Sugar Glider Bonding: Plan B
Sugar Glider Bonding: Plan B
Alright, so you’ve decided to go with Plan B, and I’m sure it was the right decision for you. Just to be clear, before starting with Plan B, you should have already read/listened to ALL of the following:
- The purple Audio CD section on “Bonding” (and/or the written transcript labeled “Special Report: Bonding”)
- The 1st “New Mom and Dad Email on Bonding”
- Plan A
If you haven’t done all of that already, please do so right now before progressing any further. ☺
Now, first off, it’s EXTREMELY important to understand that you haven’t “failed” as a parent – and your baby(ies) aren’t just mean or hate you – if you’re opting to use this bonding strategy.
In other words, there’s absolutely NO shame in deciding to go with Plan B. I myself have trained several of the 11 pet Sugar Bears we have in our home using “Plan B.” ☺ Not only does it work INCREDIBLY well, but it also pretty much guarantees you won’t get bitten IF you just practice some common sense and don’t get impatient with the process.
Plan B is essentially a “hands off” – and extremely effective – approach to bonding, which ensures that you can never get bitten. Again, just to review quickly, there are a couple problems with getting bitten besides the obvious one (it can hurt). ☺
The first major problem with biting is that it has the potential to “turn you off” towards your Sugar Bear(s). Nobody likes getting bitten, and if your baby is biting, eventually, you may begin to dislike or even hate your pet(s). Even if you realize it’s only biting out of fear not aggression, eventually it won’t matter and you’ll either stop trying to bond with it or you’ll probably give it away to someone else who will have the same problems. To be clear, this situation obviously isn’t good for anyone – and we are here to help. ☺ It’s not good for you, because you paid money for your baby(ies) and were excited to have a sweet loving pet – and right now it looks like you have the opposite. Now, as bad as that situation is for you, it’s actually even MUCH WORSE for the Sugar Bear(s) because if this behavior is not changed, they will not get the attention they deserve – and instead of having a wonderful, loving relationship with their “guardians” – hanging out all day with you in your pockets – they are ultimately dooming themselves to a life of loneliness inside their cage.
(NOTE: Incidentally, if you ever decide that you can no longer properly care for your SugarBears or know someone else who is neglecting theirs, just email and let us know immediately. We are happy to rescue any animal and rehome it to one of our more experienced customers for free.).
Now, having said all that, the other major problem with getting bitten regularly is that it inevitably TRAINS an animal to continue to bite. Let me explain… When the animal bites, it’s doing so for one reason: because it’s afraid. If you remember our “King Kong analogy” from the audio CD, the basic idea is that King Kong shows up at your house… reaches in your door… grabs ahold of you and pulls you out of your house… and lifts you 10 stories above the ground.
Well if that happened to you, even if you’re normally a very civil, calm person you’re still going to scream and kick and BITE. HOWEVER, if King Kong suddenly put you back down – or showed fear – when you bit him the first time, you better believe you’ll remember that the next day when he tries to take you out of the house again; only THIS time it will be the first thing you do since now you know it works.
Well, its the same thing with the Sugar Bears. If they bite you (and it hurts), no matter how hard you try to pretend like you are unaffected, they’ll read your body language and KNOW they got the reaction they were instinctually trying to get (ie. To leave them alone). So, the next day when you take them out of the cage again, they’ll remember to try to bite you again… and again… and so forth.
It’s almost like “training” them to bite you, because your reaction to the bite is essentially REWARDING their bad behavior. Make sense? ;-)
Well, in my experience having worked with many customers over the years, in cases where they are getting nipped or bitten regularly, it’s almost always (whether they realize it or not) because they are restricting the baby’s movement. Understandably, when they try to hold their baby(ies), they’re so worried about them “getting away” that they end up holding it too tightly. For example, even with a trained dog, if it sees a rabbit, or something that it realllllllly wants to chase, and you physically restrain it, you stand a decent chance of getting bitten. It’s the same for most animals, and Sugar Bears are no exceptions. While the Sugar Bears do like a tight spaces when they are sleeping or inside their pouch, often times this is not the case when they’re awake and out in the open.
My whole point here is that “Plan B” solves all these issues perfectly. Another advantage of Plan B is it allows you to “interact” with your baby(ies) right from the beginning, even if technically you’re not touching them.
