A common complaint from cat owners is that their cat is scratching their furniture. Why do cats scratch? Scratching is an innate behavior that lets cats relieve stress, stretch their muscles, file their nails, and mark territory. Rather than trying to stop your cat from scratching, you need to find an appropriate outlet for your cat and prevent them from scratching your furniture.
Selecting a Scratching Post
First, invest in a high quality scratching post that has the following characteristics:
Placing the Scratching Post
Next, find an appropriate spot to put your new scratching post. You want the post to be noticeable for your cat so don’t hide it in a bedroom. Place in plain sight. If your cat has already started to use an inappropriate surface, place the new scratching post near there. If your cat scratches door frames, they are most likely marking their territory. Place the post near entry ways.
Getting Your Cat to Use the Scratching Post
Use positive reinforcement to get your cat to use the scratching post. Here are some tips to get your cat interested in the post.
Preventing Inappropriate Scratching
If your cat already has a habit of scratching inappropriately, you need to prevent them from using that surface. You can use Sticky Paws or double sided tape on the surfaces your cat is scratching. If it is a piece of furniture, you could place a sheet or towel over it to block their access. To prevent further damage to your furniture, you could use Soft Paws, which are temporary nail caps that prevent your cat
from doing damage with her claws.
Warning About Declawing
A quick word about declawing. Declawing is a surgical procedure that amputates the first bone of your cat’s claws. It is painful and can lead to issues with balance as well as behavior problems. Most European countries have banned it and it has recently been banned in New York State.
One of the top complaints among dog owners is that their dog pulls on their walks. What should be a fun activity for both dogs and owners turns into a battle of wills. Learn how to change your dog's behavior for the better and make walks an enjoyable part of your day.
First, it's good to know why your dog pulls. The simple reason dogs pull is because it works and we follow behind them. The other reason is because the environment is more exciting than you are. So what is an owner to do?
How to set your dog up for success:
1. Have high value treats like freeze dried meat or dog food roll. You are competing with a world of smells and other interesting things on your walk. Grab some high value, nutritious treats and make your dog work for his dinner on his walk rather than a free bowl of food.
2. Use a no pull harness initially like the Freedom Harness.
3. Exercise your dog with a game of tug, fetch, or find it before you begin loose leash walk training.
Next, teach your dog what you want from him:
1. As soon as your dog pulls, stop and go the opposite direction for several steps. Continue when there is slack on the leash.
2. Reward your dog for the desired behavior:
a) When the leash is loose
b) When your dog looks at you
3. When you train, think in terms of time instead of distance (i.e. 15 minutes rather than around the block.) The first few times you go on walks, they may not be far but after some practice, you will retrain your dog to learn that slack on the leash means less stopping and longer walks.
5. Change your pace from slow to fast sporadically to keep your dog excited and engaged.
6. Be consistent and aim to work on behavior several times a day for short periods of time.
Having a baby can be a wonderful, exciting new adventure but you may be worried on how your four legged baby may react. Start early and follow our tips to help prepare your dog for a new member of the family:
1. Use the appropriate equipment for dog walks: 4-6 foot leash, front clip harness or head collar. Do not use a retractable leash or punitive equipment like prong or choke chain collars.
Learning to read your dog's body language can help you nip problems in the bud. Dogs are very expressive but sometimes their signs can be subtle. If you are able to pinpoint these subtle signs, you can take your dog out of the situation that stresses him, give him some space, or you can help him cope with the situation by creating a positive experience.
Subtle signs of stress include:
What is the dog below telling you?
This dog is not comfortable and looks unsure. His mouth is closed, ears are back, and he is keeping his body closed.
It is also good to know when your dog is in a happier, more content state.
Signs of a relaxed dog:
The dog on the right looks like he is smiling!
Dogs are social animals, that's a huge part of why we have them in our lives. However, we live in a world where we cannot take them everywhere so pups must learn to be on their own from time to time. By teaching them it is okay to be alone, we can prevent your puppy from developing Separation Anxiety.
Separation anxiety is when a dog displays distress behavioral issues when left alone. Stress signs associated with separation anxiety include: drooling, panting, howling, barking, urinating & defecating (in an otherwise house-trained dog), whining, scratching or biting at doors or windows, and other destructive behaviors.
To help your puppy learn to be alone, the Austin Dog Trainer recommends the following tips:
1. Exercise. Before you are going to leave your pup, get some off his energy out with a game of fetch or a walk around the block.
2. Make comings and goings nonchalant. This will prevent your puppy from getting riled up when you leave and when you return.
3. Provide a puppy safe area for your pup to hang out like a crate or baby gated area. Keep this area somewhere you spend time so your pup does not see it as an isolated, lonely place.
4. Provide them something fun to do while you are gone. This is where Kong toys, bully sticks, and other food dispensing toys come into play. These will keep your pup busy and focused on something positive rather than your absence.
5. Practice leaving them for short times while you are at home. Put your puppy in his puppy safe zone with some toys or chews and leave for a few minutes, come back and toss a few pieces of kibble in his zone and leave for a few more minutes.
