Taming The Shrew – When Good Pets Go Bad

Downward facing dog is a great pose. I know, I do it all the time – it`s kind of my signature asana, if you will. Ahem. But when your doggie, kitty, or any other kind of pet, is posing to be a downer at home (translation: they`re no Mr. Or Miss Behavin`s), you know you need some help!
We pets don’t act out inappropriately just ‘cuz. My neighbour’s cat Allowishes (you’ve heard about her) is a total brat, but not because she has a bad attitude; I myself drove my human Sage up the wall for a time (see that post HERE) , and not just for my own fun.
Pets act out because we’re stressed, sick, or have no clue how to behave.

With what can seem like warp speed, we can completely soil the house, destroy your belongings, bark-meow-chirp excessively, unearth buried treasure in the backyard, carve holes in the doors, engage in bar brawling, defy your commands, and even attack you. For many animal species, this is normal behaviour! And truth be told, we have no problem with it. The humans we live with do, and we look to you to teach us not to do it.
Pets need to be taught how to, and not-to, act, as early as possible. By the time we`re one year old it`s almost too late. The best way to teach us how to act is to reward us for everything we do that you love – over, and over, and over again. Repetition never gets tired for us (you maybe, but it`s what works for us to help you stay sane. Keepatitkeepatitkeepatit). What ends up happening more often than not, though, is that a human will pay more attention to our bad behavior – and reward it! Eample:
- Prruskin sits by door, mewing. You open door to let her out. She mews and you open it to let her in. She mews and you open it to let her out. You ignore her next mew, she scratches door. You open it to let her in. And so on.
- Brian the bulldog runs away. You chase him.
- Sage comes home. I run to greet her, jumping up and licking her. She enthusiastically greets me back.
This kind of behavior is not cute, and not funny. And it’s not good. But this is the kind of stuff most of us get away with, much to the chagrin of our humans. It gets us attention, even if we are scolded in the process.
What’s hard for me to talk about are my friends who have little attention at all – some are tied out in their yards, or left inside all day. These are the pets who end up with serious issues – they can be lonely, bored, frustrated and anxious, but they act out in ways that can seem totally malicious! Which we pets totally aren’t. We ain’t people, people – we don’t have a vindictive bone in our bodies.
So here are a few ways to get us to act the way you want us to. But a few don’ts before the do’s:
DON’T
– Never hit an animal. We are extremely fragile creatures, especially us smaller ones (birds, rodents, lizards) and for many of us even the slightest force can cause severe injury or death. Physically abusing an animal can also lead to irreversible psychological problems, and can promote aggression and viciousness.

– Don’t hold a grudge. We are extremely intelligent, but also very sensitive creatures. When you express displeasure with our behavior, make the lesson short and sweet. Prolonged negative attention can cause undue emotional stress for your pet.
– Never compromise our health. “Punishing” a pet by witholding food or neglecting cage cleaning is never a fit way to deal with a behavior problem. This is not only mean, but can cause serious physical and emotional damage for the pet.
Most abused pets, especially dogs, love their owners – unconditional love is a unique characteristic. But, it is the quickest way to eliminate our trust in you. Punishment will not stop our behavior problems.
DO
– Remember the correct way to respond.
– Respond at eye level. If you have a smaller animal like a bird, have them step onto your hand and bring them to your eyeline.
– Be expressive! Do not be afraid to frown.
– Speak sternly. Use a low tone and be as “matter of fact” as possible, keeping it short.
– Give your pet some space. A time out for a few minutes will help pets to reflect on what happened. Follow it by playful interaction, to help your pet know that they are still a good boy or girl.
– Repeat! Repeat! Repeat! Get it? Get it? Get it?
We can work it out, oh humans who we adore. Take a little time to find out why we`re acting up, or out, and with a little patience and love we`ll be back to business. The good kind. The kind that makes you wonder what the heck your life was like before you had a critter to care for.
Giving y`awll a paw whenever I can, Buster

Photo Credit: chainsawpanda
Photo Credit: dan4th
Photo Credit: technowannabe

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