Does Your Dog or Cat Talk Too Much?

by Bonney Brown

The wild relatives of our pet dogs and cats—wolves and wild cats—are relatively quiet.  Adults of both species tend to communicate with each other through a combination of body language and scents. They leave scent markers for the next passer-by through urine or by rubbing their body against a surface. Their sensitive noses tell them know who was there and how long ago. We humans fail to notice their subtle body language and our sense of smell is abysmal compared to a dog or a cat.

According to veterinary behaviorist, Dr.  Sophia Yin, some dogs and cats have figured out that the best way to get our attention is by making noise.  Since most of us have a hard time ignoring barking or meowing, it’s a very effective strategy!

Perhaps you have a vocal dog or cat in your life and would like a quieter, more peaceful existence? Behavior experts will tell you that you get more of what you reward. So, if you want your pet to stop barking or meowing, ignore the noise and reward quiet behavior instead.

How would that work? Well, if your dog barks non-stop to get your attention or a treat, you will need to turn away from your pet or withhold the desired treat until the barking stops. When your dog has been quiet for 5 to 10 seconds toss him a little treat or give him some of that sought-after attention. As long as the dog stays quiet, nice things keep happening. Should the barking start up again, you need to withdraw treats and attention and wait it out. You can increase the time in between treats so that you get longer periods of quiet for the same reward.

Old habits die hard for all of us, so you will need to be very consistent with your dog. You want to plant the idea in your pet’s mind that sitting quietly is a great way to get rewards. Cats can be trained to sit quietly too, first for treats or canned food and then for petting.

It’s humbling to learn that sometimes we  have inadvertently encouraged the very behaviors in our pets that annoy us. The simple concept that you get more of what you reward can help us get things back on track!

Events that Help Animals

9 Lives for $9 at Nevada Humane Society. Through 10/23, adopt an adult cat and enjoy all 9 of their lives for only $9! Adult dogs are $50. All are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped. Shelter located at 2825 Longley Lane, Reno. Open 11:00 am to 6:30 pm daily and 10:00 am to 6:30 pm Saturdays.

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