Approaching Pet Behavior From a Positive and Rational Perspective

Many pet owners have found themselves in a challenging and uncomfortable position in the weeks and months after they take home their new dog or cat. Pet problems are a near universal issue for pet owners, and require patience, discipline, and, sometimes, outside help to solve.

Whether you’re dealing with a cat that consistently forgets to use the litter box, a dog that won’t stop barking at every car that passes your home, or any other of the seemingly thousands of potential behavioral issues that come along with keeping animals as pets, there are solutions available to help you get the behavior you want and need, consistently from your pet.

Pet Behavioral Management

Training any animal revolves around reinforcing good behaviors and providing alternate behaviors to the ones you do not wish to see. Many new pet owners (and those who believe that training a pet should be intuitive) make the mistake of accidentally reinforcing negative behaviors through punishment, and give up when this technique doesn’t seem to work.

Crate training, positive rewards that use food to reinforce desirable behaviors, and environmental management are all keys to successful behavioral management for your pets. Yelling at your pets, chasing them, harshly pulling on leashes, and other “disciplinary” measures not only do not work, but they also often have the opposite effect of what is intended.

Positive Reinforcement for Good Pet Behavior

You have to be very careful in training an animal away from problematic behaviors. This means, you need to be careful to reinforce the behavior you want, while avoiding rewarding in any way the behavior that you do not want. But this is far easier said than done. Understanding what motivates or rewards your dog or cat can be an extremely tricky thing to do, so researching training techniques is highly recommended.

Attention (because pets are social creatures) and food are the primary motivators that drive animal behavior. The key is to figure out what is motivating your pet, and to use that motivation to drive an alternate behavior. Further, you also have to be sure and stick with the solution, no matter what. Many animals will double down on problematic behaviors in the face of not getting the accustomed reward before giving those behaviors up.

Getting Professional Help

If you’re not getting the results you are looking for and it seems like there’s no hope that the problematic behavior will ever cease, consider bringing in the professionals. Start with the vet, especially if the problematic behavior is new and seems to have come out of the blue. Many medical conditions can express themselves as behavioral issues, and getting help may be as simple as talking to your veterinarian.

For deeper, more ingrained behaviors that require correction, working with a professional trainer may be your best bet. Professional trainers can help you work on your animal’s behavior, zeroing in on what motivates their issues. They can also help you in refining your training techniques and the ways you interact with your pet that may be driving issues as well.

Getting Results With Your Pets and Problematic Behavior

Getting the behavior you’re looking for on a consistent basis from your pet can be challenging, to be sure. But, it is a very worthwhile pursuit. Your pets love you and don’t realize that what they’re doing may be a problem for you. They either have an underlying condition driving their behavior, or they’ve developed these behaviors thanks to positive or negative reinforcement in the past.

Author: Giano Panzarella