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Bad Cat and Dog Behavior – Thinking Outside The Box

We had a consult today, a pretty ordinary event for us. Two hand-selected pet sitters or dogs walkers from our team visit your home to discuss your pets, pet needs, and answer any questions you may have about the services we provide. Sometimes, we find the owner embarrassed, ashamed and even confused about their pet’s behavior. Bad cat and dog behavior is something we hear quite a bit about from owners, but we rarely see a pet actually being bad for no reason. A little probing and we learn what’s going on: they got the dog “that way”, the cat has all sorts of quirks that ultimately lead to medical issues, the breeding or lineage is in question, or an upheaval in the home has preceded new personality traits.

We must say to you moms and dads out there, your pets are not bad for the sake of being bad. We’ll let you have a moment to let that sink in.

Let yourselves and your pets off the hook of shame. Don’t be so quick to embarrass, because the angst you feel is transmitting right into your pet’s brain – in other words, whatever they were doing is now so much more pronounced because they know you’re upset about it. Pets are very perceptive, because they don’t speak. They feel.

Slow Down Your Reaction and Your Response

Today’s client mama has a 9 month old small breed pup who spent the consultation under the couch (where mama was) barking her head off at the two PPP team members on the floor across the room. Why? It didn’t take us more than a few seconds to understand that pup was feeling highly insecure in her place and in the home. After some questions, we learned that mama and pup had moved from a single family home in another state to an apartment-style condo in our state. People and pets were all around, including next door, on the floor above and the floor below. This can make a small breed dog very conscious of their vulnerability.

Think it Out

Mama was mortified. We understand that response. In your thinking, they are your children and thereby an extension of you. You must stop thinking like that. Their reaction to an abnormal situation is causing an abnormal behavior from you, which results in a more heightened level of response from them. See the problem? Each layer of heightened anxiety from one of you leads to another layer of heightened anxiety for the other of you. A vicious circle. First you must realize you need to break the cycle, then you must figure out how to break it. Punishment never needs to be an option.

Breaking the Cycle

To start to work on the healing, you first accept that there is a problem. Now you identify what the problem is (ie: hiding and defensive barking) and you go from there.
What is her behavior?
Lack of confidence.
Why is she acting like this?
She’s insecure in her new surroundings.
What to do about it?
Distract her with activity and rebuild confidence.

In this case, we recommended mama look into agility training. We think pup can learn to cope better while developing new skills, exerting energy -and- get praised for it. Win win win! Many behavior problems can be resolved with exercise and praise, and this includes cat behavior problems. Have patience while we ask some questions and you might be surprised with what we have to say!

They want to be happy. Really.

We have what we call a behavior triage. It goes like this:
Is the cat or dog medically sound?
If no, or unsure, schedule and immediate visit with the vet to rule out injury or illness. Sick or injured cats and dogs will become defensive and maybe even aggressive to prevent their weakness from showing, even to their trusted caregivers. They will not show their pain until it’s intolerable. This is why cats can appear to be absolutely healthy one minute, and laying on the floor unresponsive the next time you see them.
Is this a recent behavior?
If so, you’ve got a real chance at identifying what caused it. You’re going to have to think this through. Remember, they aren’t bad all by themselves. Something is causing it, and it’s your job to figure out what it is or was and resolve it. They’re counting on you, don’t let them down.
Did a person in their life trigger this behavior?
This is a tough question. Did a pet sitter or dog walker hurt or neglect your pet? Did a neighbor, or your mother, a trainer or the groomer cause the behavior? Consider everything.
Did you adopt the pet and the pet had this behavior already?
Your pet may actually need a behaviorist, depending on the severity. If this behavior negatively affects their life, such as it makes you upset, then you owe it to them to help them.
Finally, can you fix this problem yourself?
If you think you can, be in it for the long haul. Pets are a little like permanent toddlers, it can be very slow going, and it will take a lot of patience and effort on your part. Be committed and you will help your pet learn to cope, and as a bonus, strengthen your bond with your pet.

No Judgment Zone

If you’re looking for pet sitters or dog walkers that can help you help your pet, discuss your needs with us and we’ll be glad to help. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed, we promise we won’t think their behavior is an extension of who you are. We’ve got experience in multiple types of behaviors in cats and dogs and you can count on our patience and love. 🙂


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Pet Guardian is a local rescue organization specializing in saving domestic animals in crisis.

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Diabetic Cats in Need is a national organization dedicated to helping diabetic cats live wonderful lives.

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