Training doesn’t have to be trying. We asked experts what works, what just makes bad behavior worse, and which tools you need to make the process easier.

By June DeMelo
Updated August 22, 2019
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pet training tips for misbehaving pets
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Stay Positive

Most professionals believe that rewarding your pet when he behaves well, aka positive reinforcement, is the best way to train. Food is usually the most effective reward, though some pets prefer playtime, affection, praise, or access to a favorite toy or the outdoors. Kibble can work for very food-motivated pets, but others may need higher-value treats. Just reduce portions a bit at mealtime to balance out your pet’s total food intake.

Structure Your Sessions

Whatever behavior you’re trying to teach, start small and go slowly. To train your dog to come when called, practice with a short leash somewhere free from distractions (not in an off-leash dog park). To work up to trimming your cat’s nails, begin by rewarding her just for letting you touch her paw. Sessions can be as short as 30 seconds or as long as 20 minutes; most pets can’t pay attention longer than that. Wrap up before your pet gets frustrated or loses focus. If she does, switch to a trick she knows well to end on a positive note.

Ignore Undesired Behavior

Scolding can backfire, so give the cold shoulder. If your dog jumps on you, don’t pet him until all paws are on the floor. Does your cat yowl to be fed at 4 a.m.? Ignoring her teaches her to wait for breakfast. (If a behavior seems sudden or out of character, see a vet.) Prevent unwanted behavior when possible: Don’t leave food within reach; use double-stick tape to deter sofa scratching. If that fails, interrupt your pet with a loud but nonscary sound, then redirect her toward a positive activity.

Our Experts

The Tools

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