What products are available to help prevent undesirable behavior?
There are numerous products on the market that have been designed to help prevent undesirable behavior in pets. Leashes, harnesses, and head halters are needed to keep pets under control, especially when outdoors. A crate, cage or X-pen provides a safe comfortable home for the dog when the owners are not available to supervise. Child locks and child barricades such as baby gates can be used to keep pets away from potential problem areas.
Timed feeding devices and automatic watering devices can help maintain a regular feeding routine at times when the owners might be away from home.
What types of toys are recommended?
Since dogs, especially young puppies, are strongly motivated to chew it is important to provide a variety of chew toys. Many dental products make excellent chew toys while improving dental health. Find a few products that are safe, durable and that appeal to your pet. Some representative products of each type are listed here as examples. There may be other appropriate products available in your local area.
Many companies manufacture toys that can be stuffed or coated with food or treats, or that are filled with food that is only released when the toy is manipulated. Examples include Kong®, Kong Biscuit Ball®, Dental Stick®, Nylabone Crazy Ball™, Buster Cube™, Tricky Treats™, Busy Buddy™, Twist’N’Treat™, Bouncy Bone™. Toys that provide a moving target for chasing and pouncing are attractive to most cats. Examples include Feline Flyer™, Cat Dancer™, Tiger Toy™, and Laser Mouse™. Interactive toys provide an opportunity for social play with the owner. The Mutt Puck™, Boomer Ball™, Water Kong™, and a variety of flying disks have been designed for interactive play with dogs. Some cat toys are designed for interactive play since they need to be set in motion by the owners, while others are propelled by battery power. The Kitty Kong® is a lightweight plastic toy that can be batted around by the cat, or pulled along or propelled by the owners to encourage chase and pounce. It has an opening that can be stuffed with food or catnip, and rubber band whiskers for nibbling. Toys that might be manipulated by the cat itself include Crazy Balls™, which can be filled with either food or a flashing light toy for play. Even something as simple as an empty cardboard box or paper bag may be appealing to some cats.
Most cats benefit from scratching and perching products. A product known as Pavlov’s Cat™ delivers food treats each time the cat scratches the post. For scratching problems, plastic nail coverings, (Soft Paws™) are available that can be glued onto the toenails to prevent damage to furniture. For cats that chew on household items such as plants, planting a cat herb garden may attract the cat.
Some dogs may become possessive over toys and food. Tug-a-Jug™ is a toy made from a bottle with a rope in it. The bottle is filled with small treats and every time the dog pulls on the rope treats are released, motivating the dog to leave the toy and take the treats. This may help teach your dog to leave objects for a better reward.
Laser toys can present a problem to some cats and dogs, who can become frustrated if they are unable to achieve a desired outcome (catch the light). Some of these animals develop compulsive or obsessive light and shadow chasing. Pets that lose interest or cease the game on their own are not likely to develop this problem. If the dog or cat wants to continue light chasing when you have had enough, give a favored treat or toy as a reward to end the game or start another game instead.
What type of training collar should I use for walking and controlling my dog?
The head halter is a quick and effective method for teaching the dog to respond to commands, allowing you to effectively implement a reward based training program. The halter controls the dog by exerting pressure behind the neck and around the muzzle, rather than by pulling against the trachea. By pulling forward and upward, you can prompt your dog to sit and as soon as the pet perform the appropriate response, you can immediately release the tension. A favorite treat or toy can be used to reinforce and “mark” the correct response.
All head halters are excellent walking and control devices and avoid placing pressure across the trachea. With the Halti®, Gentle Leader®, and Snoot Loop®, the leash is attached to a ring beneath the muzzle and you can quickly and immediately redirect the head and close the mouth with any of them. With the Easyway™ and Canny Collar™ head halters, the leash is attached to a ring behind the skull, providing a quick and effective means of controlling pulling. The Gentle Leader™ also functions as a “head collar” and can be fitted and adjusted so it can be left on the dog for supervised control and training. Body harnesses (Gentle Leader Easy Walk Harness™, Halti Harness™, and K9 Pull Control™) will effectively stop pulling, but do not provide head control. See our handout on head halter training for additional information on their use. For video support on the fitting and use of the Gentle Leader™ head halter and the Easy Walk Harness™, visit www.abrionline.org.
What products are useful for house-soiling problems?
