Saturday, September 16th, 2006
The most popular form of cat training is that of teaching them how to use the litter box. This is especially important for indoor cats, but is also ideal for an indoor/outdoor pet. Many people are surprised to know that cat training can also involve an actual toilet, which will eliminate the expense and odor associated with a litter box. This type of cat training will consist of several weeks during which time the litter box is elevated and moved until it is near the toilet. The move should be gradual so as to not cause the cat a great deal of confusion or, even worse, cause him/her to misplace the litter box. During this type of cat training, the litter can be suspended above the toilet using either a small bowl or box. At the conclusion of cat training involving the toilet, the cat will be able to use the toilet by perching over the bowl.
Cat training for indoor cats may also involve the implementation of a scratching post, which will prevent them from ruining furniture or carpet with their nails. While it is very possible to trim the nails, great care must be taken so as to avoid cutting a vein if the nails are cut too short.
It is best to begin cat training as early as possible. If you have a kitten, start early and teach him/her the basic behavior that is expected from an indoor pet, such as not clawing the furniture and how to use the litter box.
Experts believe that cats can and often do bond with their owner. In fact, cats are thought to be able to initiate eye contact in an effort to convey a message or may even mimic the actions of their owner. The bonding process is especially important while you attempt cat training. As with any pet, training can be very daunting and often stressful to the owner. It is much easier to instill cat training techniques on a kitten as opposed to a cat, which is something that every pet owner should consider prior to selecting a new addition to their family.
Cat training is the best way for indoor pets to live a happy and healthy life with their owner. A cat that is not properly trained will not understand what is acceptable and what is not, which is why cat training is so important to both the cat and his/her owner.
Cat Training Techniques and Information by Maxine Schel
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Thursday, September 14th, 2006
Cats, like dogs, learn best through rewards, praise, and positive reinforcement. Because cats are more independent than dogs, you will probably focus your training efforts on socializing your cat to live harmoniously with humans.
- Coming when called. With most cats, all you have to do is shake the box of cat food or run the electric can opener and they will come running. Apply the same principle to your voice command. Before feeding time, hold out a reward of food and, using a calm, friendly voice, tell your cat to “Come”. When he obeys, offer praise and the food. Gradually, increase your distance from the cat until he learns to respond to your calls even when there is no visible reward.
- Biting and scratching. This behavior in cats is often a result of aggressive play. Your cat needs an outlet for these tendencies. Schedule regular play times with your cat – several times each day – using a string or a toy attached to a stick or fishing pole. If biting and scratching continue to be a problem, carry a squirt gun or plant sprayer with you at all times and give the cat a quick squirt when he bites or scratches. You might prefer to fill a can with small rocks and shake it at your cat when he bites or scratches. The goal is to interrupt the aggressive behavior and form an unpleasant association with biting and scratching.
- Clawing at furniture. Cover the furniture that the cat is scratching with tinfoil, double-sided tape, or balloons. Place a sturdy scratching post nearby. When you catch your cat using the scratching post, be sure to praise him.
- Picky eating habits. If you have a finicky eater, cut back on the amount of food you feed your cat and remove his dish 20 minutes after feeding time. This should restore your cat’s interest in dinner.
- Teaching your cat to stay away from food on the counter, the stove top, and the table. Booby-trap countertops and other places off-limits to your cat by taping together “shake cans” – cans with rocks inside – and placing them close to the edge of the surface. The cat’s movement will knock the cans to the floor, creating a racket and startling the cat. Another deterrent is to place contact paper, sticky-side up, on the surface. When the cat jumps up, he will have an unpleasant surprise and come to realize that the countertop (or stove, or tabletop) is not the place to be.
Adapting to a new baby or another pet
As with a dog, give your cat special consideration when bringing a new baby or new pet into your home. Your cat may have trouble adjusting to the newest member of the family, but there are steps you can take to ease the transition.
To help your cat adjust to a new baby:
- Invite a friend with a baby to your home. The goal is to get your cat used to babies.
