How many of you as pet owners have come home to your belongings destroyed or your furnishings soiled with urine or other excrement? I am sure there were feelings of frustration and anger. There was probably a strong urge to punish your pet to ensure that this never happens again. Many of you either did or wanted to pick up a rolled newspaper and take your pet to the “crime” scene to be disciplined. What followed probably would and did involve being physical with the pet by hitting them with that newspaper. So how should one punish a pet? When is the appropriate time to punish your pet? What are things to consider prior to punishing your pet? What are appropriate methods to punish your pet? Below are 7 tips to consider when it comes to punishing your pet appropriately.
1. Make sure behavior is not due to illness prior to punishment
As I have mentioned in previous articles, on the topics of separation anxiety and inappropriate urination, there are behaviors that can be related to medical issues. It is important that this is determined prior to implementing a punishment protocol. If your pet is an older animal that suddenly exhibits a behavior that is uncharacteristic, that may indicate a medical issue. Also if there is a behavior that worsens over time, that may also indicate a medical problem. But overall, the best person to help rule out if your pet’s condition is behavioral or medical is your veterinarian.
2. Remember punish the behavior and not the pet
It is important that you are not punishing your pet for doing what is normal for its species. Both cats and dogs have natural behaviors. For example, cats like to scratch and dogs like to chew. Therefore it is important that they have a suitable environment to satisfy those behaviors. Dogs need appealing toys to chew and cats need appropriate areas to be allowed to scratch. By making sure these are readily available for your pets, it will be less likely that you would need to punish them for inappropriate behavior
3. Withholding attention can be a form of punishment
Let’s face it our pets love attention. This is evident by how excited they get when we come home from a long day and all they want to do is to be next to us. Puppies and kittens especially crave attention. On that note, attention can be an incentive for discouraging bad behavior. An example is if a puppy is constantly biting, this can be discouraged by ignoring it while it is biting, then rewarding it with attention when they stop. As an animal lover I know it’s difficult to ignore your pet, especially if you have a cute puppy or kitten with innocent eyes. Just remember, behind those innocent eyes may be a mind full of mischief. It is better to discourage bad behavior early before it becomes a big problem later.
4.Use Direct interactive punishment
Direct interactive punishment involves disrupting your pet’s bad behavior while they are currently in the act. This can involve using a loud noise such as clapping hands, using a noise device such as pennies inside of a can, or a loud alarm. It is important that the pet is verbally reprimanded right when the behavior is occurring . Also, the pet’s behavior needs to be redirected to something more appropriate.
5. Use remote techniques for punishment
These techniques involve you not being present or the pet not being aware of your presence during the punishment. This may require you to be technologically savvy. Devices that may be needed include a video monitor, intercom, or a motion detector. You may also need to practice your “stealth” skills because sometimes you will be required to remain concealed while administering the punishment. As your pet enters the problem area to perform the forbidden behavior, you can use a long range water gun, a noise device, or a remote control device to scare it away. The goal is that your pet cannot determine that the punishment is being administered by you. This allows it to quickly learn avoidance of the area whether you are present or not.
6. Use booby traps in the environment
Don’t worry, this is not as scary as it sounds. You don’t have to install trap doors, nets, or bear claws. These are not the type of booby traps I am talking about. These traps are sometimes necessary when it is impractical for you to monitor your pet for undesirable behaviors. They are designed to teach your pet to avoid the area and the behavior. In order for these devices to be effective, they need to be unpleasant enough to deter, remain active in case your pet returns to the area, and they should be able to reset themselves. Some examples include setting up balloons to pop, having a pyramid of cans that topple, motion detectors that trigger alarms, mats that administer a mild shock when stepped on, and indoor electronic fencing. For chewing offenses, taste deterrents may be helpful. There are a few products that can be purchased to help with that including Bitter Apple, or Bitter Lime. You can also make your own concoction by mixing cayenne pepper with water.
7. Do not punish after the behavior has already occurred
While it’s tempting to punish your pet when you find destruction or house soiling, if you did not catch your pet in the act you shouldn’t do it. If you think about it, if you bring your pet over to the mess to punish him/her, all you are doing is punishing it for being present at the “crime” scene. Remember your goal is to punish the actual behavior. To the cat or dog the reason for punishment may be unclear and may create fear or anxiety. Later on, this could lead to your pet becoming aggressive or fearful toward you.
In conclusion, there are ways to punish your pet without being physical with them. Utilizing the above tips should help improve your relationship with your pet and minimize the frustration that can come with inappropriate behaviors.