As stated, if you follow the steps in Plan B, you should never really get bitten…AS LONG AS you practice some everyday common sense. Now, if you’re following all the instructions laid out here for at least a few weeks – and still aren’t seeing any progress – email email@example.com and we can try to work with you to figure out what’s going on. To be clear, the animal is not likely to be FULLY-bonded within a few weeks, but you should most likely begin to see significant signs of progress. As stated previously it can take up to a few months for a particularly stubborn little fuzzbut to fully bond, but usually only 4-6 weeks (depending on how much time you spend with it). The ONLY downside to Plan B, is that it can slow down the overall process a LITTLE bit – but again, for a lot of people it’s well worth the extra time to ensure that you never get bitten. The important point here, is that you stick with the process… don’t get discouraged… and NEVER give up on them. Remember, even though they don’t know it – ultimately, they have a LOT more to lose than you do. ☺
Alright, so let’s get started!…
Now, technically there are only 2 times you CAN get bitten. Since Plan B’s main objective (besides getting you fully-bonded with your SugarBears) is to make sure you don’t ever get bitten, we will address both these situations. The first scenario is when you’re either feeding the babies or changing out their apples etc. It’s unlikely you’re getting bitten during feedings because the animals are afraid of you. More than likely, they will chatter when you put your hand in the cage, and maybe even lunge at you just to try to be intimidating, but they probably won’t actually bite. Regardless, since we don’t want you to get bitten EVER, if this is an issue – or you’re even overly concerned about it – we have a simple solution. Just go purchase a brand new glove meant for gardening, ideally one made of leather. They’re very inexpensive so don’t skimp and use an old dirty one that can cause health issues for your babies. Then, whenever you put your hand in the cage to feed the animals (or remove the old apples etc), just wear the glove so that you don’t have to be fearful of getting bitten. Now, just to be clear, this glove is NOT meant to be used later on to handle the animals. It’s just to protect your hands when reaching inside the cage for to feed your babies. AGAIN, this is not even necessary unless your baby is ACTUALLY physically biting your skin when you put your hand in the cage to change out the food. In fact, the only reason I even mention this option here is so that every possibility is covered.
Now, with that in mind, the only other time a baby can bite is when it’s out of the cage and you’re either trying to pet it or handle it. So, if that’s happening, the first step is to stop trying to pet or handle it until you feel confident it won’t bite you. This is very simple, and we can break this into 2 steps:
At this point, you are still going to practice “Passive Bonding,” laid out in step #2 in Plan A.. The “Plan A” email report, explains all this in great detail, so even though you’ve read it already, I strongly recommend going back and reading this entire report again right now so that it’s all fresh in your mind.
When you go back and read that report, you’ll notice that neither of these steps involve actually touching the baby with your bare hands. As a quick refresher, Step 1 simply details exactly how to take the baby out of the cage using your bonding pouch as an inside out glove. Step 2 then outlines how to carry the baby around in the pouch under your clothes with the window facing you. You can still pet/massage the baby through the pouch and talk to it throughout this step. The most important thing though, is that your baby(ies) get to spend a bunch of time getting used to your smell through the pouch.
Again, the more time you can carry the baby around in the pouch with you the better. You can put it under your clothes and go to work, or run errands all day, as long as there is a slice of apple in the pouch as well. Most of the time, no one will ever even know you have a live animal on you. ☺
Step 2 is a little “trick” we discovered many years ago now, and it is EXTREMELY effective at getting even the most stubborn little babies to fully-bond with their new parents.
It involves the use of a childrens “Pop-Up Tent.” At the time I’m sitting here writing this report, we’re currently still trying to get a source to buy them inexpensively so we can offer them at a discount to our customers on our website – but so far we can’t beat the prices of Wal-Mart and other big box stores that sell kids toys etc. Depending on when you’re reading this, it’s worth taking a peek on our website to see if we’ve gotten them in yet, but if not, they’re very easy and inexpensive to come by. They’re usually around $20 at stores like Wal-Mart, but I’ve seen them “on sale” at toy stores for as low as $5 after the holidays.
Now, if you’re not familiar with a kids “pop-up” tent, they’re basically just small fabric enclosures for kids to play in – kinda like a modern day “fort”. This is not like a tent for camping. It’s a small enclosure made of plastic pipes and vinyl – and while an adult could not stand up in it, they should easily be able to sit comfortably. It doesn’t matter if the outsides say Sponge Bob/Square Pants or Dora the Explorer, etc.. (the one we used in our family initially was a pink Disney “Princess” tent), but what IS IMPORTANT is that it has some sort of way to completely close the door, (Ie a zipper or Velcro).