- Ask friends to record their baby crying. Play the tape softly in your own home to help your cat get used to the sound.
- Bring the baby’s blanket home first. Do this before the baby comes home to allow the cat to become accustomed to the scent.
- Sit quietly with the baby and allow the cat to approach on his own terms.
- Talk nicely to your cat and pet him when the baby is near. This will create positive associations with the infant.
- Don’t change the cat’s routine. Keep to the same feeding and play times as before the baby’s arrival.
To help your cat adjust to a new pet:
- Have a friend bring in the new pet, if possible.
- If the new pet is a cat, put him into a room and close the door. This will allow both cats to sniff each other through the door. After an hour, open the door and let the first cat meet his new roommate on his own terms. Alternatively, leave the new cat in its carrier while the first cat becomes acquainted.
- Give your cat a safe retreat. This is especially important when introducing a new dog into the family.
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Tuesday, September 12th, 2006
Dogs are pack animals and they are happiest when they are accepted into a group. When you take a dog into your home, your family becomes its “pack”. To your dog, you are the leader of that pack, and he will strive to please you. This desire to please is an invaluable tool during training sessions. When you show your dog how to behave and reward his successes with treats and plenty of praise, he will quickly learn how to please you.
Formal obedience training should start early – when your dog is still a young puppy. You can begin training your dog when he is 8 weeks old. Older dogs that have never been trained can also succeed with formal obedience training – it may just require a little more patience.
Keep home training sessions for both puppies and older dogs upbeat and short, no more than 5 or 10 minutes, and hold several training sessions each day. Always reward your dog’s successes rather than punish his mistakes.
“Crate training” is a good way to keep your dog from chewing, messing your home, or destroying furniture when you are not there. A plastic or metal crate that is large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around in will keep your dog safely confined while you are away from home and when you are asleep at night. Here are some tips on how to use crate training:
- Place the crate in a busy area of the home, such as the kitchen or the family room. Your dog will be happier if he is near you.
- Make a bed in the crate with a soft blanket or towel.
- Toss a few treats in the crate if your puppy shows little interest in going inside. Put dog toys in the crate as well.
- Praise your puppy for entering the crate. Your dog will associate the crate with your approval.
- Do not use the crate as punishment. You want your dog to consider the crate a refuge. If you put him in there as punishment, he will develop an unpleasant association with the crate.
- Wean your dog off the crate by the time he reaches adulthood.
Teaching basic commands
For her own safety and the safety of others, your pet should respond appropriately to the commands, “Come”, “Sit”, “Stay”, “Heel”, and “Down”. When teaching your dog these basic commands, encourage and reward her with treats, love, and encouraging words. If your dog doesn’t seem to be catching on, look for a good dog obedience school or hire a dog trainer to work with you and your dog. Ask your veterinarian for a referral to a dog trainer. Your library or book store is also a resource for books on dog training. The book No Bad Dogs by Barbara Woodehouse offers simple training techniques.
Here is what you will need for your training sessions:
- A training collar. Also called a choke collar or a slip collar, this slips over your dog’s head and tightens around your dog’s neck when pulled.
- A six-foot leash.
- A pocketful of small dog treats. Use treats that your dog can chew easily and quickly.
Here are suggestions on teaching your dog basic commands:
- Use the correct tone of voice. Use a low tone of voice for discipline and for the basic, stationary commands of “Sit”, “Stay”, and “Down”. Use a higher tone for praise, and the active commands, “Heel” and “Come”.
- Keep commands to one word. A simple, “Stay”, “Sit”, or “Heel” is all your dog needs to hear. Longer words or multiword commands will confuse her. The one exception is the “Come” command, in which you first say your dog’s name to get his attention.
- Do not repeat the command. Your goal is to teach your dog to respond immediately to your commands. If you issue a command more than once, you are teaching her that she doesn’t have to obey right away. If your dog doesn’t respond immediately, withhold the reward.
- Time your sessions for when your dog is most receptive. If you use food as a reward, hold your lessons before a meal, not after. If you rely more on praise, schedule your training sessions for times when your dog most wants to be with you, such as in the morning or after work.
