Behavior issues … Where do we start?
Well, just like Julie Andrews’ character in the Sound of Music, “We start at the very beginning!” First of all, we must understand that your pets having unwanted or impolite behavior does NOT mean they are bad dogs or cats. They just haven’t been given the tools to learn the good behavior! And, as the leaders, we can inadvertently reward bad behavior, thereby continuing it. Just like humans, to learn good behavior, our pets must have clear and consistent direction from a leader they trust. Note the key words: CLEAR, CONSISTENT, AND TRUST.
CLEAR means that there is no doubt your pet understands exactly what you expect of his or her behavior at any time. This means you need to “speak” in a way they can understand. CONSISTENT means that you must request and respond to a desired behavior in the same way EVERY TIME. How we treat puppies is often inconsistent in that we allow puppies to do things we would prefer they not do as adults. Another common inconsistency arises when different family members treat the pet differently. For example, the kids allow Rex to jump on them when they come home but then Rex gets in trouble when he jumps on grandma’s Sunday dress! Imagine how confused Rex must be! This leads to the final, but most important term, which is TRUST. Trust is established when your pet understands that you will take care of all of his or her needs, including emotional needs, and that you will ALWAYS behave in a compassionate manner, giving clear direction with positive rewards. Understanding how you create that trust will be the topic of our next entry.