Mistake 3: Being Inconsistent With the Rules
Why this is a mistake: If one child lets Fifi on the bed and another punishes her for it, the animal will be confused. Bad behavior is inevitable.
How to avoid it: Make sure everyone in your household knows―and follows―the rules, says Arden. “You want your dog to sit before eating a treat? You don’t want your kitten to pounce on your hands? Then figure out a system that will help your pet succeed.” Pets thrive with a sense of order, so discuss with your family when yours should be fed, exercised, and even given a treat.
Mistake 4: Dispensing Too Many Free TreatsWhy this is a mistake: Treats lose their training value if your pet gets them for no reason.
How to avoid it: “Think of treats as currency given to a pet to reward good behavior,” says Marty Becker, a veterinarian and a coeditor of Petconnection.com. Assign each type of treat a value, and pay according to how well your pet behaves. Kibble is worth a dollar; a chicken strip, five; bologna, 10. “But it’s important to not pay off the good behavior all the time,” Becker says. “That way, your dog will always hope he might get that piece of bologna, and he’ll eventually perform without seeing a treat.”
Mistake 5: Neglecting to Socialize Your PetWhy this is a mistake: Pets that aren’t exposed to a variety of animals and people at a very young age can develop fears and aggressive behavior.
How to avoid it: Introduce your pet to adults, kids, animals, and environments so he’ll take every novelty in stride. It’s optimal for a pet to start the process before you bring him home, since the critical socialization period is early in life. “For a dog, it’s between the ages of 3 and 12 weeks. For cats, it’s between 2 and 8 weeks,” says Nicholas Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, in North Grafton, Massachusetts. The breeder or the shelter’s adoption counselor can tell you how much socialization an animal has had.