By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D
Founding Editor, bSci21.org
For most pet owners, their beloved animals aren’t perfect. For some, this could mean an occasional “tinkle” on the carpet or a “gift” that is brought in from outside. For others, however, pets could be out of control, destroying furniture, disturbing neighbors, and perhaps even endangering the safety of others.
Wherever you fall on the continuum of pet ownership, Dr. Karen Becker’s recent article in The Huffington Post will likely be of some benefit. She gives a few tips to help you change your pet’s behavior for the better. Dr. Becker center’s her tips on “putting your finger on triggers that set off your pet’s undesirable behaviors, and positively reinforcing new behaviors with constructive guidance.”
1) If your dog is an excessive jumper…like when you walk through the front door and your dog is bombarding you with attention, jumping on you and licking you to the point of inhibiting your own behavior. Dr. Becker points out that, if you push your dog away while also petting or scratching him, you could actually be positively reinforcing the very behavior you want to decrease. She recommends instead to send a clearer signal — if you don’t want attention at that particular moment then don’t give any attention to your dog’s behavior. In short, don’t react.
2) If your dog barks excessively…like when you let him out into the yard, or when your dog sees the mailman. Dr. Becker notes that if your strategy to cease the barking is to distract your dog with friendly attention or food, you could again be encouraging the behavior that you are trying to stop. She recommends bringing your dog to a room in your house to keep the barking from distracting others, while giving minimal attention to your dog’s behavior.
3) If your cat scratches inappropriately…such as your drapes, curtains, clothes, etc… Since this case is likely not related to attention, Dr. Becker recommends substituting the inappropriate scratching with appropriate scratching. For example, when you catch your cat scratching the comforter in your bedroom, you can remove your cat from the room and provide him with an appropriate object on which to scratch.
Please be sure to check out Dr. Becker’s full article here, for more details and advice.
Let us know about your pet experiences in the comments below and be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!