For house soiling in both dogs and cats, it is necessary to eliminate any residual odor to prevent the pet from being attracted to the odor at the site. A number of products are specifically designed to remove the stain or odor of pet urine, and are more effective than general household cleaners. Products that use enzymes, bacteria or a combination of these two, such as Anti-Icky Poo®, Outright Stain and Odor Eliminator®, Nature’s Miracle®, Urine Off®, and Urine Erase® are particularly effective on urine stains that are relatively fresh and have not been pretreated. There are also products that are species-specific odor counteractants such as Cat Off®, which can be used to neutralize odors even after other stain and cleaning products have been applied. For larger areas, a concentrated product will allow you to dilute out a sufficient quantity to saturate the entire area. Black lights and moisture detectors can help to identify the soiled site. For cats, a synthetic cheek gland pheromone called Feliway® is available to be sprayed on areas where the cat might be inclined to spray or mark, in order to reduce marking. For dogs that house soil, an indoor litter system or housetraining pads might be appropriate to teach the dog a new, more acceptable indoor elimination location.
What products are available for treating noise phobias and anxiety?
Commercial products are available that reproduce a variety of sounds that often cause fear in pets, including thunderstorms, fireworks and gunshots. Some that are specifically designed for treatment of canine fears and phobias might also include a training manual on how to effectively desensitize and counter-condition. For further details, see our handout on thunderstorm and fireworks phobias. Recordings containing a wide variety sounds including vacuums, trucks, hot air balloons, airplanes, crying babies, etc., are useful for desensitization and counter-conditioning, or as background noises for habituation in puppies.
Some products have been designed to reduce anxiety in other ways, such as a wrap (anxiety wrap) which exerts constant pressure, and a cape that reduces static electricity associated with thunderstorms (Storm Defender Cape), although there is minimal data to support their efficacy at this time. The Calming Cap has been developed to reduce stimulus intensity during desensitization training by covering the eyes to reduce visibility of stimuli.
How do I decide what products to use to correct undesirable behavior?
Before using any product for interrupting or deterring undesirable behavior, the first question should always be whether the pet is being given suitable and sufficient enrichment and outlets for its behavior, and whether these are being adequately and consistently reinforced. In addition, it is essential that you determine if anything might be reinforcing the undesirable behavior so that this can be eliminated.
Numerous products have been designed to interrupt or deter undesirable behavior. However, the primary goal of training should always be to train the pet to exhibit the desirable behavior, rather than to correct the undesirable. Therefore, perhaps the most practical use for these products is to prevent recurrence of the problem during the owner’s absence, or as an aid in disrupting undesirable behavior so that responses that are more desirable can be achieved and reinforced.
This is one area where the quality and durability of the product is essential, and the type of warranty may be an important consideration. Follow the instructions carefully, and supervise the pet whenever the product is being used. Aversives are intended to reduce the probability of a behavior in the future. To be successful, the correction must be administered during misbehavior, and must be sufficiently noxious or unpleasant to deter the pet.
Before using any type of aversive methods, it is important to determine why the pet is exhibiting the behavior. It is of little value (and may be inhumane) to try to stop the undesirable behavior without resolving the underlying cause. In fact, if the problem is related to fear and anxiety, punishment may serve to increase the pet’s anxiety. When considering methods of corrections for undesirable behavior, behavior products can be particularly useful since they are less likely to cause fear or defensive behavior toward the owner. If the corrective device can be activated while the owner is out of sight, as in remote aversives or booby traps, then the pet may learn to cease the behavior whether the owner is present or not. If a training device is not effective immediately, discontinue its use, and seek professional advice, since continuing to reprimand or punish the pet is counterproductive and may create fear and anxiety.
Why do some behavior modification products utilize shock?
For punishment to be effective, it must be sufficiently aversive or unpleasant to overcome the pet’s motivation to perform the behavior. For this reason, some punishment devices use “shock” to deter the pet. When determining what punishment, if any, might be useful or appropriate for your pet, you must consider all the options available, the severity of the problem, the effects of the punishment on the pet (and you) and the consequences to the pet and you if the problem persists.
In some countries, products that use any level of shock have been banned as being cruel and inhumane. The use of shock cannot be justified if there are other practical and more humane ways that the problem might be resolved. Electronic shock or “static” devices may be a viable alternative to restrictive confinement for pets that need to be kept away from specific areas. For example, because of the design of certain homes, the dog or cat that eliminates in inappropriate areas, or chews on electric cords, plants, Christmas trees, ornaments or valuable owner possessions may end up confined to small areas of the home for prolonged periods of time. As an alternative, indoor containment and avoidance devices might be used to keep pets away from rooms, furniture or indoor areas where problems might arise.