Now, once you get one of these units, set it up in a convenient space in your home where you can spend time bonding with your baby(ies). Keep in mind, the idea of the tent is twofold.
- First, it allows you to interact with your pet in a small space, where you don’t have to worry about it getting away. You can let it run free (as per the detailed instructions below) without having to worry about it getting under the couch or whatever. Also, since it’s vinyl, if the baby poops or pees in it, cleaning up is a breeze.
- The other important thing the tent does is it allows you to essentially be INSIDE the bonding pouch with the baby as it runs around. Remember, this is a very small enclosed space. You will not be able to stand in it, only sit. When sitting in the tent, your smell will fill up the space very quickly, so when the animal is in there with you it will be surrounded by your scent and will even get to see you the whole time it’s smelling you.
So, keeping all this in mind, here’s what you do… As often as you can, bring the pouch with the Sugar Bear(s) inside the tent with you and zip/velcro the tent completely shut. Once the tent is sealed, you can open the pouch, slowly turn it inside out – and coax them out of their “nest”. Now, you need to mentally prepare yourself the first few times because they will likely chatter – and even lunge – at you. It is important that you don’t get intimidated by this. Just knowing in advance that it’s probably going to happen usually solves that problem. Remember, the baby(ies) will NOT bite you as long as you don’t touch them – but if you’re still worried about it, just make sure to wear long sleeves & pants and shoes.
Remember, Sugar Bears are not “aggressive animals” They bite out of fear alone, so if you don’t put a hand right in front of them to bite, they’re not going to run over to get closer to you than they have to. Now, don’t be surprised (especially after having gone in the tent a few times with the baby(ies)) if the baby(ies) run right across your legs or even up your back. If this happens, it’s a GOOD sign, and it’s important you don’t freak out. Remain calm and try to avoid touching the animal with your hands. If they want to crawl on your shoulder that’s fine. If it get’s to be too much, you can use the pouch like a glove and gently remove them.
From this point forward, you’re going to want to try to spend as much time as you can with your baby(ies) in their tent on a daily basis. You can even bring an ipod or ipad in the tent with you if you want. The more time they can be in your DIRECT presence, smelling you, seeing you, and getting used to the fact that you don’t pose a threat to them – the better. Also, remember, this is being done in ADDITION to the passive bonding explained in Part 1 above. So, between being in the tent, AND being carried around in the pouch as often as possible when not in the tent, the whole plan is that your baby(ies) are getting a LOT of time to get used to your smell etc. ☺
Now, before we go any further I want to address a question I often get when I tell people about the Pop-Up Tent Trick. People always want to know if they can just use a closet or bathroom instead of the tent. Now, while the answer is technically “yes” – in my experience it doesn’t work NEARLY as well. If you think about it, even though a small room is still a relatively small space, the ceilings are much higher, (which means your scent won’t fill up the room as much), and this is a big factor. Furthermore, depending on the size of the room, the Sugar Bear(s) more than likely will be able to run several feet away from you. The whole point of the tent is that you fill up the whole thing – so “bottom line”, avoid trying this option since it doesn’t work well. ;-)
Ok, let’s move on….
Now at this stage, ideally you’re carrying you baby(ies) in their pouch daily – and going in the tent for at LEAST an hour or two a day. Now, I said this was “ideal,” so don’t worry if you can’t spend that much time with them. Again, the more time spent the better – but just do it as much as you can. In any event, after going in the tent several times with your Sugar Bear(s), at some point – AND I CAN’T PREDICT EXACTLY WHEN – “common sense” will tell you that you can probably PET your baby(ies) and NOT get bitten. This could be after several days of going in the tent – or it could be after several weeks. You will just have to use common sense and your best judgment.
Now, with that in mind, here’s a quick idea of some “signs” that MAY help to indicate you should be alright to pet the Sugar Bear(s):
- The animal doesn’t chatter/lunge anymore…
- It runs across your legs or body…
- It approaches you frequently without seeming afraid…
- It no longer chatters if you make sudden movements.
Now, this list is not comprehensive. It is just meant to give you an idea of what to look out for. You really just need to trust your gut. If you decided to get a Sugar Bear, more than likely you’re already an “animal person” – and you will know when the timing is right much better than I can lay out here.