6. Don't reinforce whining or barking. Ignore your dog by turning your back and wait until your puppy is quiet until you let him out.
Check back next week for Puppy Problem Prevention: Part 3 – Learning Your Dog's Body Language
Bringing home a new puppy can bring joy, excitement, and stress. It is important to start your puppy off on the right paw and develop a proactive plan of action. In our series, Puppy Problem Prevention, we will discuss how to reduce the chances of developing behavior problems like separation anxiety, reactivity, resource guarding, and socialization issues. By intervening early on, you can help your pup grows into a well-mannered dog.
Part 1 – Resource Guarding
Resource guarding occurs when a dog is protective of a resource it values like food, rawhide, a person, or a location. For wild or feral dogs, guarding is a highly adaptive survival trait. Guarding is a normal behavior. However, now that dogs are sharing our home it is not desirable for them to guard their resources.
If you have just brought a new puppy into your home, you can help your pup learn to share at an early age and prevent any issues around their resources. The general rule of thumb with pups is to always be giving and never taking. You want to start off by trading instead. If your pup is chewing on your shoe and you go over and take it away, he learns that when you approach, you take things away. The more effective method is finding something he really likes (i.e. squeak toy, kong, bully stick, etc) and make that more enticing than the shoe.
Another activity you can do with your puppy is a fun food bowl exercise. At your puppy’s regular meal time, grab his empty food bowl and set it down. Your puppy will check out the bowl and look at you like “Hey, where’s the food?” Place a few pieces of your puppy’s food in the bowl and when he gobbles that up and looks at you; place a few more pieces of food in the bowl, and repeat. Try to do this with your puppy 2-3 times a week.
Lastly, teach your puppy a reliable “Drop It” and “Leave It” cue. The "Drop It" cue is used when your pup has already gotten a hold of something already and you want him to release it. "Leave It" means your pup is near or on his way to something he wants and you want him to ignore it and come to you.
If you see any of signs of guarding, it is important not to provoke or punish the dog and to seek professional help. The more pronounced the signs are, the better your dog is trying to communicate with you. For example, a dog that stiffens up, blocks the resource with his body, and growls is painting a clear picture that he does not want you to come any closer. If you were to correct the dog using force, it is highly likely that you would only get rid of the overt signs of guarding but not the actual guarding. This can lead to a dog doesn’t growl but just bites.
Check back next week for Puppy Problem Prevention: Part 2 – Separation Anxiety
These are a few of my favorite dog books regarding general dog behavior and training:
1. The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell
2. Don't Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor
3. How to Behave so Your Dog Does by Sophia Yin
4. The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller
5. How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks by Ian Dunbar
For dogs with specific issues:
1. The Cautious Canine by Patricia McConnell (Fearful Dogs)
2. Mine! by Jean Donaldson (Resource Guarding)
3. Feisty Fido by Patricia McConnell and Karen London (Reactive Dogs)
4. I'll Be Home Soon by Patricia McConnell (Separation Anxiety)
Currently I'm reading Dog Sense by John Bradshaw. It may make the list soon as well.
1. Start with baby steps. Before you take your training outside, practice with your dog in a quiet, low distraction area like in your house. Once your dog is successful (responding correctly 8 out of 10 times,) you can increase the distraction level.
2. Have the right kind of motivation for your dog. A high value treat like cheese or a small piece of hot dog works well. If your dog is toy obsessed, use a brand new toy. Remember you are competing with the environment (smells, dogs, squirrels, etc.) and you have to up the ante.
3. Be fun and engaging. Instead of just saying “come” and standing still, run away from your dog and make kissy noise or whistle. The more interesting you are, the more interested your dog will be in you. Running away from your dog, sparks your dog's natural instinct to chase so use it.
4. Only use the word “come” for positive things like toys, treats, and praise. If you call your dog to you and then do something unpleasant to your dog (like bath him or put him in his crate), you are punishing your dog for doing the right thing.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice. The more you practice, the better equipped your dog will be when come is necessary.
Check out this video of Mijo, the chocolate lab. He comes as soon as he hears his name, which is great so he can go on lots of outdoor adventures off leash.
With Halloween just around the corner, it is important to consider your pets. Strangers in costumes, loud noises, spooky decorations can seem threatening or scary to your pet. When an animal feels threatened or scared, aggression may occur.
To keep you pet safe and happy, exercise them prior to trick-or-treaters coming out. Keep your pets inside and consider putting them in a quiet, safe room. This is a simple solution that prevents your pet from slipping out the front door, knocking over a Jack O'Lantern or eating Halloween candy. In the room, give your pet a comfy bed and a few toys or chews, and play soothing music.
If you want your dog with you, make sure to have him on leash. Watch for signs of stress like panting, yawning, lip licking, tucked tail, not eating, and pacing. If you see these signs, put your dog away and let them relax in a room. Lastly, make sure your pets have proper identification in case your pet dashes out of the house.
CPDT-KA and Animal Behavior Consultant