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Our dogs and cats do things as puppies and kittens that we think are cute at the time; but that we may not necessarily want them to do as adult members of the household. Unfortunately, each excited or even remotely positive reaction that we give just feeds into a pet’s natural drive to seek attention and/or please his/her caregiver. Some of these actions have minimal long term effects; but some can create serious problems over time. For some households, the same behavior may be perceived in a wide range from benign to extremely serious. I am going to cover a few of the common behaviors that we may be encouraging.
All puppies and kittens feel the need to teeth as their adult teeth are coming in. This at first cute behavior can rapidly become annoying and problematic, especially in homes with very young or elderly family members. Both canines and felines can become very involved in this activity, and rapidly advance to chewing on arms and feet. The can start to chase you around the house and attack your feet. The more a pet does this, the more they think they are able to do this, and can become dominant over you, the pet owner. This can become a serious aggression problem.
There are several things that you can do to prevent this from becoming a problem. First, discourage puppies and kittens from chewing on people. Give them toys and treats to chew on instead. Do not play tug of war games. This has been shown by many behaviorists to encourage/promote aggression. Use water spray bottles to discourage undesired behavior, and be consistent. You can’t encourage a behavior some of the time, and then discourage it at other times. I recommend group obedience training for all dogs once they have completed their puppy vaccines. Sycamore Lane Kennels (209) 334-1316 www.sycamorelanekennels.com and Guaranteed Dog Training (209) 462-2633 www.gdogtraining.com provide excellent instruction. I also recommend to spay/neuter all canines and felines by 6 months of age.
Pet owners commonly enjoy sharing their food with their pets despite the fact that this can lead to many health as well as behavior problems. This is difficult because our society associates food with love. When you think of the family getting together, and people coming home for the holidays, it is centered around food. The more that you feed your dog or cat people food, the more he or she will ask and even demand it. It can get to the point that your cherished canine or feline will not let you eat in front of them without giving some to him or her. Some people are fine with, and enjoy having their pets share every meal. Just realize that problems can result from this activity. It can also lead to a range of health problems from mild Gastritis to severe Pancreatitis, Irritable Bowl Disease, Constipation and possible Obstruction, Obesity, Improper nutrition, and refusal to eat canine or feline diets.
Feeding people food is a difficult cycle to break once it is started. You can feed your pet his/her food at the same time that you eat. By doing this, you are both eating at the same time. In some cases, you may need to close off the area you are eating in or crate/confine your companion while you are eating. Give your pet time to eat his or her food. Some companions do not eat every day. It is not uncommon in small dogs for them to only eat 3 times a week.
Some types of people food are ok for your buddy, it depends on his/her specific metabolism. Fruits and veggies are a good source of vitamins, and are low in calories. Just don’t give grapes, raisons, or onions. Chicken and rice, plain bread, and plain pasta are often used as a diet when dogs are experience stomach upset.
Please realize that if you start to cook for your companion, it may be difficult to get him or her back onto a normal diet. Happy Dog is a grain mixture that is nutritionally balanced, all you do is add meat to it and cook. The benefit of this diet is that you are meeting the needs of your companion for vitamins and minerals. It can be very difficult if not impossible to consistently cook random items from home and meet the nutritional needs of your canine.
People have very mixed opinions about allowing pets to sleep in the bed or be on the furniture in general. At a minimum, I do think it raises an animal up towards you level in the hierarchy. For some pets, this may not be a problem. I think it is less of an issue for cats than for dogs; but again, it varies with each household. Keep in mind, especially with dogs, how big that a canine will be at a mature size. This is not an action that you should start with a puppy, if you don’t want it to occur when he or she is an adult. If you don’t want this behavior at all, crates, closing doors, baby gates, furniture covers, squirting with water, furniture spray, and other devices exist to help deter it.
Always think ahead. It is very easy to inadvertently reinforce unwanted pet behaviors. Do your best to encourage the desired behavior and discourage the undesired behavior. Your veterinarian can help you. Sometimes a referral to a veterinary behaviorist is needed. Medications can also help with problem behaviors. It is better to address problems early on, as behavioral issues tend to escalate. Unfortunately, behavioral problems are the number one reason that household pets are euthanized. Please discuss such problems with your veterinarian as soon as possible.