Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How to Keep Your Pet Happy and Prevent Bad Behavior

By Linda Cole

Like humans, pets may need to find a way to release stress and pent up energy now and then. A bored pet can be destructive if left to find their own entertainment. Many a couch, window blind, pillow and lamp have fallen prey to a bored dog or cat searching for something fun to do. As responsible pet owners, it's up to us to find ways to help keep our pet happy…and it's also one of the best ways to help prevent bad behavior.

Think back to when you were a kid. Remember the conversation that began with “So, what do you wanna do?” followed by “I don't know.” Periods of boredom follow us into adulthood. Instead of the child's version of the question, adults are more creative, saying things like “I'm so bored I could kiss a bear” or some other statement that indicates a need for some excitement. Dogs and cats have their own version of that same conversation, except they act out their boredom by chewing on whatever they can find, destroying our furnishings, getting into the trash or attacking the shower curtain. Their need to get rid of pent up energy and deal with being bored is just as real as it is for us.

Pets spend a lot of time home alone, unless you're lucky enough to be able to work from home. We can leave a pet with toys and interactive games to entertain themselves when they aren't napping or staring out the window spying on the neighbors, but what they really want is exercise when we get home. Dogs and cats love to run and play with their owner. Even a simple game of keep away is exciting and works off excess energy. It really isn't difficult to keep a pet happy when you give them plenty of positive attention that includes play. We really do mean everything to our pets, and they don't ask for much in return. Playing with your pet doesn't take up a lot of time and it can make the difference between a happy pet and one that's bored and engaging in bad behavior.

One way to help pets left home alone deal with boredom is to leave some of their favorite CANIDAE treats stashed throughout the home. Searching for treats gives them a chance to use their hunting skills to find where you've hidden the goodies and helps them burn off energy.

Teaching a dog basic commands or taking it up a notch to more complex tricks is a great way to stimulate his mind and have a well behaved pet. When you spend 10 or 15 minutes a day teaching a command and then continue to reinforce that command regularly, you're showing your dog how you want him to act and giving him a way to work for what he wants, whether it's for his meal or to go outside for a walk or to play.

Stimulate a cat's mind with a mystery box. Take a small to medium sized cardboard box, tape the ends shut with duct tape and cut holes in various places around the sides and on top of the box. The holes should be just large enough for your cat to stick her paw in. Put ping pong balls, sparkle balls, cat toys, whole walnuts or marbles inside the box. My cats love the mystery box and go back to it throughout the day when they need to work off some energy. It keeps them happy and helps prevent bad behavior.

If you have a high energy dog, getting him involved in a dog sport will definitely put a smile on his face. A sport stimulates a dog’s mind and gives him proper exercise. To give a dog a chance to do what he was bred to do is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Dogs from the working group have been bred for centuries to do a job, and doing what he was born to do makes a dog happy. Even cats can be trained to do agility!

Exercise maintains a pet's proper and healthy weight which can help prevent some diseases. It's the best way to reduce stress and boredom. A healthy mind and body is just as important for our pets as it is for us. It doesn't take a lot of time to make our pets happy, and spending quality time with us can really make a difference in their attitude. Bad behavior can be changed, but it's better to prevent it from happening in the first place. Playing with your pet also builds a stronger bond for a lifetime of unconditional love.

Photo by Jim Thompson

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. Great article! We try our best to keep Finn mentally and physically stimulated and always look for that smile to make sure we're doing a good job!

  2. It is really important to find things for the animals to do.That box deal for cats is such a good idea. We are going to make that for these wild kids around here. Great post.

  3. Very good post. I always say a tired dog is a happy dog.

  4. My cats get stressed if we are. My dog had separation anxiety actually. My cats adjust pretty good but Whiskers is pretty testy at times.

  5. Those two look so innocent! How did that broken lamp get there? We love how you used Annabelle avatar!

  6. Oh yes, when Mika is bored; we see big holes in our yard.

  7. That mystery box is a great idea! I will definitely try it. Thanks :) It might save the carpet, you never know lol


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