We as humans naturally want to reach out and pet all animals. If an animal is sleeping, playing, or walking we want to touch. However we also pet them when they’re jumping, barking, whining, mouthing, etc. What many people don’t realize is that by doing this we are reinforcing the negative behaviors. For example, you come home from work and are greeted by your furry, 80 pound dog with a big jump and bear hug. You pet Fido, rub his cheeks and give a nice scratching while telling him to get down or off. What your dog has now learned is that it’s OK to greet a person like this. He may hear you saying to get down or off but why listen when he’s already being rewarded through petting? This may not bother some people but when Grandma comes over she won’t appreciate the same greeting.>
Attention-Seeking may not be an issue in some households but the manner in which some animals solicit petting can be very inappropriate. Attention-Seeking may be as subtle as nudging, rubbing, and pawing, or more obvious like jumping, barking, nipping, and pouncing. In some cases, animals may even steal objects or become destructive through chewing, clawing or going the bathroom. The goal is to get attention by any means possible, even if it’s negative attention. So how do we promote good behavior and deter negative?>
Become more aware of your physical and verbal actions. If your pet is jumping on you say, “Off”. You may need to turn away while doing so to have the dog return all four paws to the floor. Ask the dog to sit and reward once completed. Through repetition, your pet will learn that if they want attention, then they must sit instead of jumping. The same can be said for a cat that constantly rubs up against your legs. Completely ignore the cat while they’re persistently rubbing. When the cat remains calm and appropriate reward her through petting, attention, or tasty treats.
*Information adapted from Karen L. Overall’s, Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals.