This Isn't What I Signed Up For
You've done your research, you've picked your new pet, and you’ve welcomed her home. You are doing everything in your power to help your new pet succeed in your home. In fact, you are convinced your new pet is grateful for being in your home. You feel completely in sync.
Then, a few weeks go by, and the honeymoon starts to fade. You start to see glimmers of a pet you don't recognize as the one you chose. Maybe your dog was very quiet when you first welcomed her home and now she’s barking at everything. Maybe your cat who never jumped on your countertops is now knocking glasses of water off of them. Why would they be so ungrateful in your home? What do you do?
Lend Me an Ear
Recognizing less than desirable behaviors in your adorable new pet doesn't make you a bad person, it makes you an observant person. Find someone supportive and understanding to talk to. This person does not need to give you behavior advice, rather this person should lend a sympathetic ear.
Ask for help. Talk to your veterinarian. Find a force-free trainer to work with. If appropriate, take a group training class. Your veterinarian and trainer can sympathize and give you evidence-based advice. This may help you decode the whys of your pet’s confounding behavior.
One of the reasons you adopted a pet in the first place was to enjoy your time together. You don’t need to be on a competition track to enjoy a dog sports class. Take a look at rally, obedience, agility, nosework, tracking, barn hunt, freestyle, dock diving, disc dog, parkour, tricks, and lure coursing, to name a few. Nosework and tracking in particular are excellent for dogs with reactive behaviors. These fun sports aren’t just for dogs! There are countless videos of cats, bunnies, birds, and mice performing agility and tricks.
Play with your pet! There are many books, videos, and even classes which show you how to engage your pet in play. Find out what your pet likes and have fun playing together! For example, my dog loves to be chased. I curl up my arms and lumber after her T-REX-style and squeal “I'm gonna get you!”.
Treat Yo’ Self!
Take a break. Recharge. Refill your resilience. Find your joy. Don’t put self-care on the back burner. Tell your pet you are taking a mental health day. Catch up on life and do something you enjoy without your pet. If appropriate, ask someone to pet sit for an afternoon, overnight, or even a weekend. Don’t feel guilty about not working on your pet’s behavior problems all of the time. Some force-free trainers, including Behavior United LLC, offer services to train your pet without you and show you how to maintain the behaviors.
Sometimes there's a mismatch between pet and family. Re-Homing your pet can be a painful and selfless act. Our dog had 3 homes before ours. I'm grateful to all of those people for returning her. If it's not the right match, that's OK. It's especially important to return your pet if she is endangering you, your family, or your other pets. Veterinarians and force-free trainers can help you with this decision. Talk to the folks where you adopted your pet from about returning the pet. Reputable breeders, rescues, and shelters take pets back.
Remember, your pet isn’t purposely giving you a hard time, she is having a hard time. Your pet is trying to navigate her new life in your home. You are trying to navigate sharing your best life with your new best friend. You may both get lost along the way and that’s OK. She’s really not trying to exasperate you, (though we understand why it feels that way sometimes). We’re here for you, we are ready to listen, and we can help you get back on track! www.behaviorunited.com