They bark. They have accidents. They scratch and claw. They chew things they’re not supposed to chew. They might even get a little too excited when you have company. We love our pets, and we take the good with the bad when it comes to a cat or a dog. After all, in most cases, the good far outweighs the bad. At the same time, we don’t have to continue living with their bad habits. All it takes is a little patience and persistence to break them. Here’s a look at some of the common bad habits associated with cats and dogs and how to break them:
Dogs bark. There’s no getting around it. And while you’ll likely never be able to stop a dog from barking completely, you can teach them to manage it during times when the doorbell rings, when they see the mailman or when they spot another dog.
Breaking the habit: Teach your dog an alternate behavior when they see something that normally drives them to bark. When they act accordingly and refrain from barking, reward them for their good behavior. This positive reinforcement will only strengthen their actions over time. If they still struggle with barking, it may be worthwhile to invest in a bark collar or bark control device to further enforce the difference between appropriate and inappropriate barking. Remotes are available with some bark control collar devices as well, so you have further control of reinforcing the good and inappropriate behaviors.
Accidents & Urine Marking
There’s arguably nothing more frustrating than when your dog or cat has an accident or marks their territory in your home. This habit can be due to a number of environmental and behavioral factors, but often times with accidents, it’s because nobody is around to let the animal outside.
Breaking the habit: Begin by cleaning the spot with an enzymatic cleaner to remove the smell, so they are less likely to return to the area and repeat the act. It’s important to then correct the animal’s behavior and take them outside or to their litter box.
For a dog, if you catch the animal in the act, interrupt him, verbally scold him for the bad behavior, and take him outside immediately to discourage the behavior. For cats, the best way to prevent accidents and urine marking is to make sure the litter box is cleaned frequently. If you have multiple cats, it’s recommended to have more than one litter box in your home to prevent your cats from feeling the need to compete for their own territory. Also, cats have the tendency to urine mark when they’re hormonal, so getting your cat spayed or neutered can also help curb this behavior.
A pet door can come in handy for dogs, as well as cats that prefer to do their business outside rather than in a litter box. Simply install it within a door or window in your home and teach your animal how to use it. They’ll get the hang of it soon enough and they will then have the ability to let themselves out when they need to do their business. If you cannot install into a door or window, there are also options for walls and sliding glass pet doors as well!
Chewing, Clawing and Scratching
Dogs like to chew. Cats like to claw and scratch. It’s in their respective natures, but you don’t want Fido chewing up your shoes or Fluffy scratching up your leather couch. So how do you nip these behaviors in the bud?
Breaking the habit: When your dog chews something he’s not supposed to, immediately remove the object from him and replace it with something he should be chewing on, like a bone. Then, positively reinforce the animal when he chews on appropriate things. You can also invest in bitter tasting sprays to further deter a dog from chewing on objects in your home. For cats, you can eliminate scratching by providing them with a scratching post or mat. They allow cats to get their scratching out on something that’s designated for them. If your cat starts scratching on something valuable, just be sure you remove him from the situation and place him near the scratching post immediately.