Although we want people to think of their pets as part of their family and treat them as such, it's also important to understand that they aren't just "little people", but part of another species. Dogs, cats and other critters have their own physical and medical needs, in addition to behaviors and instincts.
To keep our pets healthy and happy, we must learn what their needs are and provide proper care for them. A good diet, regular veterinary visits, and opportunities for exercise and play are essential. But how do our pets become good companions and a joy to live with? That's up to us! As pet parents we need to learn to effectively communicate with our pets and take the time to train them.
Undesirable behavior is one of reasons that animals are relinquished to shelters or given away. However, in most cases this is not a "dog problem" or a "cat problem"-- but a "people problem". It's our responsibility to first understand what is natural behavior for our pets. Dogs like to chew, cats like to use their claws. Our job is to teach them acceptable and appropriate behavior. Chewing a dog toy is good; chewing our shoes is not. Scratching a cat post is good; scratching the couch is not. A well-trained and socialized pet makes sharing your home a lot more fun.
Basic obedience training: It's good for you and your dog!
Teaching your dog good manners and how to interact well with your family, friends and strangers will benefit both you and your dog. Studies have shown that people who have done basic training with their dogs are much less likely to give them up. Dogs want to please us and they seek our attention and praise. Taking the time to train your dog not only makes for a well-behaved dog, but helps to create a happy and lasting relationship.
Training classes and training consultations should be reward-based and friendly, effective and fun for both you and your dog. Before working with any trainer we recommend asking for their qualifications and/or references. You can also ask the instructor if you can observe a class before signing up to make sure it's a good match for you and your dog. Ask your veterinarian or "doggy friends" for their recommendations, too. Our shelter dogs and volunteers attend classes at The Dogs' Spot.
There are many web sites with in-depth pet care and behavior info. Below are some that we recommend as excellent resources on a wide variety of pet care and behavior topics.
Dr. Wayne Hunthausen (Westwood Animal Hospital) The web site gives tips for behavior problems and Dr. Hunthausen does behavior consultations.
Best Friends Animal Society Lots of great pet care and behavior info for pets of all kinds listed under Pet Resources. Also tips on choosing a pet. Dogs, cats, bunnies, exotics, horses and more. Includes PDFs for downloading.
ASPCA Pet Care and Behavior Tips Check out their species-specific library of animal health, nutrition, behavior, grooming and more. Dogs, cats, horses and small animals are all included.
Pets And Kids Lots of great info and articles focused on kids and pets. Topics include choosing an appropriate pet for kids, introducing kids and pets, handling and interacting with pets, training, responsibilities, safety, preventing aggression in pets, and much more. From the UK.
Humane Society Silicon Valley Excellent in-depth resource for dog, cat, rabbit and small pet behavior and care. Includes choosing a pet, house training, behavioral problems, socialization of pets, recommended reading and more. Articles are PDF files and appropriate for printing.
Denver Dumb Friends League Excellent in-depth information on selecting a pet, dog and cat behavior and care, pet care for small animals. Articles are PDF files and appropriate for printing. Also has a Behavior Helpline.
American Humane Association In depth information on adopting a pet, pet behavior, pet care, safety, pets & kids.
The Humane Society of the United States Pet care and behavior info for dogs, cat, horses, small pets, fish, birds.
Cats International Excellent in-depth information on cat care, behavior, choosing a cat, training, common behavioral problems including litter box problems, and much more.
Alley Cat Allies are the foremost experts on feral cats. Their web site gives in-depth information on implementing trap-neuter-return, maintaining a feral cat colony, health care, kitten care including how to care for neonatal kittens, socializing feral kittens and cats, finding homes for formerly feral cats.
ASPCA Poison Control Center Tips to prevent poisoning, a checklist to poison proof your home, answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding animal poisoning. ANIMAL POISON CONTROL HOTLINE: 888-426-4435. An emergency hotline providing 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week telephone assistance to veterinarians and animal owners. There is a consultation fee for calling the hotline.
American Animal Hospital Association Their Pet Care Library includes health and behavior, common health problems, human/animal bond, nutrition, pet care tips (including fish, reptiles and small critters), ask a veterinarian.