Behavior & Training
Common Pet Problems
Excessive barking has several causes, ranging from stress to excitement and boredom. Some breeds, like huskies, are known for being quite vocal, and barking is a natural breed characteristic. But if your dog’s barking is excessive, consult a vet to ensure the root of the problem is not health-related, as dogs can bark when they’re in pain.
If the barking is behavioral, training may be required.
Litter Box Issues
Make sure the litter box is cleaned regularly, is properly sized (up to 1 ½ times the size of your cat), and is in a private area. Once you find a litter your cat likes, do not change it. A recently-adopted cat may be anxious and will need some time adapting to their new surroundings. A bored cat needs plenty of toys and playtime.
Most litter box issues have simple solutions but could have medical causes. If persistent, a veterinarian should be consulted.
Cats scratch for many reasons. It removes the older, outer layer of their claws, marks territory, and allows a cat to stretch their entire body. A suitable scratching post will prevent them from damaging your furniture.
For a consultation with a cat behaviorist in the St. Louis area, the APA recommends That Cat Girl.
Possible signs of separation anxiety include destructive behavior, barking, pacing, and escape attempts. Consult a vet to rule out any health issues and if the negative behaviors persist, see a trainer for more options.
Dog Training Tips
Crate-training provides your dog with a secure, personal space that they can feel safe in, and helps prevent bad behavior while you’re away. First, find a kennel large enough to not feel cramped, but small enough for a cozy-feeling den. Get a bed for the kennel and place it in a well-traveled area.
When introducing your puppy to the crate, use treats and toys to make it a positive experience. Develop a command, such as “kennel” or “crate.” Over time, your dog will get used to their new space and go there voluntarily. Crate training also has the benefit of incentivizing outside bathroom use.
Potty training requires patience. Puppies are most likely to go to the bathroom 15 minutes after eating, drinking, playing, exercising, or waking up from a nap. Make sure you take them outside during that window. Don’t push them to hold their bladder past their age or physical limit. And be prepared to take a puppy out in the night or early morning.
Puppy pads can make the housebreaking process difficult, especially as your pet transitions into adulthood. But for toy breeds or very small dogs they can be a helpful tool.
Use positive reinforcement and treats to reward a job well done, but also know that accidents happen and your dog shouldn't be punished when they do. To reduce messes, puppies should be under your supervision until fully trained.
Preventing dog bites requires an understanding of body language. An aggressive dog will make themselves look bigger and lunge, growl, or bark. A scared or anxious dog will attempt to make themselves look smaller and can become aggressive if they feel cornered. Children are among the most common bite victims and should learn to not approach or outrun an unfamiliar dog, or one that’s sleeping, eating, growling, barking, chewing on a toy or treat, or caring for puppies. For pet owners, ensure your dog is properly socialized and always supervise interactions between children and your pets.
Dog Park Etiquette
A day at the dog park can be extremely beneficial, both physically and mentally. But, there are a few rules to keep in mind. Make sure your dog is up to date on their vaccinations, including flea and tick treatments. Pay attention and make sure they’re playing safely with the others, and know what to do if a fight breaks out.
Do not bring puppies to the dog park, and ensure your dog is obedient to basic commands such as “come,” “sit,” and “stay” — even when distracted. Because dog parks have many unfamiliar people and pets, ensure your dog is well-socialized to avoid overstimulation and anxiety. But even well-trained and socialized pets can enter negative situations, so pay attention as they play and be prepared to leave if needed.
Before deciding on a dog trainer, narrow down based on your needs. Do you want basic training or something more specialized? Do you need a trainer or a behaviorist that can work with your dog to fix or alter aspects of their behavior?
The APA recommends our partners at GoodPup. With GoodPup you can train your dog with support from a certified trainer, one-on-one, right in your own home via video chat. Through our partnership, GoodPup is also offering one week free to anyone who adopts from the APA. This is a perfect way to bond with your new pup and help them adjust to their new home.
We also have additional training information from the experts at Best Friends Animal Society.