I often get asked what I think is the most important role I have as a behaviorist. The answer is simple – I want to improve the relationship you have with your pet.
Now there are many ways to go about this, but there are a few important things that I’ve found help to create and maintain a great relationship.
1. Spend quality time with your pet
We all get busy, I’m guilty of it as well. I’ll sometimes realize that it’s been days since I’ve spent really focused time with my dog or cats. Now having 2 young children and a baby in the midst of a pandemic contributes to that, I know that I need to do this. This doesn’t meant that they aren’t getting fed, pet, randomly talked to, or acknowledged throughout the day, but I haven’t taken a period of time out of my day to really focus on them.
How to do it:
Set aside 5-10 minutes a day to do something with each of your pets. This will depend on what you and your pets like best. Some ideas for you: a cuddle session, a good full body scratch, or a game of fetch or other favorite game. With dogs, you can also got on a walk where they can explore and you’re present with them.
2. Teach manners and have household rules
This is especially important in puppies and kittens, or new pets to your household. It's also something that needs to be reinforced frequently. Anyone living in your household needs to agree on some basic house rules for your pet and manners that you want so that your pet experiences consistency.
Manners and rules decrease the little annoyances that could happen throughout the day and gradually chip away at the bond between you and your pet. It can also help to prevent friction between household members when it comes to your pets.
How to do it:
Decide as a household what your rules are for your pet. For example, is your dog or cat allowed up on furniture? Is your cat allowed on the table where you eat, is your dog allowed to jump up on the bed?
Having these basic rules along with some basic manners that you have expectations of in your pet (such as not jumping up on people, not racing out the door when it’s opened, or any that apply to your household) that are reinforced all the time, will make days with your pet go more smoothly.
3. Ensure your pet gets physical exercise and mental stimulation
Both of these are equally important. You can have an exercise-filled day but still have a pet who is excitable. Or a mentally tired pet who has serious energy to burn.
Ensuring that our pets get adequate exercise and mental stimulation is important for both their health and your relationship with them. Pets that are bored or don’t have an outlet for their energy often find activities that you might not approve of or appreciate.
How to do it:
Every breed, species, and personality has differing needs when it comes to both physical exercise and mental stimulation. It can take some time to find their sweet spot.
Try to make sure your pet is getting exercise every day, in the form of walks or games that allow them to get moving around.
For mental stimulation, playing games with your pet allows you to both spend time with them and exercise their mind. There are many puzzles with toys or for food and treats that you can give your pets, or food-releasing balls or toys you can fill with food.
Which of these are you going to do today with your pet?