Who's in Charge? You Are!

How many of you have become pet owners only to have the whole experience go down in flames?

The dog chewed up everything in sight or the cat clawed your new speakers and then moved on to your favorite chair.

Sound familiar?

I am sorry to say, it was not your pet’s fault. It was yours.

Why do I say that?

Well, if pets had our intelligence and understood the real world, they would have apartments of their own and not need us.

However, that is not the case.

The truth is, in order for our pets to survive in today’s world, they need us and they need a set of rules to follow.

Even though, I do not like to compare pets to children, the similarity is there.

Would you allow your children to run wild without rules and parental control?

Of course not.

Pets need rules and “parental control,” if you will.

Having a pet means responsibility.

Yes, responsibility means providing food, water and toys, but the real responsibility lies in leadership.

You are the “leader” of your pet family. Since you provide all the necessities, you must also provide the rules, control and leadership.

In case you are not aware, dogs and cats need to understand where they fit in the family structure. Dogs and cats need rules to follow, regular routines and plenty of love and guidance.

Rules and guidance does not mean screaming and yelling or beating them into submission.

Love and affection does not mean a quick scratch or pet on the head once a day.

It all boils down to commitment and time and can you provide both?

Dogs and cats each are furry creatures with four legs, a tail, two eyes and a nose that can get into everything, but that is where the similarity ends.

Their instincts and behavior patterns are different, therefore dog rules and cat rules are different, too.

What do dogs want?

Dogs want order and stability in their lives, along with knowing that they are part of the family.

Dogs are, by nature, pack animals. Packs always have a dominant leader who tells the pack how to behave and what to do. Since you and/or your family and the dog constitute the pack, you are the leader.

Being the leader means it is up to you to set some rules and expectations for the dog to follow. The best thing you can do is to start when the puppy is just that, a puppy.

Obedience school is a must, if only to learn basic commands such as sit, stay and come. Read a good puppy training book. Understand that a puppy and/or a dog does not have the intelligence to know right from wrong.

It has been said that a “tired dog is a good dog,” I don’t know who said it first, but it makes great sense.

It has also been said that there are “no bad dogs, only indifferent owners.” Most bad behaviors can be traced back to a owner that failed to do his/her part.

A leader needs to provide praise for good behavior and needs to correct bad behavior with correct right action.

It is said that dogs misbehave because their needs are not being met.

Dogs are generally clean critters and do not like soiling their living quarters, but if you the owner, have not provided the time to walk the dog or let it out to relieve itself, accidents will happen (it happens to people ,too.)

You come home and find your best shoes chewed up, your first reaction is to beat the dog. That is a lost cause since the dog will not know why you are beating on it.

A bored dog will find its own entertainment and chewing is fun. Spending time (that word again) with your pet, walking, playing and having a supply of chew toys would have eliminated its chewing of your shoes. Of course, putting them away would have helped, too.

Dogs want to do what is expected of them, dogs want to please, dogs give their love unconditionally, but you have to do your part.

Understanding your dog’s breed will help you with forming expectations even Heinz 57 dogs have a primary breed in them.

If you have a hound expect it to be a barker, the same lies true of the herding breeds, barking was their way of controlling the herds or flocks.

Greyhound and other “sight hounds” were literally born to chase small prey and cats fill that bill.

The Beagle, Lab and other tracking breeds are “sniffers” and have to stop and smell everything including the roses.

Know your breed, learn some commands, take time to teach your dog what you want it to do.

Dogs take time and patience, make certain you have plenty of both.

Cats on the other hand are not dogs. If you try to treat a cat as you do a dog they will only become frightened of you and you will then have lost the battle.

Cats do not want or need a leader, they have minds of their own. Cats want sameness, predictability and freedom. This applies to indoor/outdoor cats and indoor cats.

Cats want to go where they please, eat when they want and sleep whenever.

Cats do not take to authority at all. Trying to bully your cat into behaving will only create bad feelings and the cat will be frightened of you and will do as it pleases, when you are not around.

Change in the household makes a cat nervous, plain old boring routine makes a cat happy.

So how do you make a cat stop doing naughty things.

By being sneaky. Scolding, hitting or screaming, you already know won’t work so you have to work undercover.

Scratching is a natural cat need, so scratching posts are very important, not just one, but several around the house. Now, if you forgot to get any and kitty has discovered the couch makes a great scratching post, we have a small problem to remedy.

Remember, no yelling, we have to be cunning here and have a sense of humor.

First, get some scratching posts and then we will correct this behavior.

Heavy aluminum foil, bubble wrap or double sided sticky tape, taped to the area where kitty started scratching should do the trick. Put a scratching post with some catnip rubbed on it close by. Granted you will not get a beautiful house of the month award for your décor, but in three or four days kitty will have forgotten all about scratching there and you can return to normal.

Double backed sticky tape works great on counters or dining tables and if that is too messy for you try setting some empty tin cans near the edge of the counter or table that will fall and make noise, cats hate to be startled. After a few times of that happening kitty will decide counters or tables are too much bother.

I have however, had good luck with one of my cats that decided counters were fun, I picked him up nicely from the counter, put him on the floor and said a very loud “NO,” after the third time he never went on them again and none of my other cats ever tried.

Here are a few things to keep under consideration:

  • Pets do not have human understanding.
  • Correct misbehavior only if you can catch them in the act. Scolding later will have no meaning.
  • Dogs need exercise, playtime, long walks to work off excessive energy. A tired dog will not get into trouble.
  • Cats need playtime, too. Use fishing-pole toys to entertain your cat.
  • Anticipate problems before they happen. Cats need to scratch, dogs need to chew, fulfill those needs.
  • Pets do not do things for spite or because they are angry. Only People do those things.
  • It is your job to show your cat or dog what it is you want from them. They are not mind-readers.
  • Above all be consistent. Do not let your pet do something one day and then expect them not to do it the next. What is cute today, may not be tomorrow, so be consistent.

    Be confident and sure of yourself, pets can tell if you are unsure and bluffing. Once they can tell you are wavering, they will gain control.

    Pets are fun, some are more strong-willed than others, they will take advantage if allowed.

    Be loving, be kind and be in charge.