Pets are great companions, but naughty behavior can be stressful for owners. Notorious pet issues like scratching or chewing, accidents, and poor social skills can push any pet owner’s buttons. The Denver Area Veterinary Medical Society suggests several steps to help avoid or address difficult behavior.
First and foremost, visit your veterinarian to make sure there are no physical issues affecting your pet’s behavior. Animals can’t talk and tell us what might be wrong, so their behavior is often a clue that something might be physically wrong.
Common owner complaints are about scratching and chewing, which are actually instinctive behaviors in cats and dogs. However, when your cat uses the sofa as a scratching post or the dog chews up your favorite pair of shoes, it can be extremely frustrating.
Dog chewing can be tricky because there are a variety of reasons for the activity, including maintaining a strong jaw, teething, lack of stimulation, and anxiety. Keep valuable items out of reach of the dog, give it appropriate chew toys, and make sure it’s getting plenty of exercise by taking extended walks or having extra playtime.
Cat scratching can be prevented by removing or covering the desired object and providing scratching posts as a replacement. If your cat doesn’t seem interested in the posts, try coaxing it by scenting the scratching surface with catnip or a attaching a toy. And don’t forget about play time for your kitty. Cats need to exercise and play, just like dogs do. If they aren’t being stimulated and engaged, all that extra energy can turn to scratching or other destructive behaviors.
Another frustrating issue is house soiling. This can occur because a pet is marking its territory for other pets, venting frustration, or exhibiting a certain surface preference, such as carpet. Cats can be especially picky, and tend to soil outside the litter box when it isn’t clean enough, if they don’t like the brand of litter, or they have to share it with another cat.
To prevent a cat from soiling outside the litter box, you need to scoop at least once a day and wash out the box entirely once a week. Additionally, there should be at least one box per cat. If a cat is still doing its business where it’s not supposed to, try removing the top if there is one, moving the litter box to a different area that’s easily accessible or near where the cat is eliminating, and cover the preferred area with less desirable surfaces like tin foil or sticky tape.
Dogs should be taken out on a regular schedule so they can anticipate a bathroom break. Owners can also bring treats to reward their dog when they eliminate in the proper area to encourage repeated behavior.
And, again, if these issues are easily resolved, talk to your veterinarian, as house soiling could indicate a hidden illness or physical issue.
Social issues such as aggression or shyness can also be troublesome for pet owners. Dogs and cats may be aggressive towards people or other pets for a number of reasons, ranging from fear or uncertainty around people to predatory. Aggression must be assessed based on who the pet is aggressive towards and the severity of its actions; biting and scratching is more severe than growling or hissing. The best way to deal with an aggressive pet is to know its limits and warning signs and work with a veterinarian and pet behavior specialist to determine the best method of diagnosing and treating the animal’s issues.
Scared or shy pets that flee or hide when they see people can also be worrisome to owners. The best way to prevent having a fearful pet is getting it accustomed to people before it is six months old. Having different people around will get the dog or cat used to being around others and socializing. If the pet is older, it may be more difficult to change its behavior, but the best method is introducing it to people in a comfortable setting. The pet will be most at ease if visitors speak quietly, avoid long periods of eye contact, and move slowly and cautiously to demonstrate that they are not a threat.
For most issues, there are ways to change or reduce the behavior and strengthen the bond between an owner and their furry friend. Try some of these simple suggestions, working regularly and consistently with your pet. If you still have issues, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to see if there might be another reason for your pet’s behavior.
For more pet tips, visit the Resources for Pet Owners page.