Basic Pet Care

How to Stop These Bad Habits in Pets

How to Stop These Bad Habits in Pets

Dogs and cats may be acting out for a number of reasons including inconsistent training and stressful situations. It's not uncommon for pet parents to unconsciously reinforce bad behavior! Here are a few behaviors you can change:

Stealing Food Off of the Table or Counter

It is important to teach your pet not to eat anything off of the table. Chicken bones, chocolate and other foods can be dangerous for your pet. "I usually am pretty good at keeping human food out of reach from my Yorkies, but sometimes I have guests that drop food on the floor or they forget to push in their chair and there are Mimi & Lexi - paws on the table like they are ready for a feast" says pet parent, Mariella Agobjian. Teach your pet to 'leave it', 'drop it', and 'off'. Build value in these commands by rewarding them during training sessions, so that in a state of panic your pet will choose to leave it, drop it, or get off the table because they know you will reward them handsomely.


When your furry friend looks at you with sad eyes in hopes that you will spare an extra piece of food, don't give in to the guilt! You might think it is not a big deal to let your pet have a treat from the table every once in a while, but if you don't set the standard that begging is not allowed from the beginning and stick with it, you'll be dealing with a begging dog for years to come. In addition, keeping your pet on a balanced diet is important for their health and longevity. Consult your veterinarian to determine the right diet for your dog or cat.


Imagine guests walking through your front door, only to have your 130 pound Great Dane jump up and knock them over. Or picture your super athletic Jack Russell making a mad dash for the treats you have in your hand. Jumping can be a sign of love and excitement or the result of inconsistent training. As with all training, it is best to start when the dog is a puppy. Teach your dog to sit, stay or lie down when he tries to jump. Or ignore the dog until he settles and has all 4 paws on the ground. Immediately praise and reward this good behavior. Remember, consistent training and positive reinforcement will result in a well behaved dog.

Leash Pulling

Much like jumping, this can be dangerous for the unsuspecting handler and dog. No one wants their dog to pull them into traffic, or through the bushes to catch a squirrel. Here are a few tips to teach your dog to walk on a leash.

  1. Get the right equipment – There are many choices including chest lead harnesses, head collars, etc. Be sure to select equipment that fits properly and does not impair their ability to walk or see. Chest lead harnesses and head collars are designed to gently redirect a dog's forward moving force back towards the handler.
  2. Get the right techniques – When you dog pulls ahead, stop and wait for you dog to release before moving forward. Some trainers will even recommend stopping, and turning in the opposite direction.
  3. Get help – If you are new to pet training, talk to your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to provide resources including recommendations on a professional trainer or behaviorist. Your local shelter may also offer training courses for you and your dog.

Urinating Indoors

Nearly every pet parent will experience a dog or cat urinating inappropriately in the house and it can be tricky to correct. Finding the cause is key to your success.

  1. Medical Issues – Make sure you start off with a clean bill of health. Consult your veterinarian to make sure your dog or cat is not experiencing a medical issue such as diabetes, urinary tract infection, kidney failure, etc. that can lead to excessive urination.
  2. House Training Issues– Young dogs need frequent potty breaks so they can learn when and where to go to the bathroom. Keep a schedule and tell them to 'potty' so your dog or puppy learns when and where to do their business. Talk to your veterinarian about house training tips.
  3. Marking – This happens when a pet wants to leave their identity on a surface or in a room. You may notice both male and female dogs lifting their leg to mark their territory.
  4. Litterbox Problems – Cats can be finicky about their litterboxes. You should have 1 litter box for every cat you have plus 1; So if you have 1 cat, you should have 2 litter boxes. Start by adding an additional litterbox, revise where you keep them and try different types of litter. Also, always try to keep the litterbox clean.

After your pet urinates in the house, be sure to thoroughly clean up the mess to eliminate the odor. Dogs & cats will continue to mark a spot that has not been properly cleaned. As for training, remember to reward your dog or cat when they eliminate in the correct location.

When teaching behavior, be sure to use positive reinforcement. Develop quick one word commands to help your dog understand what you are asking. Well trained commands like 'sit', 'off' and 'leave it' can create a happy environment for you and your pet. It's also important that everyone in your home, who may be interacting with your pet, commits to train your pet in the same way. Consistency is key to achieving good results and a well behaved pet makes for a happy family.