Pet ownership can be both fun and challenging. Every pet misbehaves from time to time, but when behavioral issues become a part of everyday life, pet owners may wring their hands and wonder how to get to the root of the problem.
Pet owners may not realize that they can contribute to common behavior problems. Here’s how to identify and deal with pets that may need some redirection.
Scratching: Pet experts note that cats need scratching as a way to remove the outer nail sheath. Scratching is also a way for cats to mark their territory in the wild. Provide plenty of safe and appropriate scratching posts so cats can leave the furniture alone. Line off restricted areas or try acid sprays or other insect repellents.
Guarding Resources: Many pets show aggression when they guard their property from others, whether necessary or not. Pets evolved from wild animals that had to compete for food, companions, and territories, so it’s understandable that genetics hasn’t been too fast to catch up with the modern life of pampered pets. Pet owners can choose to adopt small pets that can be hand-feed early, touched or manipulated while eating, or enjoy eating to try to prevent guarding. Older pets showing signs of guarding a resource may need the expertise of a certified Applied Animal Behavior specialist.
Inappropriate urination: Just when you think your dog has been housetrained or your cat has cuddled in his litter box, you may find that he is urinating elsewhere. Physical illnesses, such as kidney problems or diabetes, can be at the root of the problem. Some animals that have not been neutered or spayed may be engaging in “tagging” behavior, which spreads the scent throughout the area. Pet repair can alleviate the problem. Talk to a vet first to rule out some problems.
Barking: Barking to alert someone in the house may be a trait people look for in a dog. But when a dog’s barking becomes excessive, it may be indicative of a behavioral problem. Dogs may learn to use bark to their advantage. Some dogs may bark for walks, food, or attention – even if it’s passive attention from someone saying “shut up”. Some breeds bark more naturally than others. In such cases, the barking may be reduced but not completely eliminated. Again, a behaviorist may be able to help.
Jumping or excessive greeting: Similar to barking, some pets greet all visitors to the home (or outside) by jumping at people. This can be annoying and dangerous if a large animal jumps on a small person. Reward calm behavior by only giving attention to the pet after it has calmed down. Caring for the animal as soon as you get home while it is jumping sets a bad precedent and can lead to trouble jumping.
These are some of the common pet behaviors that pet owners may need to address to coexist peacefully with their animals.