, pets, attention, or a specific toy they demand, the easier it is to train them. My two treat-obsessed cats are so simple to train that I can teach them a new trick in just a few 5-minute sessions. But it takes more time, effort, and patience to train my cat who isn't fond of rewards. Helpful training tip: I only provide treats during training. They know they're in training mode when they hear the treat bag crinkle and are ready to learn when they hear the reward bag crinkle. This increases the reward's worth, which aids in training."


"When we were playing, I would grab (not forcefully, but lightly) my dog's snout. When he comes over to me, he seems to have worked out that it's my favorite thing to do. So now, if he detects my distress or sees me crying, he comes up to me and softly places his snout on my hand."


"For a long time, our cat has impacted the anal glands. We had to coax him with food to get him to let us check on him and make sure he was okay. When he wants anything, he walks up to us and shoves his butt in our faces.

"Don't worry if you've done anything similar," Bell soothed, "since you can train the opposite behavior and they'll forget about the unpleasant conduct." 

When Yohan jumps on the counter now, I simply set him down without any sweet words, attention, or kisses. Then, if he stays on the ground, reward him. When it comes to cats, ignore the behavior you don't want to see more of and encourage the behavior you do. It's important to remember that cats don't respond well to punishment. It merely adds to the tension and distrust, resulting in even more undesirable behaviors."


"My dog learned that ‘get your toy' meant to pick up his nearest toy somewhere along the way. I didn't teach him to do it on purpose, but it comes in handy when he's going to leave one of them outside and I need him to bring it in. If there isn't a toy nearby when I say this, he'll grab the closest soft object he can find, which is usually a piece of clothes lying about. He once attempted to pick up the cat."

The amount of attention u/shoonpo received for their post just astounded them. In reality, they finally grasped the true meaning of 'RIP my inbox'!

The Redditor explained, "It just made me very pleased to realize that so many people resonated with the topic."

"For the first several hours after I wrote, I had a blast reading and reacting to the responses. Shortly after, I went to bed and awoke to a flurry of notifications. However, it was truly amazing to see how happy it made so many people. I wish I had had more opportunities to interact, but I am pleased that I did for the first few hours."

However, if you want to condition your pet to do anything willingly, go to Best Friends and read their great pet training articles!


"One of my cats has a favorite toy that he occasionally brings me, and I always compliment him on his catch. Either I've trained him to believe he has to bring it to me in order to receive affection, or he's trained me to recognize when it's appropriate to offer him affection. Or a little bit of both, in which case it's just a small yet useful communication tool."


"My one dog sleeps with a blanket over his head. I know he only gets a good night's sleep that way, so I cover him with one every time he lays down. So anytime he wants to nap or go to bed at night, he jumps up onto the sofa or bed, or really anywhere I am, and just stares at me until I grab a blanket and drape it over him, at which point he lays down and goes asleep. The amusing part is that he frequently sits in that position for minutes at a time. The funniest part is when he doesn't even look at me when he does it. He'll get out of bed, shove his ass in my face, then sit and wait. He knows he doesn't have to pretend to love me to get what he wants; he already knows it'll happen, so why put on a show? He's taken it upon himself to be entitled to it. 2) I give my dogs a treat that I keep in the kitchen whenever I bring them in from a walk or the backyard. So once we walk in the door, they dash to the kitchen and sit ('sit' is always the first command in a string of commands I use when giving them treats). If I forget, they'll wait for as long as it takes me to circle back around and give them a treat - which can take up to 5 minutes if I'm preoccupied - but they'll simply sit there and wait. They have done an excellent job of preparing me."


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