Behavior Odds and Ends

Behavior Clips

By Gary Wilkes

Here are a few “odds and ends” of training advice that can be shared with your clients or used in your everyday life:

Cat House Heat

I get bombarded on Facebook with products that someone imagined I would like. I saw an ad for a small, heated cat-house. At first I dismissed it as I have two indoor Bengals and live in Arizona. Heated anything isn’t a necessity. Then I read the comments. A woman used one of these gizmos to attract a feral cat. Then moved it inside and left the door open. The cat has gradually “warmed” to being inside the house with far less trouble than most people experience. The point is that sometimes very gentle reinforcers can have a dramatic effect on the behavior for fearful animals.

Saving the Cushions for Guests

I have a client with a gorgeous six-month-old purebred German Shepherd. He is progressing wonderfully, but last night he destroyed an outdoor cushion. It happens. However, I want to teach him to leave cushions alone. I cut open the back of the cushion and inserted a small “indoor containment” transmitter. We left it lying on the floor. When he approaches he will get a pulsing shock that is far less than what you get when you shuffle across the carpet and touch something metallic. It’s just enough to teach him to leave cushions alone. The same item can keep dogs out of the trash can, off beds, and away from the front door when guests come to the house. If you are interested, this is the kind of product that can also be a profitable addition to your bottom line.

Counter Surfing

This can be the bane of most dog owners existence. The same for cats that leave their litter-dusted paws on counter tops. Here are two solutions:

Dogs: Get a battery operated “passive infrared motion detector” and put it on the counter top. When the dog sticks its nose above the counter, a horrific alarm goes off. This is the equivalent of the word “NO” to identify which behavior caused the punishment to follow.

Cats: When you get a new cat, go to a home improvement store and purchase some sheets of clear plastic used for fluorescent-tube ceiling lights. Get enough to cover the length of the counter-top. Duck-tape the plastic at a 45 degree angle from the edge of the counter to the back wall. If the cat jumps up, it will quickly slide off to the ground. If you are concerned about injury from sliding off, get some temporary carpet to cover the landing zone. Live with this arrangement for a couple weeks and you will teach the cat that counter tops are the equivalent of mountain tops.

The Front Door

Want a dog to learn to never rush the front door? If the dog also hates having its nails trimmed, you’re in luck. Ring your door bell and wait for the chaos as the dog comes flying forward. Trim one nail. Repeat. Within three or four repetitions, the sound of the bell will create a very front-door savvy dog. You can do that same thing with any other experience the dog doesn’t like such as taking a pill or taking a bath. If the owner already has a struggle over simple handling issues, it makes sense to make use of them. If you wish to remove the anxiety over those problems, you can do it after you put them to work for you.

Back Seat Driver 

Here’s one that affects a lot of people – dogs that won’t stay in the back seat of the car. Go to an office supply store and get one of those plastic mats that protect carpet from wheeled office chairs. The underside has plastic cones to prevent the mat from sliding around. Cut a piece to fit the front seat and turn it upside down. Yes, it’s not going to feel good. No, it’s not going to hurt the dog. If you want, you can teach “get in the back seat” by simply saying that as the dog lands on the mat. Then give the dog a treat. After two or three rides, watch the behavior decline. If you add periodic treats for passive back-seat driving, you’ll have a pretty good solution.

Hair Brushing for Sensitive Dogs

If you have a double coated dog that hates being brushed and/or vacuum sweepers, get an extra-long hose for a shop-vac and put it in an adjacent room with the door partially closed. Suddenly the sound of the vacuum is dramatically decreased and the dog will allow you to brush them. The vacuum makes getting rid of the hair workable as you strip out hunks of dead hair. Lavishly use treats during the brushing so you break the process down into short duration repetitions at first. When you are done, use plastic box-sealing tape or duck-tape to remove the rest of the hair.

We all have tricks or tips that can help clients deal with the various behavioral issues that go along with pet ownership. The more often you are the author of safe and effective solutions, the more you will be seen as a reliable source for dog and cat advice! ✂

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