Pets

Become a Pet Whisperer

Cats can be coached out of bad habits like scratching the furniture, and dogs can be taught when not to bark. The secret is learning to communicate with your animal.
Become a Pet Whisperer
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EVEN THE MOST INDULGENT OWNER appreciates a well-trained pet. Cats can be coached out of bad habits like scratching the furniture, and dogs can be taught when not to bark. The secret is learning to communicate with your animal. "You know your pet--and how it will respond to instruction--better than anyone," says Jon Katz, author of A Good Dog: The Story of Orson, Who Changed My Life (Villard) and four other tomes on training and the dog-human bond. Proper exercise, discipline, and affection are also key, says canine-behaviorist Cesar Millan, star of the National Geographic Channel television show Dog Whisperer.

Incorporate these four strategies to make the most of your training:

* Be calm. Don't teach or reprimand your pet when you're feeling angry, stressed, or fearful, says Millan. Your animal can sense it, and he or she will resist following your instruction. If you're feeling frustrated, take a break.

* Outwit kitty. To keep Felix off the counter, certified animal-behavior consultant Pam Johnson-Bennett, author of Think Like a Cat (Penguin), applies double-sided tape (cats don't like the sticky feeling). Then she offers another place to perch. Punishment makes a cat fearful, Johnson-Bennett says.

* Reward dogs with praise. Katz's border collie, Rose, had a habit of eating sheep droppings while herding on their farm. "Rather than yell and reinforce the behavior by giving her attention, I remained quiet, praising her when she ignored the droppings," he says. Over time, the strategy worked.

* Be patient. It will take more than a few hours to teach your pet better behavior, says Katz. In fact, he views training as a daily form of communication.