Defined as being badly behaved or disobedient, the term ‘naughty’ is usually used to describe children and pets. I think that is because they are the two members of the family who depend on us for direction and guidance, so we do tend to find ourselves expecting them to do as we ask. This allows us to form some sort of control over those who can’t really successfully control the world themselves. Imagine if your three year old was the boss! Some of you maybe thinking ‘oh I can’t even imagine’, whilst others may be thinking ‘hmm actually my three year old IS the boss of me!’. When a dependent is in control over others, it can lead to a stressful and frustrating relationship, which is not the type of relationship anyone wants with their pets or children.
So how can you raise a pet to trust and respect you, without challenging your guidance, pushing your boundaries and occasionally being badly behaved?
Well, if I must be honest, you can’t. All relationships at some point are faced with interpersonal challenges. Successful relationships however, face these with Consistency, Patience and Respect, or as I like to call it CPR.
So when clients ask me how to train their puppy, cat or budgie to stop being ‘naughty’, I tell them to give their pet CPR. Pets need someone who understands them. Sometimes particular breeds and species of pets have been created for particular jobs. This means some display behaviours that are natural and instinctive to them, happen without them thinking about it. Rabbits will dig, ferrets may nip, cats scratch, dogs bark and birds manipulate with their beaks. It seems everyone can be destructive and naughty, but their intentions are not always to do so. Some animals just need to be given an opportunity to invest that natural behaviour into something more positive.
As a behaviourist, I try to get people to understand that naughtiness is a symptom of underlying issues, which is generally frustration and anxiety. Once we identify the cause of the unwanted quirks, we can help our beloved pets to overcome them. Here’s how to implement this approach successfully, to get less naughty and more nice out of your best mates.
- Don’t take their cheekiness too seriously! - The more we chase and yell at them, the more likely they will run further, become excited and possibly make things worse. It’s always best to ignore any naughty behaviour when you can.
- When they are doing something ‘nice’ vs ‘naughty’, always reward them. - Even if it is just praise, acknowledging a good choice means it is more likely to happen again, hopefully instead of the less desired behaviour.
- If they seem agitated or cheeky, refocus their attention on to something positive. - Use some of their daily intake of food as a quick training session instead.
- Keep them busy! Often naughtiness is motivated by frustration due to boredom. Give them purpose by throwing the ball, going for a walk, hiding their food or teaching a quick trick.
- Let them be part of the family more - Whether that be letting them out of their pen, cage, kennel or hutch; the more they are with you, the happier they are. Happy pets are less destructive.
If you have a puppy or kitten, naughtiness comes as standard with their care instructions. Anyone young will naturally push boundaries and explore the possibilities of their new world. But what you will find is that no matter what breed, species or age your animal is, if you implement CPR, make them an integral part of the family and see life from their point of view, they will be much more likely to hit Santa’s ‘nice’ list this Christmas!
Apply these tricks to your children, and keep Santa busier than he’s ever been at your place.
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