Are You a Glider Whisperer?
Fact is, I don’t watch much TV. I’ve certainly heard of the Dog Whisperer, but it was only a couple of months ago that I actually started watching it. Cesar Millan has it going on!
I am now a huge fan. You see, in addition to spending most of my waking hours amongst sugar gliders, there are two big dogs in my life. I’ve had dogs my whole life. I can’t imagine life without a dog or a sugar glider anymore.
There is a lot that Cesar talks about and emphasizes that translates well into bonding with sugar gliders. Not all of his dog techniques apply, of course. We’re not going to put choke chains on gliders and give them a “correction”. That’s not going to cut it.
How would you answer these questions?
Scenario: You just got two new baby sugar gliders and are just starting to bond with them. They are both fussy and nippy. To proceed with the bonding you will:
A) Give them space to calm down and you won’t handle them until they are more relaxed
B) Understand that they are scared and it is your job to make them feel safe and secure
C) Decide the place they come from did not handle them well, and it’s someone else’s fault that they are not coming to you right away
D) All of the above
If you are a Glider Whisperer, you would have picked B. Cesar talks a lot about being calm and assertive. I’ve used similar terms for years. My terms of choice have been laid back (or relaxed) and confident. Answer A is incorrect because you have to guide the process. You cannot let the animals decide when the time is right. The sooner you start the process, the sooner the process will be completed. And note I say process, which implies these things take time. So jump in and begin, as the sooner you start the sooner you will have that experience you’ve dreamed about.
Answer B is you being the calm and assertive human. Approach the process relaxed and you will see progress. If you approach bonding nervous or anxious, you will pass that energy on to the sugar gliders. If you approach calm and relaxed, you will start passing that energy on to the sugar gliders. Animals have levels of senses that humans do not. They pick up on emotional energy much better than we do.
Answer C is incorrect because at least half of how the bonding scenario plays out is your responsibility and not all about how the sugar gliders were raised. Now let me clarify this, if you have baby gliders, if they’ve been handled prior to your getting them, some of the work has been started for you to keep them familiar with humans. If you have baby gliders that have not been handled at all, or handled with gloves or something else that bars that direct human contact, you have a bit more work to do.
BUT, and this is a big but, if you understand that much of the responsibility depends on what you are bringing to the process, all baby gliders can be bonded with the right human attitude. Older gliders that have been neglected or abused will make great progress with the right human attitude. But older gliders may not become the best pets as they’ve possibly had prior learning that humans are not to be trusted. It is hard to undo a lesson learned earlier in life, but it can be greatly improved by human attitude.
OK, next scenario and question. You have had your two new gliders for a couple of weeks. One of them comes out to you as soon as you open the door, jumps on you and likes to be with you. The other one is still getting into the Mr. Myagi position, crabbing and striking. This means that:
A) One of the gliders is really smart
B) One of the gliders has something wrong with it
C) Both A and B
D) Neither A nor B
OK Glider Whisperer, did you pick A?
Wrong answer! Gliders work off of levels of trust and fear. One of your gliders is more trusting. This is personality driven and quite likely driven by some sort of colony mentality. Animals that live in groups tend to have “scouts”. The scouts are more outgoing and will take on the job and role to check things out before the others follow. It’s funny, but I would say in 90-95% of the cases of our new customers getting two sugar gliders, one glider always gets with the program faster than the other.
Answer B is also incorrect. In all likelihood, the glider is operating from a stronger place of fear. Your calmness, your patience and your assertiveness will overcome this fear in due time. Gliders that are sick tend to be very easy to handle. Many other species that are sick can show more signs of aggression, but sick sugar gliders tend to be very easy to handle, almost as if they don’t have enough strength to put up a fuss. I can tell you from experience that if I am treating a sick glider, I start feeling very optimistic about a full recovery when I start hearing crabbing again or even take a bite. This animal is feeling better (and thus stronger) and is now able to tell me that it doesn’t really like taking this medicine any more.
If you are a Glider Whisperer, you would have picked Answer D.
