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How to Solve the Most Common Pet Behavioral Problems

Every pet owner is probably familiar with these common pet blunders. Here's how to get your cat or dog to start behaving.

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Hug the cat and the dogChendongshan/Shutterstock

All pets have bad habits

Pets provide great company and generally love to please their owners, but there are a few bad habits they may adopt that can drive their owners bonkers. Some basic training and easy interventions can make life far more pleasant for pets and owners alike, suggests veterinarian Dr. Katrina Warren. Psst! These are the secrets your pet won’t tell you.

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English bulldog trying to reach cookieLunja/Shutterstock

Issue: Dogs jumping up

Dogs that jump up on people can be annoying, embarrassing and potentially dangerous.

Solution: The best strategy is to teach your dog that they will only receive attention when all four feet are firmly on the ground. Start as early as you can, as it’s easier to prevent this behavior than correct it. When you see your dog is about to jump up, turn your body away and ignore the dog until it settles down. Then reward the dog’s calm behavior by giving it treats and praise (you need to be prepared and always have treats on you). You can also try to distract the dog by giving them something else to do, ‘sit’ for example. When it is sitting quietly, give praise and treats. Besides treats, these are the things your dog actually wants from you.

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Fluffy domestic cat stretching on the sofaMagdanatka/Shutterstock

Issue: Cats scratching the furniture

Cats scratching furniture and carpet is an annoying and potentially expensive problem. Scratching is a natural, innate behavior used to remove the outer sheath of their claws and mark territory. Unfortunately, cats don’t realize that furnishings are inappropriate for this purpose.

Solution: Providing a scratching post is generally the simplest way to resolve the problem but you need to teach them to use it. Choose a post that is sturdy and tall enough for the cat to extend upwards at full length. If the cat is scratching particular furnishings, place the scratching post in front of the targeted object. If your cat continues to scratch, attempt to redirect them to the post using toys. If your cat continues to scratch the furniture, make sure they aren’t displaying signs that they’re secretly mad at you.

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Tricolor Australian Shepherd (Aussie) Puppy Looking Out a WindowMark Herreid/Shutterstock

Issue: Dogs going crazy at the doorbell

Many dogs run to the door and bark uncontrollably whenever the doorbell rings or visitors arrive. This is tiresome for owners and unsettling for visitors. Dogs quickly learn that the doorbell or knocking means visitors arriving and that this brings excitement and attention.

Solution: This behavior is best managed by training them to do something else when the bell rings –this will require patience, repetition and lots of treats. Start with no one at the door, and walk to the door and answer it as if someone was there. Then ask your dog to sit and reward it when quiet. Repeat this several times over a few days until the dog associates the process with sitting and treats.

Next, arrange for a friend or family member to knock or ring at the door and continue the process. Repeat this as many times as you need to until your dog realizes it will get treats but only if it doesn’t bark. Wagging their tail is a common thing dogs do when they meet someone new at the door, read up on these secrets your dog’s tail is trying to tell you.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest Australia

Dr. Katrina Warren
Reader's Digest Australia's regular pet columnist, Dr. Katrina Warren, is an established and trusted animal expert. Her longstanding role as a presenter on hit TV show Harry’s Practice has made her a household name in Australia.