- Reward your dog immediately after she obeys a command. She will make the connection between obeying the command and receiving your approval.
- Give your dog moderate exercise before working on complex commands, such as “Sit-Down-Stay”. You don’t want your dog to be too energetic or too tired when you are teaching her to obey complicated commands.
- To teach your dog to sit, hold a treat above your dog’s head, and say, “Sit”. When the treat is held in the correct position, the dog will raise her head and lower her rump into a sitting position. Praise your dog for sitting, and give her the treat.
- To teach your dog the “Down” command, hold a treat in your hand and lower it slowly to the ground and say “Down”. The dog will follow the food to the floor, crouching lower until her rear end and head are almost to the ground. Encourage your dog to stretch out into a lying position by pulling the food toward you and away from your dog. When she is fully lying down, give her the reward.
- To teach your dog the “Stay” command, put a leash on your dog and tell her “Sit”. Then hold up your hand, palm forward, and tell your dog to “Stay”. If she gets up, gently return her to her spot and command her to sit. After a few seconds, reward her with praise or a treat. Gradually lengthen the amount of time your dog is in the “Stay” position before rewarding her.
- To teach your dog the “Come” command, call your dog by name to get her attention, then follow with the word “Come”. Gently tug on your dog’s leash until she is right in front of you. Praise her for obeying and reward her with a treat. After a while, you shouldn’t have to tug on the leash at all. At this point, switch to longer leashes, ropes, and finally, practice the command without the leash in an enclosed space.
- To teach your dog to the “Heel” command, put the leash on her and position her close to your left side. In an upbeat voice give the command “Heel” as you walk forward. If your dog pulls on the leash, gently tug her back to your left side and offer praise. Another way to bring your dog to your side is to cup a small treat in your hand and hold it close to your left hip. Eventually, your dog should be able to heel off the leash.
If you work regularly at training lessons, your dog should understand the basic commands by the time she is six months old. How quickly your dog learns to obey will depend on her temperament and age. You can teach an old dog new tricks; it may just take longer.
Correcting behavior problems
The most common behavior problems you are likely to encounter as a dog owner are chewing, biting, jumping, barking, stealing food, and running off. The earlier you teach your dog good behavior, the happier everyone will be. A puppy that nips may cause little harm. A grown dog that bites is dangerous.
- Chewing. Like babies, puppies explore the world through their mouths. Give your dog plenty of safe and long-lasting dog toys. When you catch your dog chewing something of yours, say sharply, “Leave it!” and replace the forbidden item with a dog toy. To keep your possessions safe when you’re not home, confine your dog to his crate.
- Biting. Dogs that are not properly socialized and that are not taught how to behave with people and other dogs may become aggressive or fearful. The result can be a dog that bites. Make sure your dog has plenty of exposure to other people and other pets. Take your dog to parks, invite people to your home, and take your dog with you on errands. Check local obedience schools to see if they offer “play time” – a time for your dog to socialize with other dogs. When your dog nips or bites, tug his leash and say, “No bite!” in a stern tone.
- Jumping up on visitors. If your dog jumps on people, tell him to sit and stay. Then crouch down to his level and give your dog the attention he wants.
- Barking. Your dog may bark for attention. Responding to these barks only reinforces this behavior. Try ignoring his barking. When he stops, praise him for being quiet. If this doesn’t work, say sharply, “No bark!” Another alternative is to keep your dog on his correction collar and leash. When he barks, give him a gentle tug while telling him, “No bark!”
- Not obeying commands like “Come”. Your dog’s ability to obey your commands in all situations could save his life. If you see your dog running toward traffic and call out, “Come”, he should turn around and head back to you. To ensure your dog will listen to you regardless of distractions, take him on training field trips. Practice your commands at the park, on sidewalks, or wherever there are distractions such as other people or animals.
- Getting into the garbage or food on the counter or table. Place a training collar and leash on your dog. Put some food out. When your dog reaches for it, gently tug on his leash and say, “No!” Follow this action with praise. Do this consistently, and over time your dog will learn not to steal food.
