Can Cats be Trained?

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Thanks to their natural independence and aloofness, cats interact with others on their terms, but can a cat be trained? The answer is a resounding yes! Like dogs, cats respond to praise, but not so much for treats. You will have to find a reward that your cat will work for in order to train him. Cats have short attention spans; a typical play session only lasts 5 to 10 minutes. Training sessions need to be just as short (if not shorter).

Cats can easily be taught to fetch. Start with a furry ball toy. To reinforce the behavior, reward with food (or whatever you’ve found that will work) or praise (petting, words or both) when they return the toy. Start out by having them fetch a short distance and reward every time. When the cat gets bored and walks away, end the session and try later or the next day.

You can teach your cat to use the human “facilities.” Some cats have a natural interest in this, but most cats can be trained to do this, but it takes a lot of patience. The younger you start training your cat (before he starts using a litter box — and we all know how ingrained that behavior is!), the easier it will be. The easiest way to train is to purchase a potty training kit for cats. Or try this homemade way: Start by placing the litterbox near the toilet. Gradually start to raise the box off the floor. (The cat always needs to be able to use the box without falling off the step or falling into the toilet.) After a few weeks, place the box on the toilet (lid up, seat down). When he’s comfortable with this, take a heavy-duty foil turkey roaster pan and secure it under the seat onto the toilet base. Place litter in the pan. Gradually put a hole that gets gradually larger through the tray until your cat is standing on the seat with a hole the size of the bowl in the pan. Then you take away the pan and your cat will be using the toilet.

Leash training is another easy trick. The key is to find a proper-fitting harness that won’t allow him to slip a collar nor stress his neck. Keeps all walks short and always praise. This is much easier when you start during kittenhood, but it is possible for an adult cat to grow to love it. (After a long period of the “flop”. You know what I’m talking about.) When your cat grows tired, it’s okay to pick him up and take him home. A cat will never walk the same as a dog, think of it more as a preamble than a true walk.

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Running With Your Dog

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Any dog from the herding, sporting or working groups (according to the AKC) may require more exercise than a simple walk can provide. If you’re  a jogger or a runner, your dog may become your perfect running partner. Burning off your dog’s excess “spunk” can lead to a much better behaved pooch.

Before you begin taking your dog along, check with your vet to ensure your dog doesn’t have a heart condition, breathing difficulties, that he doesn’t overheat easily or is too overweight. Even if your dog is healthy, he could experience elbow or hip dysplasia and running will not help these problems.

Prior to beginning the running regimen, your dog should be properly leash trained. He needs to be able to turn and stop with you and run alongside you without running ahead or pulling on the leash. The basic heel command is a definite plus to help keep your dog safe.

If your dog is new to running, work up to your speed and whole routine gradually. Start at a walk/jog combination, keeping the distance short. As your dog grows comfortable, you can increase the distance in small increments and slowly work up to a full jog/run.

Always try to run on soft surfaces (dirt, grass, sand or asphalt) with your dog — concrete can be too jarring. Try to run in the mornings or evenings and in cooler weather. Hot pavement can burn a dog’s paws and lead to heatstroke or dehydration. Include a warm up and a cool down for both you and your dog. On longer runs, take frequent breaks, this will give your dog a much needed water break. Always praise your dog before and after a run. You want him to have fun and to increase your bond. (Dogs love praise — for anything and everything.)

If your dog develops an injury or you start to notice a limp, take him to the vet and avoid exercising until he’s fully recovered.