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Puppies & Kittens: Behavioural Issues and Training



The best way to prevent behavioural problems is to address them early before your puppy or kitten develops bad habits that can become entrenched and difficult to correct. Basic training and conditioning will help your puppy or kitten prepare for the big wide world and ensure that they remain calm, happy and healthy in their new environment.


Toilet Training


Puppies

Teaching your puppy to toilet outside takes a little patience and repetition but with these helpful tips, your home will be fresh and stain-free once again!

  • Take your puppy outside to the same spot first thing in the morning, after every meal and nap, and whenever the puppy has had a period of excitement or play.

  • Look for signs that your puppy needs to go to the toilet such as sniffing, walking away or in circles, scratching at the floor, waiting by the door or being restless.

  • Young puppies will need to be taken outdoors to toilet at least every 4 hours during the night.

  • Praise and reward your puppy every time they toilet outside. If you catch your puppy in the process of toileting, calmly pick them up and carry them outside.

  • Teach your puppy that it is possible to go to the toilet outside when it is raining or the grass is wet!

  • If you need to leave your puppy alone while you are at work, confine them to an area such as the laundry or kitchen. Create a toileting area away from the puppy's bed using either newspaper, commercial pee pads or a litter tray containing turf.


IMPORTANT: Never ever punish your puppy for toileting inside. This will only confuse the puppy and delay the process of toilet training.


Kittens

Cats are very particular about their litter tray. Follow these steps to minimise accidents and keep your smelling home clean and fresh!


1. Remove soiled litter daily.

2. Clean weekly with hot, soapy water

3. Buy a litter tray that is 1.5 times the length of the cat

4. Ensure litter depth at least 4 cm

5. Provide a litter tray for each cat plus an extra one for the household





Puppies: Basic Commands

A few basic obedience lessons will help your puppy to understand what is required of them, and ensure their safety in a variety of situations.


Try these commands first. Once your puppy has mastered the basics you can progress to tricks and more advanced training if you choose to.

  • Sit

  • Stay

  • Come

  • Leave it

  • Walking on a lead

Socialisation

Puppies and kittens should be fully vaccinated prior to meeting pets from other homes or visiting the dog park. Puppy classes generally require the first vaccination prior to enrolment, so this environment will be safe for puppies to socialise in.


Take your puppy to dog-friendly venues and play dates where they can learn how to interact safely with other dogs. The more places you can take your puppy with you, the more fun you can have together!


Desensitisation


Desensitisation means getting your pet used to the sights, sounds and smells of daily life so that they can feel comfortable and calm in almost any situation. Visits to the vet, grooming, neighbourhood walks and travelling in the car are all part of an active, healthy lifestyle for our pets, so getting them accustomed to these experiences early on will make life less stressful for both of you.



Puppies

Incorporate grooming into your puppy’s daily routine so that can get used to being handled and having their nails clipped. Let your puppy learn that having their paws touched or their fur brushed is a pleasurable experience, rather than something to be feared or endured.


Take your puppy on short car rides to various locations, experiencing the sights and sounds of places that you visit regularly. Make sure to use a suitable harness or crate to keep them safe during travel.


Kittens

It’s important for cats to get used to vet visits so teaching your kitten to love the carrier will make life considerably less stressful! Put comfortable bedding inside and leave it in a space where they like to hang out. Gradually they will start to see the carrier as a safe place to spend time in, rather than as an indicator that it's time to go to the vet. Covering the carrier with a towel when visiting the clinic will help your kitten to feel protected.


Synthetic pheromones such as Feliway can help your cat to feel more relaxed. Spray inside the carrier and on the covering towel.


Addressing Behavioural Issues

Although most puppy and kitten behaviours are natural and instinctive, they may not always be appropriate for indoor living and certain social situations.


Here are a few of the most common behavioural issues we get asked about:


Puppies: Jumping Up

Unfortunately, we are often to blame for our puppies jumping up on us, as we reward them by giving them attention. Simply ignoring them or walking away with no eye contact will stop this unwanted behaviour over time. As soon as they are sitting still or calm, reward them with loads of cuddles and attention.


Puppies: Separation Anxiety

Adjusting to a new home and routine can be a confusing and stressful time for a puppy. They may worry that when you leave the house to go to work, you might not come back. Eight to ten hours is a long time for a young, energetic pup to spend on their own, so it’s imperative that you set them up to feel happy and secure in your absence.


Signs of separation anxiety in puppies and dogs can include:

  • Having accidents indoors

  • Destructive behaviour: chewing on furniture, frantic scratching on doors or walls

  • Self-harm: pulling out fur, scratching skin

  • Drooling or excessive panting

  • Barking for prolonged periods of time

  • Howling

  • Whimpering

  • Pacing

Treatment for separation anxiety can include a number of approaches such as counter-conditioning and desensitisation (by associating the dog's fear of a situation with something good such as a treat) and gradually increasing the length of absences. Mental stimulation and environmental enrichment also play a key role by providing your puppy with regular exercise and games or interactive toys.


Severe cases of separation anxiety may require medications. Please consult with us before giving your puppy any type of medication for a behaviour problem.


Kittens: Scratching on Furniture

Scratching is a normal, instinctive cat behaviour. They do it to express emotions such as excitement or stress, and it can also be used as a precursor for play or even as an attention-seeking tool.


Scratching (or stropping) loosens and removes the outer husk of the claw revealing a sharp new surface underneath. It is also used as a form of territorial communication or marking behaviour (they have scent glands in their paws).


To prevent your kitten from scratching on the furniture:


  • Provide scratching posts in various locations (ideally one per cat).

  • Try rubbing some catnip on it and hang some attractive toys to encourage their use.

  • Double-sided adhesive tape stuck on furniture or purpose-made sprays (e.g. Aristopet) can also act as a deterrent.

  • A Feliway diffuser can help to reduce anxiety induced scratching.


IMPORTANT: Remember to never punish your kitten for scratching. If your kitten is scratching excessively due to anxiety and insecurity, then punishment will add to its distress and probably make the situation worse.


If problem behaviours persist, please consult with one of our qualified veterinarians.


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