Biggest Pet Peeves -- and How to Fix Them

Your pets are part of the family. And, like any child, your dog or cat can annoy you at times. Chances are at least a few of the following pet behavioral problems will sound familiar. To help curb your biggest pet peeves, consider a few expert solutions to their bad behavior.

Pet Peeve No. 1: Your cat scratches up the furniture
Your kitty isn’t trying to annoy you: Scratching is a natural behavior. It helps your cat mark its territory, remove the outer layer of its claws,and exercise. So instead of scolding or punishing your cat, try to modify its behavior by offering it a scratching post. Take note of what your cat tends to scratch -- fabric, wood, rope or cardboard -- and purchase one with a similar material and place it near the original object. You can also discourage your cat from scratching certain things by covering them in aluminum foil or double-sided tape.

Pet Peeve No. 2: Your pup barks all the time
When Fido gets going, avoid the temptation to yell at him -- he’ll think that you’re joining in. Instead, take him away from the barking trigger: For instance, if he’s barking at the squirrels outside, the Humane Society of the United States recommends closing the blinds or putting him in another room. Also, attempt to ignore the woofs: Paying him attention while he’s barking rewards the behavior. You can also teach him a “quiet” command in a peaceful setting, and then gradually practice in distracting situations. Eventually, he’ll respond even when the mailman walks by or the doorbell rings.

Pet Peeve No. 3: Your kitty wakes you up in the middle of the night
After a long day, the last thing you want to do is wake up throughout the night to your cat’s meowing or playing. But Fluffy is wired to hunt on a 24-hour cycle, with her most active periods at dawn and dusk. This means the best solution is to shut her out of your bedroom at night. Can’t imagine snoozing without her by your side? Cats generally want to get fed in the early morning, so you may want to invest in a timed feeder. Also do your best to ignore her nudges or meows in the morning; even calling out her name or pushing her off the bed counts as attention. Once she realizes that her behavior won’t garner a reaction, she’ll stop.

Pet Peeve No. 4: Your dog won’t stop begging
Feeding your pup at the table isn’t just annoying: It can also lead to obesity. Slipping your dog food just a few times can create a pattern of begging, so the best way to break the cycle is to ignore Rover completely. Avoid eye contact and don’t speak to him (even if it’s telling him to stop). Make sure everyone in your family is on the same page and stands firm, so that your dog is not confused by inconsistent behavior. You can also ease the whining by feeding Rover during your own mealtime, or distracting him with a few toys.

Pet Peeve No. 5: Your dog jumps up on people
It’s nice to receive a warm welcome, but Rover’s forceful hello (and muddy paw prints on your clothes) needs to stop. According to the American Humane Society, dogs greet each other nose-to-nose, so his leaps are an attempt to do the same. To prevent this from occurring -- and him from scaring visitors -- you’ll need to train him.

When you come home, enter calmly instead of clapping your hands and yelling his name. If he leaps on you, turn around and go outside. Repeat until he stops jumping -- this teaches him he’ll only receive attention when all of his feet are on the floor. For visitors, instruct your pup to sit as someone approaches. If he leaps, have that person walk away, and repeat until he’s able to stay seated. Then have the visitor reward him with a treat.

by Sharon Liao