Humans & Dogs: Not So Different


This is basically my dog training philosophy:
Make it easy for your dog to do the right thing.
Then praise and reward the right thing. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat...
Ignore and/or prevent bad behaviors.

(It's not really mine, lots of people use it.)

So, for example, you need to train your dog not to urinate in the house, you give your dog LOTS of walks and/or outdoor time. When she goes outside, you praise her and give her a treat or toy. If she goes inside, you ignore her. Just clean it up really well and start over. (She needs INSTANT praise, by the way. You can't tell her 'good dog' for going potty outside when she pooped 20 minutes ago. She won't understand the praise is related to the behavior she did 20 minutes ago. She'll think the praise is related to something she did 1 minute ago.)

Repeat, repeat, repeat... This is where I think a lot of people screw up. As soon as their dog 'gets' it, they stop the rewards. They think dog training is about teaching the dog, not about creating habitual behavior. The point is to make a habit, not simply to communicate. So, when the dog understands, that's wonderful, but you still have to repeat, repeat, repeat, until it's second nature and the dog doesn't even think twice about it. Once it's a habit, doggy will do it without even expecting the treat. (However, NEVER stop the praise. Dogs can't get 'spoiled' by hearing "good dog" too much when they're being good.)

Anyway... I think these methods can be used on people, too. I think the key to creating a world with more compassion and justice is by making it easy for people to do the right thing. And then to reward them for doing the right thing.

For example, we don't just expect people not to litter, we make it easy for them not to litter by providing city trash cans. We don't just expect people to educate their children, we've made it easy by providing free public education for children. More examples: park-and-rides, carpool lanes, curbside recycling, anonymous child abuse reporting, low cost spay and neuter programs... the list goes on. Make it easy and people will do it.

The problem with getting people on board with many progressive, liberal, leftist ideas isn't ideology, it's ease.


For veganism, that means we should make it easy for people to choose veganism by:

  • Creating or expanding vegan social clubs (like NYC's Vegan Drinks, or our potlucks, etc.) so vegans don't feel isolated.
  • Creating or supporting vegan businesses that offer vegan alternatives to omni stuff, so people have a real choice.
  • Doing vegan outreach so people are better educated about what it really means to be vegan, so they have fewer excuses.
  • Making more cookbooks, cooking shows, food blogs that educate and entice people to go or stay vegan.
  • Being vocal vegans, so vegans are less on the fringe and more central in social discourse. We're easy to ignore if we're not heard, we're hard to ignore if we're loud and proud.

Got any more ideas of what we ought to be doing to make veganism easier for nonvegans?

(Crossposted at

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