After being “mom” to my miniature pinscher Ella for the past six years, I have definitely learned some valuable lessons in pet-owning. For most of us, our pets become so intertwined in our family that they really become our “children.” We love them, care for them, and bask in their unwavering love and support. They are there on our best and worst days – always without judgement, and willing to lend a sweet kiss to help comfort us. But how do we help them learn their place in our homes and what’s ok and not ok to do?
JP does 99% of our pet-training at home and she’s terrific at it. Seriously, why break something that’s not broken? The dogs listen to her and know that she rules the roost at our home. I’m more on the back-end as 2nd in charge – they listen to me but not as well as they listen to her. I’m the one they go to when they’re in trouble and looking for a “get out of jail free” card. But I think it’s important for at least one of us to have that command over our pets as they ultimately live in our home and need to abide by our family rules, too. Dogs, instinctively form loyalty in a “pack” setting, and as their family (or owners) we subsequently form their pack. That’s where all their die-hard love and loyalty come from … plus, I’m sure you’re also pretty awesome and that’s why they like you too! It’s important, however, to position yourself as the “Alpha” or leader of the pack because those pups don’t pay the mortgage and if you let them – they will completely take over your home.
I’ve put together some tips of things we do in our household. Keep in mind that every animal is different, but if you learn to adapt to how they learn best you can manage your relationship with them before they take over your entire house.
Stick to a routine. This is a HUGE point. Dogs LOVE routine and once you put them on one, it’ll make your life 99% better. Trust me. A set schedule helps them anticipate their day and adjust to feeding and potty break times. It also calms anxiety they may or might not have due to changing environments. So even if you’re moving homes, or changing your work hours – make sure to still keep your pets on some form of a routine. This will help them more than it will help you. Ella FLIPS out when we move – she tears a part padding in her crate and will squeal like crazy when we leave the home. But keeping her on a routine helps her get over that anxiety quicker and helps her learn to anticipate when we return to the house and that we are not abandoning her like she may think.
Use key terms. Your dogs will get to know the things you say and how you say it – that’s only natural. But having a few key terms they REALLY understand is key. Some of ours include, “who’s hungry,” “go potty/go outside,” “go lay down,” and “come here.” For obvious reasons our dogs caught on to “who’s hungry” and “go potty/go outside” fairly quickly. Those are tied to needs they have. But “go lay down” is probably my favorite because it benefits me. If the dogs are restless or misbehaving, we usually will say “go lay down” sternly and off they go to their spot/dog bed.
Reward good behavior. When our furbabies behave (or are looking extra cute) we reward them with tasty treats or new toys. It’s important that they get nice/yummy stuff to praise them for being good. Plus, doesn’t everyone like indulging in a treat once in a while?!
Be Mindful of Them. I once heard someone say that our pet’s are “part” of our lives, whereas we are their whole life. You’re probably the only person they see in their entire day and they wait at home for hours – for you. So, be mindful of them on those hard and long days when you want nothing but to be alone. Remember to give them extra playtime or hugs and kisses – you might find that it benefits you more than you thought it would.
Get Those Check-Ups. Pets have health needs too, and even though you can’t claim them as a dependent on your health insurance – it’s still important to keep regular check-ups and immunizations scheduled. And, it’s best to be on the preventative side of pet care before something seriously wrong happens and you have to shell out major cash to your vet. (honestly, why can’t we put these guys on our medical plan?!)
Break the Rules (every once and a while). Ok, so it shouldn’t always be bootcamp in your home. Your job as the Alpha of the pack is to provide a safe, loving home for your pets and people. The best thing about having pets is the joy they bring into your life. In our home we have a “no furniture” policy. That means our dogs are absolutely not allowed on our couch, bed, chairs, etc. unless invited. Even then, our little one, Ella, does “lap only” unless she’s told she can park her booty on the actual furniture once she’s in your lap. Our pets even adhere to this rule when visiting other people’s homes. We do this for a few reasons, but mainly it’s to keep our stuff clean and animal smell-free – plus with two hairy dogs we also like to keep pet hair at a minimum. But every now and then, it’s nice to break the rules and cuddle with the pups in bed, plus I think it makes for a nice treat for them. It’s not all the time, but I think they appreciate it when they get a chance to snuggle up closer to you.
So, those are some of our rules – what are the pet rules in your home? What are some of the ways you spoil your furbabies or praise for good behavior?