like animals. This can be endearing, like when kittens turn
sideways and attack each other in a “crab dance,” or when
puppies roughhouse with each other. But animals behaving like
animals may, in some instances, be considered a behavior
problem. In these circumstances, humans can use some ingenuity
to change or redirect the "problem" behaviors. With a
little patience and love coming from both sides, animals and
humans can coexist without anybody being unhappy about anybody
purr, run, knead, jump, and play. They chew and eat and they
poo and pee. Cats stretch and scratch. Dogs retrieve balls and
wag their tails. Understanding these natural behaviors is the
key to understanding problem behaviors. A dog might bark to
warn of danger, a coveted behavior, but what can be done to
curb the barking of a bored dog?
The first step
in addressing problem behaviors is to understand that no
animal ever has a malicious intent in exhibiting a behavior.
Your new puppy didn't select your new loafers to chew on to
spite you because they were your favorites. You kitten didn't
select your new sofa to scratch on because she's got it out
for you. With this in mind, the next steps will be easier.
chewing and scratching are normal behaviors and part of what
it means to share your home with an animal. Puppies who are
chewing on your new shoes are really just looking for
something appropriate to chew on and found your shoes before
finding the chew toys. Kittens who are clawing up the couch
have selected this piece of furniture as a good scratching
post possibly because no other was available at the time. With
this in mind, you can begin to see how you and your efforts
play a decisive role in your companion animals behaviors.
behaviors for desired outcomes
born chewers. He's only a baby, and you are an adult, so hide
the shoes and bring out the chew toys. If you provide the toys
he likes, your shoes will not be interesting.
Cats are born
scratchers. If your kitty is scratching your soft furniture,
try offering her corrugated cardboard scratchers. If your cat
likes the carpet, try a carpet scratching post. If she likes
to scratch on wood, try a post with both wood and rope.
Sometimes it is a matter of trial and error, but it is well
worth the effort to find what your animal's specific needs
are. Do not feel bad about the investment in the toys and
scratching posts. If your animal is not happy with the
product, take it back or donate it to a rescue organization.
The animals there will be happy to have it.
behaviors with your lavish attention and praise.
Be careful not
to punish animals. You might think you are scolding your cat
for pottying in the house, but he might think you are scolding him for pottying. That can have a disastrous outcome!
I have known of cats who became so anxious about peeing that
they had bladder and urinary tract problems for the rest of
Never seek a
surgical remedy for a behavior problem That idea went out with
lobotomy! Surgically declawing a cat is a grave mistake made
by many who are looking for a quick fix. By declawing a cat
(in reality amputating the cat's toes at the most distal
joint) you might think you are addressing the scratching
problem but you must believe that you are asking for it. By
declawing, you are bringing on far worse problems like biting
and litter box avoidance.
a dog, you might have a quieter back yard, but your
veterinarian has surgically cut your dog's vocal cords. This
often leads to scarring and even obstruction of the opening of
the wind pipe or trachea. A debarked dog cannot alert anyone
to where he is, nor can he protect himself. Debarking a dog is
like dismantling the horn in your car, sure you don't want
to hear it all the time, but when you need your horn, you are sure glad you have it!
When dealing with animals with anxiety, it is very important
that they get their exercise. No animal should be without it.
I recommend that dogs who are licking their own skin raw
because of separation anxiety be taken on a minimum of two
walks a day for an hour or more each. This also helps when
dogs are aggressive. Make sure that your dog, who has a
pack-animal mentality, knows that you are the leader of the
pack, the alpha-dog, and that he can relax in the ranks. Do
not let your dog lead you on walks, always lead him. Do not feed
him before you eat, feed him after. He knows he will get his
food, but by having to wait, he learns that you are in charge
and that he does not need to worry.