Anne George, a local dog behavioral therapist with Bark Busters Home Dog Training, who runs a multi-pet household of her own, offers some key tips for couples facing challenges in the pet department. Anne works with dog owners in the greater Baltimore region, including those who also face challenges with their cats.
“Does he see your pet as a pampered over-indulged princess? Is his fun-loving lab in need of a bit more guidance about polite behavior with your friends?” asks Anne. No matter the situation – whether it’s a case of introducing each other’s pets or one person getting comfortable with having one, Anne emphasizes the need to be proactive. Just like a discussion of finances or where to go for the holidays, she suggests couples reach agreed upon pet rules before hitting a roadblock.
Anne often sees couples face the dilemma of whether or not a pet should sleep in the bed. While she says there isn’t one right answer, “The dog can actually benefit from not sleeping in the bed if it’s an issue,” she says, adding, “Dogs sense conflict and stress. They are better off without the stress and sleeping in their own space.” Anne coaches her clients to find solutions and helps train pets to adapt.
“First impressions are important,” notes Anne. “How dogs and cats are introduced to one another can make the difference between a smooth transition into a unified happy family and a stressful beginning that triggers unnecessary panic or aggression.” She advises introducing dogs to each other in a neutral space on loose leashes. If a cat and dog are meeting, Anne says cats will often run, which can trigger a play response from the dog. The cat may misunderstand and interpret the response as meaning, “I’m going to eat you.” She suggests allowing the cat to observe the dog at first from a place where the dog can’t go, such as from a high shelf or having the dog inside a crate. When introducing cats, there may be initial hissing, but don’t jump to conclusions, says Anne. Take things slowly, she advises. If you act stressed, pets will sense your concern.
DEVELOP AN “OUR FAMILY IS OUR PACK” MENTALITY
When pets go from being strangers to siblings, “It’s easy to train the dogs. What is hard is when for some reason the person isn’t vested in making this a blended pack. It’s just like blending children into a family when you have his kids or her kids,” Anne explains.
She emphasizes the need to treat all the pets equally and for the couple to provide united and consistent leadership, whether it’s one pet in the relationship or more. “Excessive barking, separation anxiety, leash aggression and exuberant greetings of guests are usually symptomatic of insufficient leadership,” she cautions.
DO YOU NEED A TRAINER?
If you have any concerns, Anne suggests calling a reputable trainer for a consultation. She says trainers can help put a different perspective on any situation by giving you a sense of how the pet perceives it.
If you seek a trainer, she urges, “Find someone who has a philosophy that feels right for you, whom you trust and comes highly recommended.” For more information on Bark Busters and to access additional tips, visit www.barkbusters.com
By Rebecca Klein
Photos by Dana Cubbage