When I was out with my dogs one day, we met a sweet puppy called Bonnie who got so excited to see us that she started urinating. Her person was clearly upset and embarrassed by Bonnie’s behavior. She made a comment like, ‘Not again,’ and quickly left the area.
Rather like proud parents, pet owners have many expectations of their cats and dogs. We want them to be calm, cool and collected, mind their manners, be friendly but not bark too loudly etc. These expectations have a huge effect on the joyful relationship you hope to create with your new companion.
In Bonnie’s case, her person was torn between socialising her puppy and feeling helpless to control its’ over-excitement. So, what to do when an animal displays ‘problem’ behavior? The first step begins with you.
Think of the last time your animal did something embarrassing or mischievous, what went on for you? Did you instantly go into reaction or were you calm and relaxed? Dogs are pack animals and constantly look to us for leadership and cues.
When we get upset or loudly reinforce the ‘problem’ behavior by saying things like, ‘Stop barking!’ ‘Don’t jump,’ they find it confusing.
As the pack leader, you’ve got to stay calm in order to get through to them. As much as possible, drop any emotions you have around that particular issue ― the anger, blame, shame, exasperation, guilt etc.
From there, how can you manipulate and direct your animal to behave in a way that works? My advice is to be as clear as possible. If your animal is running away, you can ask it to, ‘Come here,’ rather than saying, ‘Don’t go on the road!’
Of course, our animals are not robots. Sometimes they respond really well to direction, and it also may take several attempts. Living with a pet reminds us that we aren’t perfect and that’s alright.
The good news is that animals do not judge us. Even if we get irritated or impatient, they won’t hold a grudge. So, cut yourself some slack and be willing to grow together and enjoy each other, including the mistakes and silliness.
Drop me a DM if you would like to chat further or visit my website for more Talk to the Animals tips and tools.