The next scenario is this. The family brought home two new sugar gliders. Fred, the human, is doing great with Pebbles and Bam Bam, the gliders. Wilma, the human, is really getting freaked out because she is the one that really wanted the sugar gliders, but they hate her! The most likely reason is:
A) Wilma is not a very nice lady and the gliders should hate her
B) Fred really just hides food in his pockets and that is why Pebbles and Bam Bam love him so much
C) Fred is really laid back and doesn’t let much bother him, and the gliders are attracted to that attitude
D) Wilma has a lot of new pet anxiety and she wants them to like her so much, that it’s making her really nervous, and this is why the gliders hate her
So have I tricked you on this one? There is only one correct answer in my opinion and that is answer C. In answers A, B and D I’ve used words like hate and love. It’s really important that your vocabulary expresses a true understanding of glider mentality. This will help you greatly in your efforts. Gliders are not capable of hate, that is a human emotion. Gliders operate off the levels of fear and trust.
I know we all want to believe that our pets love us. But what we interpret as love is more like an unconditional trust. We make them feel safe and secure, so our presence is comforting. If we feed into their feelings of fear, our presence is threatening. The gliders do not hate Wilma. They are simply scared of her because her energy is anxious. If Wilma can calm herself down, the trust factor will begin to improve and she can have the same relationship with Pebbles and Bam Bam that Fred enjoys.
Starting the process of bonding with the right intention is the cornerstone of your success. My new hero, Cesar Millan is always asking the people he is working with about their own thoughts. His job is to rehabilitate dogs and train people. I love that. And I believe that is so at the heart of successful bonding with any type of animal. We must train ourselves and that starts with the right set of intentions and beliefs.
I’ve tried to illustrate in the above simple quiz that we have to use words relevant to the sugar glider’s mentality. Love and hate are not the right words. Trust and fear are more accurate descriptions of the glider mind. If you feel that someone or something hates you, how will you respond to that? Are you going to respond with kindness? If you do, then you are a saint. Most of us will respond defensively and some of us will respond aggressively.
But what if the real driving force here is not hate, but fear? For most humans, we want to reach out and comfort fear. We are sympathetic to fear, and at the same time put off by hate.
Do you get my point here? Your thought about what the situation is will greatly influence your response and reaction to the situation. So let go of the word hate in your vocabulary in dealing with animals. Anthropomorphism is the attribution of uniquely human characteristics to non-human creatures and beings. Becoming a Glider Whisperer begins by realistic thoughts about the nature of sugar gliders. Sugar gliders operate from places of fear and trust.
The Glider Whisperer responds to fear in a posture that comforts and makes feel secure.
The Glider Whisperer is always patient and knows that calm, patient confidence will always prevail when bonding with new animals. I’ve been working with sugar gliders and their humans for a long time now. I can tell you that people with calm energy and realistic expectations do exceedingly well with new glider pets. People who are over the top excited about their new pets tend to take a bit longer because their energy of excitement passes to the animals. People who have fears that the gliders will not bond with them tend to do poorly because fear will breed more fear in the animals.
If you only learn one thing from this article, I hope this summarizes it for you. Handle your animals when you have yourself in a calm state first. If you just got home from work, after spending two hours in gridlock traffic, your cell phone died, and your car is on empty but gas prices went up 20 cents from just yesterday, don’t handle your gliders right when you walk in the door. That is, unless their presence brings you to an immediate state of calmness. Talk yourself down and bring the best of yourself to your new pets. When we bring the best of ourselves to animals, we will then have the chance to see the best of their nature as well.
Relationships with animals are a 50/50 proposition and I am personally grateful to people like Cesar for bringing messages of human responsibility to the realm of animal interaction!
Dear Arnold: ADD, Hyperactive or Just a Teenager?
I have a 5 month-old sugar glider who has become VERY hyperactive and somewhat aggressive. He runs (and I do mean runs) back and forth along the back of our sofa, down into the cushions and up again and on the floor and back again, if he can get away with it (we also have a 2 year old dog….: 😉 ). He used to investigate fingers with his teeth, but now he’s biting rather hard (hasn’t broken any skin).