- Running off even after being trained not to. A dog may be lured away by the smell of food, an open garbage can, or the sight of a cat in a nearby yard. The best way to prevent this is to keep your dog confined to your home or yard or on a leash when outdoors. However, if your dog races for the door the moment it’s opened, you must teach him to resist the temptation. With the collar and leash on your dog, lead him to the door and open it. When he moves toward it, tug on the leash and tell him, “No!” Praise your dog for responding. Repeat this exercise until he learns to stay put on his own.
- Pulling too hard on the leash. This shouldn’t be a problem if your dog learned the “Heel” command. Reinforce this command on every walk. If your dog continues to tug, stop walking, tell him to sit, then start all over, commanding him to “Heel” on your left side. Do this as often as necessary during your walks.
- Getting along with other dogs. Early socialization will teach your dog to get along with other dogs. However, dogs often turn aggressive when protecting their territory. If you are walking your dog on a leash, he will consider you to be his territory and may bark and growl at other dogs. Immediately reprimand him. As soon as he stops his aggressive behavior, praise him.
- Being unfriendly to visitors. Your dog may be threatened by visitors to your home and may display aggressive behavior. Admonish him immediately to show him this behavior is not acceptable.
Adapting to a new baby or another pet
Your dog may feel like he is the most important being in your life. And for a time, she may be. But circumstances change. If you are bringing a new baby or pet into your home, there are steps you can take to ease the transition for your dog — and for you. Here are ways to help your dog adapt to a new baby:
- Prepare your dog for the new arrival. Let your dog become accustomed to the baby furniture and toys. If possible, bring home the baby’s blanket from the hospital before the baby comes home. Let the dog sniff this so she will be accustomed to the baby’s scent.
- Change the dog’s walking schedule if it will be different after the baby arrives. It is important to do this far in advance of the baby’s arrival so the dog does not associate the change in her routine with the infant’s arrival.
- Do not let the dog play with baby toys. If she does go after a baby toy, admonish him and take it away.
- When you and your spouse come home from the hospital, greet your dog alone while someone else holds the baby.
- Let your dog approach the baby first. When you bring the baby home, let your dog investigate on her own terms while you are present. Don’t force the baby on the dog.
- Create positive associations with the baby. Pay attention to your dog when she is near the baby and lavish her with praise for behaving gently.
- As much as possible, maintain your dog’s pre-baby feeding, walking, and play schedule. If you did not change the dog’s routine before the infant’s arrival, try not to change it afterward.
- Never leave your dog unattended with the baby. No matter how trustworthy your pet is, dogs and new babies should never be left alone together.
Here are tips on helping your dog adjust to a new pet:
- Feed and exercise your dog prior to meeting the new pet. Your dog will be calmer if she is slightly tired and her stomach is full.
- If possible, arrange the first meeting on neutral territory. Allow the pets to get to know one another somewhere other than your home or yard.
- Place your dog on a leash. Be ready to correct your dog if she becomes aggressive. Reward her for good behavior.
- If your new pet is a cat, allow the cat to set the pace of the friendship with your dog. Hold your dog firmly on the leash and allow the cat to approach it first. Make sure the cat has access to places in your home where the dog can’t reach.
- If your new pet is another dog, walk both on a leash. They will become accustomed to each other without being solely focused on each other.
- Feed the animals in separate places. Otherwise they may fight over their food.
It’s never too late to train your dog. A dog is considered to be fully trained when she responds to commands 100 percent of the time, regardless of the setting. Training sessions should continue throughout your dog’s life. With consistency and plenty of affection, your dog can unlearn bad habits and learn good ones.
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Sunday, September 10th, 2006
A new pet is a positive addition to the household and brings untold joys for everyone. However, an untrained pet can cause more work for you and add stress to your already busy life. A pet that has been taught how to behave is a rewarding and satisfying companion. This section of the site gives some good tips for training your pets. Browse around and see for yourself.
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