When you reach the point that you think you could PET your baby(ies) without getting bitten, we’re in very good shape. The NEXT time you go into the tent with your baby I want you to bring with you a little yogurt or applesauce (make sure it’s sealed initially so the baby can’t smell it).
Here’s what you do next… Once you’re in the tent, and the Sugar Bear(s) are running around, just let them be for at least a few minutes, as previously done – so they’re all settled in. Then, IF you still feel common sense is telling you that you can pet them WITHOUT getting bitten, proceed. If you’re still unsure at all, remember there’s NO harm in giving it more time. Now, you’ll notice I keep saying “PET” in all caps. The reason is, you are NOT going to try to “pick up” or hold the baby(ies), at this point. All you’re going to do is just pet them.
Now, the first time you try to pet them there are a few simple things to keep in mind. First, don’t try to pet their head (especially the first time). You’re going to GENTLY stroke their body. Also, try not make a sudden movement or corner them so they get all nervous. Remember, the whole point of this is just to show them that you pose no threat – so the less threatening you can make the process – the better.
Now, don’t be surprised initially if they pull away at first, but just move very slowly. You can even offer them your finger, and they will often come up and sniff at it (like a dog). Then, IF, after you pet them you don’t get a negative response (Ie chattering or biting), I want you to immediately follow up with giving them a little of the yogurt/applesauce as a treat. Try not to give them too much, just a little “dab” on the end of your finger is more than enough – and they will likely lick it CLEAN! ☺
Obviously, the idea here is to REWARD their good behavior. In the future, when they let you pet them, you still want to give them this kind of treat (for the first month or so). The idea is for them to learn that not only does nothing bad happen when you pet them – but that they get a treat as well. This will hopefully create a positive reaction when you go to touch them in the future.
If you’re brave enough, when giving them the treats it’s best to let them lick it off your fingers. The act of licking you really helps to strengthen their bond and makes them comfortable with your presence. Even if you don’t feel comfortable with doing this the first time, you can always do it after you’ve pet them several times and you ar both less nervous. ☺
Now, if you should happen to get a negative response to petting them the first time (Ie chattering or biting), just try hard not to show fear or flinch. Also, don’t let this discourage you IN ANY WAY. Stick with the process and just give it another week or 2 before trying again. Eventually, it WILL happen! ☺
Now, once your baby(ies) start letting you pet them comfortably on a regular basis, you’re just a few baby steps away from actually HOLDING them in your bare hands. Again you will just have to practice common sense and be patient. Don’t rush to this point. If and when you are ready, obviously start by trying it in the tent. The most important thing is to make sure you don’t restrict their movement. If they want to jump off, that’s totally ok since you’re in the tent.
As stated earlier, just like most other animals, if you try to restrict their movement they will likely bite you. Just let them crawl up your arm etc. Don’t be surprised if they try to camp out on the back of your neck. If you need to grab them, try not to jerk them or squeeze too tightly.
Re-read Step 6 of Plan A: “Handling your Baby(ies)” for more tips and advice on exactly how to do this. We also have a great video in the Family Circle section of our website (www.SugarBears.com), that will show you the “Treadmill Trick” for keeping your baby(ies) in your hands – as opposed to running around.
In any event, once you feel comfortable handling them in the tent, you can start to try the same thing outside of the tent, in a room that has been “glider proofed.” Keep in mind, even a fully bonded adult SugarBear may jump off you if you’re in your own home. Remember, by this point it’s THEIR home too, so even after they are fully bonded they are not likely to be intimidated by it – and more than likely will want to go “exploring”. Obviously it’s a very different story in an unfamiliar location where they’re more likely to cling to you – simply because they’re nervous about predators and you’re their “protector”. Again follow the advice laid out in Step 6 of Plan A and you should be just fine. ☺
Well, at this point, that’s really all there is to it! Again, if you have diligently been trying to follow Plan B for a couple months – and still aren’t seeing any progress (or are just getting very frustrated) – don’t despair. Just email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org , and we can try to work with you to figure out what’s going on. As I said in an earlier email, we have a whole bunch of other tricks we can use, but for the vast majority of new mom’s & dad’s, “Plan A” and “Plan B” are the best places to start. Only after we’ve tried them does it make sense to try out some other strategies – but always remember this. The bottom line is that we will do whatever it takes to make sure you ultimately have a wonderful experience with these little darlings – and no matter what – we are here to HELP you. ☺