Ten Steps to a Better Behaved Pet

When a pet behaves badly, the solutions are often frustratingly evasive. The ten essential hints below will show how to make your pet into a better behaved buddy.

1.   Stop your pet teaching itself bad behaviours

The more your pet rehearses an annoying behaviour, the more likely your pet

will perform it again. So, try to avoid all situations that will create the unwanted behaviour to prevent the wrongful self-teaching of badness.

Try taking the problem away from your pet or, your pet away from the problem

For instance, if your dog barks continually at the front fence, try a midway fence that keeps the dog in the back yard.

If your cat scratches your child when playing, remove the cat from your child by giving your child a feather on a string as a cat toy. The cat’s ‘spikiness’ is directed to the feather not fingers.

2.   Don’t try to cure aggression by being aggressive

Dogs which are aggressive are over-aroused. The last thing they want is to be pushed more out of control by being yelled at or hit. If your dog is aggressive, act like a statue. Let the aggression evaporate and allow the dog to calm down. It won’t take long. When it is calm, try a simple command like SIT. Reward the resulting calm behaviour with a GOOD DOG voice or even a food treat. Read more

3.   A dog that barks when you are at work is often bored out of its big brain.

Your bored backyard dog will benefit greatly if you provide it with a rich lifestyle while you are away at work.

Try giving Pooch a Kong toy or a roller treat ball stuffed with food or even a frozen bone before you leave. Just be sure any food given is part of its overall diet so you don’t create a tubby puppy.

4.   A dog that barks when you are away and also trembles, pants, looks anxious and is destructive may have a serious anxiety disorder.

Be careful.  Your dog has gone beyond boredom and its anxiety is taking over. Treatment relies on giving your dog a rich ‘home alone’ lifestyle, making ‘alone time’ part of every day and being cunning in the way you leave the dog when you have to go out. Medication is often needed to stop the anxiety merry-go-round so your dog can learn to be calm. Read more

5.   If your pet has an annoying behaviour, try to minimise punishment.

Punishment is overused and often pushes animals further out of control. Instead, work on a system that creates the behaviour you want and then reward this behaviour so your pet can see more value in behaving than misbehaving. There are ways and means to achieve this!  The use of electric shock collars should be used with great caution as they do little to calm a pet. Read more

6.   Dogs, cats and birds that are fearful or timid have great difficulty learning when they are showing their fearful behaviours.

Solving fear-based behaviours can be difficult. Don’t create the fear and then try to make your pet cope with it. It will learn very little because it is pushed into a defensive (flight) mode, not a learning mode.

Create a situation where your pet will be calm and then slowly introduce the fearful stimulus while still maintaining your pet’s happiness. Read more

7.   If your cat stops using its litter tray, be sure it is not suffering from a medical disorder.

Many cats that break their litter tray habits have a lower urinary tract infection causing the behaviour. Visit your vet for testing and if all is well, then seek a behaviour solution.  Clean trays are the first step. Read more

8.   If your dog is annoying visitors, get it away from visitors before they arrive

You will find it too difficult to manage a rambunctious pet and to greet your visitors simultaneously. Place your dog in a comfortable room or Den (e.g. the laundry) with a Kong or bone before the visitors arrive.

Then introduce your pet to the visitors later when you, the visitors and your pesky pooch are ready to deal with the outcomes. Read more

9.   If you have a new puppy or kitten, be sure to take it to a Puppy Preschool or Kitty Kindy.

At a well-run pet preschool your pet can learn to get on with other pets and with people other than you.  The convenor of the preschool will also teach you all about caring for your pet, and share training techniques. Read more

10.  If your cat attacks you, it may be playing.

Play behaviour and aggression are very closely related with cats – and both cause bleeding wounds on victim humans! Try giving the cat things to play with that don’t bleed!!  A ‘fishing rod’ made from a bamboo garden stake, a piece of string and a cork with two feathers stuck to it will extinguish the rambunctious energy. Read more


Review questions

  1. What works best for behaviour – rewarding the wanted or punishing the unwanted?
  2. Anxious pets can learn as well as non-anxious pets – true of false?
  3. Name one simple thing you can do that may stop your cat being aggressive.
  4. Where is a good place to put your dog if it annoys visitors?
  5. A dog that barks while you are absent could be bored, anxious or both – true or false?