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Correcting Bad Habits in Dogs and Cats

Advice is provided for correcting problems like spraying, attention-seeking meowing, eating harmful things, and more through positive reinforcement training, meeting activity needs, and other strategies.

Taking care of one's dog requires attention and dedication. Often, however, pet parents can make unintentional mistakes that can compromise the health and well-being of their furry friend.

Correcting pet behaviour. Dogs and cats are lovely animals, four-legged friends who brighten up life. However, over time, they can acquire bad habits that become difficult for their owners to manage and harmful to the beasts.

Some misbehaviours are easy to eradicate, others a little less so. Some do damage in the house, those who tend to eat junk food, those who poop around, and those who bark insistently or do not respond to commands… the list is genuinely vast and varied.

One of the most common mistakes is to consider the unsuitable behaviour of puppies as something funny, thinking that as they grow up, such attitudes will disappear or die out on their own. Nothing could be wrong: animals will perpetuate their actions without the appropriate corrections.

The most common bad habits of dogs

When you first brought your dog home, he was probably a quiet and sweet puppy until you left him alone to go to work. On your return you found rubbish strewn on the floor, torn curtains, bitten shoes and many other disasters. Do you recognise yourself in this situation? You are in good company: doing damage is one of the most common misbehaviours in dogs.

Furthermore, it can happen that Fido does not respond correctly to commands: he may not have been taught this as a puppy, or the animal needs a different training approach to learn how to respond to commands such as “come“, “sit“, or “down“.

If, during a walk, we notice that our furry friend pounces on something potentially DANGEROUS, we can DETERMINE HIS ATTENTION with a toy or biscuits.

Bad habits may include the tendency to jump on people or to bark excessively at the slightest stimulus. If this happens, it is possible that the owner paid too much attention to noise when the dog was a puppy.

Beware also of hyperactivity: if our dog never “runs out of batteries“, he may need more physical activity. Help your four-legged friend burn off and channel excess energy at the park, beach, or any other physical activity he enjoys.

What to do if the cat ‘sprays

Spraying urine is part of the natural behaviour of cats, as it is a way of marking their territory and witnessing their passage. However, this attitude can be particularly annoying if Kitty does it indoors, perhaps on sofas or beds.

First, it is essential to consult the vet to dispel the suspicion that the animal suffers from a lower urinary tract infection. This disease can cause the kitten to urinate outside the litter box and can, therefore, be confused with spraying.

Recognise any environmental causes of your cat's bad behaviour.
Observe his environment to determine any factor that may be the cause.

As long as the pet is healthy, it is good to remember that common spraying can also be a sign of stress: remember if any recent events have upset the kitten. This could be, for example, vital events such as the arrival of a child or another pet or a move, and small things such as moving furniture into the furry one’s favourite room.

Although this behaviour is annoying, it is important not to punish the cat for spraying: our feline friends do not understand the concept of punishment, and implementing this solution could worsen things. On the other hand, cleaning the ‘offending’ area immediately is essential: if the smell persists, Kitty will be encouraged to try again.

Keep in mind the most frequent behavioural problems in cats.

Although every cat is unique and each can have specific problems, bad behaviour generally presents itself in seven ways:

  • Avoids the litter box or refuses to use it.
  • Marks territory (furniture and other objects) with urine.
  • Scratches furniture and other objects in the house. It may also scratch its owner or other people when fighting for play.
  • Acts aggressively towards others or the owner.
  • Acts aggressively towards other cats living in the house.
  • Manifests stress or anxiety.
  • Is afraid of people or objects.

Eating things off the floor: a habit to avoid

The dog wants to explore spaces with his senses: by licking and putting things in his mouth, he learns to know reality as a puppy. However, when the animal cannot control itself, potentially dangerous situations can arise, such as ingesting harmful objects or poisons. The craving to eat everything can depend on stress, boredom or specific diseases.

In the most extreme cases, it is advisable to consult a vet. Still, very often, it can be enough to discourage this vice by acting patiently and carefully observing the animal’s behaviour.

Fido, for example, tends to lick the urine released by other animals to store information. If our furry friend is pouncing on something during a walk, we can divert his attention with a distraction, perhaps a toy or biscuits. Using snacks for so-called ‘positive reinforcement’ can also be helpful if the pet shows an interest in other animals’ droppings, a habit that can pose a health risk.

Cats imitate their owners’ habits.

You can re-educate it by using 'remote' correction. This technique associates an unpleasant texture, smell, taste or sound with a bad behaviour to discourage the animal from repeating it.
Avoid punishing the cat physically or verbally; it is one of the least effective ways to correct a cat’s bad behaviour.

Research has shown that their owners strongly influence the behaviour of cats. The researchers studied two groups: one consisting of animals that lived with their owners in relatively small flats and the second of cats that lived in larger houses and could go outside.

With one clarification: the animals in both groups always received all the necessary attention regarding food, cuddles and veterinary care. The study showed apparent differences in the lifestyles and behaviour of the two groups of felines. The former, in particular, showed rhythms much more synchronised with their human companions than the latter. Conversely, the latter showed attitudes much more in line with those typical of the cat.

In other words, cats seem to be endowed with such a pronounced sociability that they take their owners as a model to imitate: that is why those who have one or more of these pets in their homes must take care of their health and spirit, for example by making them play to stimulate them to remain active.

However, in many cases, the opposite is also true: in certain situations, it is these felines that ‘shape’ their owners’ behaviour, for instance, by purring and meowing to persuade family members to get up at the crack of dawn to feed them.

Thank you for reading the article to the end. Your reading contribution was significant to us.

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The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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Written by Frenchie Breed

The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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