Pets are such a comfort and wonderful part of our lives. They’re fun, cute, and give us love. BUT! There’s always a BUT. . . They can be stressful too. As much as we want things to warm, fuzzy, and perfect . . . we know that life is a little more complicated than that. Every family has their specific dynamics and every pet is different with very individual personalities. We don’t want a family’s relationship with their pet to be undermined. SO, WHAT DO WE DO??
Here are some topics (problems and helpful interventions)
Early intervention is best, when possible (like when they are puppies and kittens)
Cats Scratching and Clawing. Damaging furniture is frustrating and can be costly to replace. Having scratching posts is important. Both vertical, horizontal, and located in “public” parts of the house (not isolated). The posts should be made of rough material that they can shred and be stable so that they don’t fall over and scare the cat.
Inappropriate Urination. Cat urine on the carpet or furniture is one of the most offensive things to us, but not necessarily to a cat. This is a way that they mark their territory. Keeping the litter box clean is important. The size and type of litter box is helpful too. Some cats benefit from a larger litter box, especially older arthritic cats. Litter boxes with covers and a door are scary to some cats. The type of litter can be a factor too – fine grained, unscented is ideal. The location of the litter box is can make a difference. If it’s in the laundry room and the dryer buzzer is going off periodically, then the cat is not going to want to use it. So a quite spot free of things that might startle them is best. If there are multiple cats, then multiple litter boxes are needed. A general rule of thumb is to have one litter box per cat, plus one more. The more cats you have, the more likely there are going to be territory marking. Enhancing their environment is worthwhile. Cat trees, Catio’s (patio for cats), and access to a safe yard are helpful.
Dog biting family members. As puppies, play biting is normal. They are so CUTE, it is hard to not engage and let them grab your hand. However, as they grow up, this becomes a bad habbit. No longer is it cute and it HURTS! Which certainly undermines your relationship with your dog. Best thing is to play with a toy and calm play time down. Don’t necessarily reprimand the dog, just phase that kind of play out. Redirect it to toys, training time, or walks.
Inter-dog aggression. We see this as a problem for a lot of dogs while on walks. It is somewhat natural, dogs are territorial by nature. Barking and lunging at other dogs can make your walk miserable though. The root issue is to make sure your dog feels that you are in control of the situation. Use a Gentle Leader or similar type halter type collar, this not only acts as a collar but directs their head including their attention = to you. Use a normal leash (extend leashes don’t work very well). Hold a section of the leash firm in one hand with only 1-2 foot of distance to your dog and hold the slack in the other hand. This keeps your dog from careening back and forth on the end of your leash creating chaos and uncertainty. Having your dog short and controlled creates reassurance and a semblance of calm.
Separation anxiety. Many pets get scared and anxious when left alone. When they are young, is the ideal time to help them develop confidence to be home alone. Crate training is helpful for many dogs. They associate this as their “den” and have a sense of security. Getting used to sleeping and or spending time in their crate is something that is started from an early age. It is often hard at first. Naturally you want to coddle them when they are young but it can lead to problems later. Gradually getting them used to sleeping in their crate right from the start is ideal. Having toys, etc, for them makes the transition easier. Another tip to help with with separation anxiety is to keep your comings and going as benign as possible. When you leave, don’t say good bye, just keep things very “matter of fact” – just do what you need to do to prepare and then leave. When you arrive, ignore your pets. Making deal about your arrival emphasizes the whole leaving and arriving process excessively. Just ignore them as best possible and once things are settled and their focus isn’t completely on you – then give them some attention.
Every pet is an individual and every circumstance varies greatly. These are some basic issues and tips. For more in depth discussions it is best to schedule an appointment with us. Depending on the circumstances, we may advise seeing a trainer. We have a number of highly qualified trainers in our area that we can recommend.