Making Pet Introductions Easier With Tricksthe pet connection
"This is particularly true of cats," says Jane Brunt, DVM Executive Director of the CATalyst Council, (www.catalystcouncil.org) an organization whose mission it is to change society's image of cats as aloof and not needing human contact or care. "Cats are reputed to be the world's most popular companion animal. Sometimes all it takes to get to enjoy a cat is an opportunity to see how smart and funny they can be."
"People are often surprised to learn that cats can be trained," says Blunt, who runs a feline practice called The Cat Hospital at Towson in Baltimore, Md. 'Sometimes teaching a cat a simple trick such as sitting on command -- something typically associated with dogs -- will break the ice."
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How to Teach a Cat to Sit
Hold a treat low above the cat's head, just far back enough so that in order to reach it, the cat has to sit.
Say "sit" as you are performing this action and offer lots of praise when the cat sits. And of course, give the treat.
Cats are fast learners and repetition will soon have the cat sitting on command without the treat above its head.
It's that simple.
Cats, like dogs, react very well to clicker training techniques that work in conjunction with positive reinforcement (offering treats). Using this technique, behaviorists like Karen Pryor have taught cats to perform high fives, and even play "Three Blind Mice" on piano.
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"I suggest to anyone meeting a cat for the first time to move slowly, extend a low finger and let the cat check you out," advises Blunt. "And if you have a treat, either offer it to the cat in the palm of your hand or place it on the ground."
When it comes to canine introductions, people who claim they don't like dogs may simply not know how to deal with a dog that may jump or bark at them even if the dog has friendly intensions.
When it comes to big dogs in particular, a great way to put out a message that the dog may be big but it's kind and gentle is to put a cute bandana on the dog or some other visual cue to act as an icebreaker and open the door to conversation and a possible introduction to the pet.
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Dog trainer and behavioral therapist Greg Kleva of Bark Busters Home Dog Training says that teaching your dog tricks not only improves your bond with your pet, but possibly initiates a potential interest in dogs for newcomers too.
The trick doesn't have to be complicated.
"Often it's simply a matter of 'capturing' and re-enforcing a behavior that a dog does naturally, and applying a verbal cue or hand signal to the natural behavior," explains Kleva. "A perfect example is teaching your dog to take a bow. This will certainly impress both friends and strangers alike."
How to Teach Your Dog to Bow
Observe when your dog likes to stretch. Usually its first thing in the morning, right after a long nap or if they've just been lying down and relaxing for a while. Every time you see your dog get up and take a big stretch with its head down low, say "take a bow."
After the dog bows and stands up to a natural position, give it lots of praise and reinforce the action by also giving it a treat.
With consistent repetition, your dog eventually will take a bow when you command it to. It will actually just be taking a big stretch, but it will look like a bow to you or anyone else who's watching.
"Tricks like this work because you put words with something your dog does and most dogs will learn in it a week," says Kleva. "And if it takes a bit longer, don't give up. Just stick with it."
Recently, a dog named Pudsey won "Britain's Got Talent." Who knows? With a few more tricks and plenty of perseverance, it could be your dog taking a bow on the talents stage, or your cat me-wowing the audience with a feline piano rendition of "Three Mild Mice."