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Pet behavior tips

You love your pet and want what's best for them. Here are some behavior tips from the American Humane Association.


Through obedience training, puppies learn basic commands and manners, like not jumping on people and walking on a leash.

Training is a great way to teach dogs to come when they’re called. As dogs get older, they’re tempted to run off and explore. Also, if you want to improve your dog’s agility and help it learn new tricks, consider advanced training classes.


Dogs aren't solitary animals — they don't like being left home alone. Some dogs will develop separation anxiety and show bad behaviors, like not letting you leave or barking all day while you're gone.

If your dog is showing signs of separation anxiety, you can retrain them. Here are some tips:

  • Don't punish your dog. Punishment only works at the moment the bad behavior occurs. If you punish your dog for something they did earlier in the day, they won't understand.
  • Your dog recognizes your routine when you're about to leave, and each step gives them more anxiety. Get them used to your routine. For example, pick up your keys and walk to the door, but don't leave. Do it several times until your dog calms down. ​​​​​​​
  • At first, only leave your home for several minutes at a time, and then slowly increase how long you stay outside. When you get back, greet your dog briefly without going overboard.

Teaching your children how to behave around dogs helps prevent accidents. Here are some great general rules to teach your kids:

  • Don't tease dogs. Don't shout at a dog or put your hands through a fence or window to touch a dog.
  • Don't grab toys or sticks from dogs. Dogs are possessive and may bite if you try to take their toy.
  • Never try to break up a dog fight. Find an adult to help.
  • Know an angry dog's body language. Barking, growling, and showing teeth are warning signs. Raised fur, a stiff tail, and ears laid flat are also signs of aggression.
  • If a dog shows anger, slowly walk away sideways. Never stare at a dog in the eyes or run away.
  • If a dog attacks you, curl up in a ball and cover your face.
  • Tell an adult right away if you were bitten. Try to describe what the dog looked like.

You probably have a fire safety plan for your human family, but don’t forget about your pets! Remember where your pets usually hide and sleep so you can find them in an emergency.

  • If there's an emergency, try to put your pet on a leash or in a carrier. That way you can control their behavior if they’re scared.
  • Keep some of your pet's food in your family's emergency kit. You should also keep a copy of your pet’s health records in the kit in case you need to board them at a kennel.
  • Make sure your pet's collars and tags are up to date. They're a lifeline if you get separated in an emergency.
  • Take your pet to the vet as soon as you can after a fire. Smoke inhalation and burns on foot pads are common — but serious — injuries.  

Animals associate punishment with whatever they’re doing at the moment. For punishment to work, you have to catch your pet right as they’re doing the bad behavior. That's hard to do, which is why punishment is ineffective and sometimes harmful.

Try changing the environment instead of your pet's behavior. Move things out of reach or make them hard to get into. If your cat is scratching furniture, change the texture by putting something smooth or sticky over it. You can keep pets from chewing on cords or plants by coating the surface with a bitter, pet-safe liquid.

All animals would rather do something pleasant than unpleasant. Instead of trying to stop bad behaviors, teach your pet good ones so you can reward him.


Your dog needs a den to feel at home. If you don't give them one, they'll make one wherever they feel cozy. Crate training is based on your dog's desire to be in a comfortable, secure place.

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