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Pet manners: 4 ways to improve your pet's behaviour

Photography by Carlyle Routh Image by: Photography by Carlyle Routh Author: Canadian Living

Pets

Pet manners: 4 ways to improve your pet's behaviour

The scenario: Neighbours say your dog barks all day while you're at work.
Dogs are social creatures and can become frustrated when their owners leave for the day. Rather than get defensive with neighbours, ask them when your dog barks and for how long, suggests Kathy Currie-Eyers, owner of TopDog K9 Services in Barrie, ON, and chair of the Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers. "If the barking is alert barking (when people pass by the house or apartment door), use barriers or close the drapes to shield the dog's vision," she says.

If the barking is boredom-based, be sure to leave your dog with some interactive food-dispensing toys for stimulation—and give him as much exercise as you can when you are together. "But make it exercise, not just another five minutes added to their walk," says Currie-Eyers. That means lots of running and chasing balls outdoors. If these solutions don't work, the barking may be stress- or anxiety-related. "You might want to look at the possibility of using doggie daycare or a dog walker," suggests Currie-Eyers.

The scenario: Your cat likes to make himself at home on the lap of anyone who comes to visit.
A social cat is lovely, but not every houseguest will appreciate the attention. "When it comes to cats, many people have very strong opinions, to put it nicely," says Pam Johnson-Bennett, a Nashville-based cat behaviourist and author. "If you feel they're uncomfortable and just trying to be polite, give your cat a fun activity to engage in so he'll be occupied but still be able to be in the room. This would be a perfect opportunity for using a food-dispensing toy to keep him busy," she says. Some cats will not be deterred, so you may have to put them in another room with something to keep them busy. Catnip is a great last resort, says Johnson-Bennett. "He can have a good time and then take a well-deserved nap."

The scenario: Your neighbour informs you that your cat is using her garden as a litter box.
A large, soil-filled garden makes a very attractive litter box substitute for outdoor cats. Neighbours, however, want to see flowers, not your cat's waste. "There are some people who may resort to deterrents to keep cats out of gardens, and you don't want to take a chance that a potentially harmful one might be used on your cat," says Johnson-Bennett. Keeping relations friendly might mean your cat will have to stay indoors or wear a harness and leash. If you'd rather not constrain your cat, Johnson-Bennett suggests purchasing garden netting and helping your neighbour place it in her garden under a layer of soil. This will make it more difficult for your cat to dig and cover her waste, so she'll likely move on.

The scenario: Children often try to pet your dog.
Even if your dog is great with children, tell any who approach to ask before reaching out to pet your pooch, says Currie-Eyers. She adds that dogs and hugs do not go together. "Hugs are a sign of affection in humans; but hugs invade the dog's space and can be threatening. Some family pets learn to accept hugs, but it isn't something that they enjoy." If your dog isn't good with kids or you're unsure of how she's feeling that day, it's best to put yourself between child and dog, says Currie-Eyers. "Explain that your dog is not up for a visit today, but thank them for asking first."

Check out our tips on how to teach your dog good manners.
                                               
This story was originally titled "Proper Petiquette" in the March 2014 issue.
           
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Pet manners: 4 ways to improve your pet's behaviour

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