Ask the Animal Behaviorist
Updated: Feb 1
My new dog jumps on me and ends up scratching up my arms and legs. He knows better so why is he still doing it?
Jumping in Jacksonville
The first thing to remember when working with pets is that they do things that work for them. With that in mind he must be getting some reward out of jumping on you. Dogs don’t tend to “know better” because they haven’t been trained yet to give a different response. Stop and think. Are you petting your dog even some of the time when he jumps? Do you push at him to get down and he comes up again almost like it’s a game? Your attention can be what’s leading him to jump on you. Luckily that’s easy to change. If you don’t pet, yell at, or pay attention to your dog when he jumps that’s a good start. By also teaching him sit you can also encourage a different behavior. If you pet him when he sits, then stop as soon as he stands or jumps, then pet again when he sits you can start teaching him that the way to get your attention is to be polite.
My new kitten is adorable, but she’s driving me crazy. She likes to bite and scratch at me which hurts. Should I bring her back?
Biting Kitty in Bunnell
Dear Biting Kitty,
Babies of any species can be tiring. What you are experiencing is a normal process of a baby cat trying to practice adult cat behaviors like stalking, grabbing prey, playing with or fighting with other cats. Sadly they don’t understand yet that our skin is much softer than another animal so we have to teach them how to play with us appropriately. You can start by trying to have extra toys close to where you sit and sleep. Trying to get an excited kitten interested in pouncing on something other than you can be fun. Will they pounce on a toy that’s tossed across the room? Will they play with a toy on a string so your hands are out of reach? Would a toy that dispenses treats be interesting? How about a laser toy? These types of interaction allow you to play with the kitten and wear her out without risk of the bites and scratches. While you are at it, show the kids how much fun it can be to play from a distance. Most cats settle down as they get a little older so I would recommend keeping your cat and teaching her how YOU like to be played with. You’ll both benefit in the end.
Our dog loves kids and other people, but he is not good with other dogs. How can I get him to be more friendly?
Dog Aggressive in DeLand
Dear Dog Aggressive,
Socialize your dog with other dogs while he is leashed so you can pull him back if needed. It is best that the other dog is also leashed. Many dogs feel threatened by other dogs especially if they are smaller. If you have a friend or a relative who has a dog that is friendly make a play date and introduce your dog slowly. Be patient. Your dog will warm up to some dogs, but not to others.
If you have a pet that has too much energy, a quick way to help them release some of that can be to offer a food puzzle. You can make your own by cutting a few holes in a water or juice bottle. You can buy a treat dispenser. You can sprinkle their food in the yard and let them play “find it” to work for their meal. You can do some training and have them earn treats for things like shake, high five, and sit pretty. That’s for both cats and dogs as either can learn these behaviors. If you try one or all of these suggestions you might find that your pet is calmer and easier to live with.
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