Here you can find information about various aspects of being a pet owner, such as training, understanding animal behaviors, tips, and tricks!
Tips for Training Your Dog
- Be pleasant every time your dog comes to you, even if he’s coming back from taking an unexpected tour of the neighborhood.
- Make a habit to only give your dog a command once. If he/she doesn’t respond, reinforce the command. You are your dog’s teacher and they are eager to learn.
- Use your dog’s name to get their attention, then tell them what you want them to do. Use a normal tone of voice.
- Stay consistent in your actions and expectations.
- Provide an outlet to channel your dog’s energy. Give them lots of exercise and playtime. Dogs can also enjoy training sessions because it keeps them mentally stimulated. Enrichment toys are another wonderful to keep them sharp and focused. Make learning fun!
- Reward correct behaviors. Treats and toys are positive reinforcements.
- Dogs are usually social animals. Treat them like part of the family and socialize them with other people and dogs.
- If your dog really isn’t picking things up the way you’d like them to, consult outside help.
Basic Obedience Tips
- Use short commands: Name, Look, Come, Sit, Stay, or Wait. One or two words is best.
- Consistency! Use the same command word every time. Be sure everyone in your home uses the same command words.
- Start slow and simple with easy commands and gradually work up. This is known as shape training. Don’t move on to a new command until your dog has mastered what you are working on.
- Say the command once and wait. Repeating the command over and over teaches your dog they don’t need to obey you right away.
- Reward immediately. As soon as your dog performs the command give them their reward. The positive reinforcement shows them they did something good! Change up your rewards: treats, toys, verbal praise, or physical touch and pay attention to your dog’s language.
- Training sessions should start short – about 5-10 minutes. You can increase the length over time.
- Remain patient and calm. Keep practicing. Learning new skills take time.
Things to Avoid in Training
- Don’t do anything your dog could perceive as unpleasant when coming to you.
- Understand that your dog can’t read your mind. Tell them what you want. Avoid nagging with the same command over and over- this will teach your dog to ignore you.
- Dogs do not know what the word “no” is. Raising your voice will not improve their understanding.
- Do not isolate your dog or put him out as a punishment, it can cause trauma.
Jumping Up – This is extremely common and often a way of your dog to greet people. As a responsible pet owner, you will teach them proper greeting and manage this unwanted behavior. Dogs jump up as an attention seeking behavior, so giving them attention while on their hind legs is a reward. Instead, ignore your dog when they jump up. Cross your hands over your chest and turn your back to them. When your dog settles down, turn and praise him verbally or with a treat. Keep the energy behind your praise low to not excite your dog.
Escape Behavior – Door dashing, digging under fences, and jumping are common, especially in dogs that are not neutered. Neutering your dog will keep them from wandering to smell out a female. Create a safe environment for your pet to reduce their want to escape. Teach your dog to ‘sit’ or ‘wait’ when your door opens, about 2-3 feet from the threshold. Praise your dog when he/she stays still. This may take a lot of practice. Understand leaving your dog outside can initiate these behaviors. Do not leave your dog outside unattended and ensure they have an activity to keep them occupied while they are outside.
Rough Play – Rough play and play biting is normal in puppies and completely eliminating this is unrealistic. However, modifying this to an appropriate level and redirecting play to other outlets is important. Set ground rules early and ensure all family members are interacting as reinforcement. Have a toy ready when your dog starts play biting. If they take the toy when you offer it, praise them. Always praise your pet for accepting petting without play biting. If your dog becomes overly excited when you play, take a break until they calm down. Rough housing with your pet can be fun but it can make them think rough play is always ok. If your dog bites you, ignore them for 10-15 seconds then resume play. If your dog bites again, increase the time-outs. Eventually he/she will associate the biting with you going away. Avoid physical punishment so your dog doesn’t adopt fearful or aggressive behaviors toward you.
It is extremely important for dogs to exercise their bodies and minds. If they are not given an outlet to get their energy out, they can exhibit destructive behaviors including chewing, scratching, digging, or barking. Proper exercise should be structured, consistent, and interactive.
Routines are as important for pets as they are for humans. We all have busy schedules, but making your dog a priority in your daily routine will deter them from negative behaviors. Keep in mind dogs have different levels of energy and some breeds require more stimulation than others.
Morning – Wake up, take your dog out for a short potty walk, play fetch for a few minutes, feed your dog’s normal food portion in an enrichment toy, give your dog a different toy or bone before you leave for work.
This will keep your dog occupied while you are at work, running errands, etc.
Evening – Take your dog out to do his business as soon as your get home, make time for play or a long walk, feed them dinner, and spend time with them the rest of the evening as you would do with any other family member. Take your dog out again before bed.
Remember that you should have a variety of toys for your dog and rotate them to keep him interested.
Correcting Behaviors in Cats
Play biting – Cats are predatory in nature and their hunting instincts are actually important in kitten development. By providing a stimulating and interactive environment for your cat or kitten, you’ll build a healthy relationship. Have toys to play with and never allow your cat to use your hands or feet as a toy. If your cat begins to play too rough, replace your hand with a toy. Praise your cat when they accept the toy and begin play. If your cat becomes overly excited, take a break and allow them to calm down. Use praise and treats as positive reinforcement when your cat is playing without teeth or claws.
Eliminating Outside the Litter Box – Cats are clean creatures and need their litter box to reflect that. In fact, cats have 19 million odor sensitive cells in their noses. Your cat needs you to clean the box daily and change the litter often. If you have multiple cats, some prefer to have their own litter box or want another option if one smells like another cat. Kittens may have some issues adjusting to a litter box, but adult cats should know where to go. If you keep a clean litter box(es) and your cat still goes outside of it, take them to the vet. There may be a medical issue. If nothing else, your vet could give you advice on how to solve the problem. It could be as simple as switching your brand of litter.
Scratching Surfaces – Let your cat’s environment do the correction. Blow a whistle or shake a penny box (a taped aluminum can filled with a few pennies or nails.) Maybe you play around with textures like placing a silk sheet on the arm of your leather sofa so your cat slides off instead of scratching. By doing this, you are creating an unpleasant experience and removing yourself from being the bad guy. Redirect your cat to a scratching post and be sure to reward your cat when using the scratching post on their own.
Jumping on Counters – Again, make unpleasant changes to the environment. A cookie sheet placed on the edge of the counter will make a loud crash if your cat tries to hop on your table. Covering the table with tin foil can also create a space your kitty doesn’t want to jump on.