I recently made a batch of BML and substituted Lite grape juice for apple juice, because that’s what I had on hand. Do you think the artificial sweetener in the grape juice is making him hyper, or is it the onset of hormones? He rarely finishes one of the cubes of BML that we give him, although he does finish his apple slices that we leave in the cage at night. He currently weighs about 77 grams. If it’s the food, I will pitch it and make another batch with apple juice, but I wanted to check before I did that.
Thanks in advance,
Extra sugar in our meals could cause some hyper-ness, but methinks sumptin else is going on. Fer one thing, fake sugar doesn’t have the same effects as real sugar and our expert vets thinks ya should not give fake sugar foods at all. That’s fer other reasons that we won’t go into here. But it’s real sugar that makes little critters go bonkers.
Anywho, methinks its all going down due to his age, it’s a teenage thing going on. Many teenage gliders will test boundaries, as teenagers do, and almost seem a bit rebellious. Baby animals go through stages just like peeps do. You are an infant, a toddler, a tweener, a teenager, a juvenile, a young adult, and then a savvy adult. Be patient with him, as he is likely to outgrow it. I did!
We are licensed by both the USDA and the State of Florida Wildlife Commission. You hear this term “USDA Licensed” thrown around a lot, but did you know there are different classifications of licenses? And what exactly does it mean to be USDA licensed?
First off, the USDA offers different classes of licenses. For example, you can be licensed as a breeder, a broker or an exhibitor.
The designation of breeder I think is rather obvious. A broker is someone who buys from breeders and re-sells the animals. A broker can also be a breeder, but a breeder cannot be a broker without getting a broker’s license. That’s why SiunCoast has broker’s license; we are primarily a breeder but sometimes help other breeders sell their animals. A good example of a broker is someone who stocks pet stores with pets. That middleman is a broker, but the pet store is also a broker. While the pet store may breed many of their own animals, having a broker designation allows them to buy animals to re-sell them to the public.
Exhibitor’s licenses are for animals on exhibit only. For example, zoos don’t sell animals, they simply exhibit them.
There are some fine lines in the categories of breeders and brokers. For example, with SunCoast Sugar Gliders, you will always deal with me, not a designated agent. Did you know that breeders and brokers can designate agents to act on their behalf?
What this means in laymen’s terms is that I could hire someone who may be really good on the phone, but have little to no experience actually with sugar gliders themselves. Another example is that of the pet store. The employees of the pet store are not individually licensed, yet they can show and sell the animals in that pet store.
There is one simple reason I’m providing all this info on USDA licenses. While I think it is good that there is some regulation in the animal business, USDA licenses do not guarantee any quality of the organization or its representative. I’m not suggesting that it’s unimportant, but it’s only a minimal indication that the organization has met some very basic requirements.
The USDA does not police activities like the quality of information given to new pet owners. The USDA does not police where animals are sold unless there is a direct correlation impacting animal welfare.
I applaud any efforts to raise standards in the breeding, selling or general management of animals, but I don’t see the USDA as a “gold seal of approval” guaranteeing excellence. I think the best efforts in guaranteeing excellence are through the various animal communities and the consumer. Education is the path we’ve chosen at SunCoast as we believe educated consumers are smart consumers.
If I had to make a comparative analysis of what a USDA license means, then allow me use an education analogy. When you go on a job interview, your qualifications increase with each degree you list. For example, an undergraduate college degree qualifies you for one job. A master’s degree will qualify you for a better job. A doctorate degree will qualify you for even more.
A USDA license is in some ways like a GED, or high school diploma in the scheme of the animal world. It shows that you have some education, but the quality and depth of that education are minimal on today’s standards of judging qualifications.
So trust your instincts, do your own homework and talk to a variety of people. USDA licensing alone should not direct your choice on where to procure new fuzzy members for your household. It’s more like a minimum standard you should look for.
‘Til next time, in good health for you and your gliders, we sign off in appreciation of all of you who share great glider adventures with us!