Owners with large yards and no fencing may need to keep their pet indoors, tied up, or confined to a small pen outdoors. Outdoor electronic containment fencing may be an alternative to keep pets from roaming off the property. Some containment devices have a tone that precedes the shock, providing an audible signal to the dog. After just a few pairings, the pet learns to avoid further shock. These systems vary in reliability and are best used when installed by professionals who also supervise the training. A variety of other avoidance devices may be as effective or more effective than shock products, without the need for physical discomfort; one example is a citronella spray boundary barrier.
It is important to note that even a highly noxious corrections may not be sufficient to overcome reflexive, innate or highly motivated behaviors. Consider, for example, the dog that continues to pursue porcupines even after receiving a face full of quills. Therefore, you should immediately discontinue the use of any device that is not immediately effective, since further use is cruel and inhumane.
What products are useful for training and correction when the owner is present to supervise?
Physical forms of punishment should always be avoided as they can lead to physical injury, trigger fear and defensive aggression and are seldom effective at deterring the pet from repeating the behavior.
In fact, physical punishment can serve to reinforce some unwanted behaviors by providing attention. Instead, use a device that you can activate remotely to provide an immediate undesirable consequence that your dog can associate with a specific behavior. You can also use this device as a means of interrupting an undesirable response so that an appropriate desirable response can be achieved and reinforced.
How can a device be used to train appropriate behavior?
The concept of a disruptive or inhibitory stimulus is that it is sufficiently startling to interrupt the behavior. Whether the disruptive stimulus is also an aversive will depend on its effect on the pet and the problem. Some pets may be sufficiently deterred by the disruptive stimulus that it will reduce the possibility of the behavior recurring, while others may be interrupted but will not be deterred from repeating the behavior, or will habituate to the stimulus over time. The goal of the disruptive stimulus is to inhibit the undesirable response (with a minimum of fear or anxiety), and provide a window of opportunity to achieve the desirable response (which can then be reinforced negatively and/or positively).
What devices can be used for pets that misbehave in the owner’s presence?
Direct punishment or disruption devices include audible trainers (e.g. Barker Breaker™, Sonic Pet Trainer™), ultrasonic trainers (Pet-Agree™, Easy Trainer™) or a citronella spray repellent (Direct Stop™). Security alarms and compressed air may also be effective.
Why should the owner remain out of sight during any corrections?
If the pet realizes that the owner is administering the correction, the problem may cease when the owner is watching, but the pet will learn that the behavior is safe when the owner is out of sight. Therefore, whenever possible, you should administer corrections while remaining out of sight, so that the pet does not associate the “aversive” with the owner.
What devices can be used to correct a pet while remaining out of sight?
A remote citronella or scentless spray collar (available with citronella spray or scentless) called the Spray Commander™ and a number of remote ultrasonic collars are available. The remote citronella spray collar also has an audible tone that can be paired with a favored reward so that it serves as a remote form of reinforcement (as in clicker training). A water rifle may also be effective. A remote vibration trainer (Pet Pager®) has been designed for deaf dogs. For cats, you might place a remotely activated alarm or remotely activated spray device (Spray Commander™) in areas that you want your cat to avoid (such as plants or counters).
Since it is imperative that pet owners use these devices during (not after) misbehavior, a pet monitor is another practical training tool. A small motion detector, The Tattle-Tale™ is capable of picking up the movement of a dog or cat on virtually any surface. The device can be set up in any area where the pet might “misbehave” (scratching, garbage raiding, climbing on counters, furniture etc.). Home security monitors can also be used for this purpose.
What can be done when the owner is absent?
Environmental aversives (or booby traps) may train the pet to stop the inappropriate behavior or to avoid selected sites even in the owner’s absence. This type of method resembles the learning that occurs when pets are exposed to cars, barbed wire, cactus plants, sprinklers, and other unpleasant things in their environment. Automatic pet doors can be used to give one pet an opportunity to escape from other pets or to use a particular room or feeding area while the others are prevented from entry, since only the pet wearing the activation collar can enter through the door.
With a little planning and ingenuity, it is often possible to design a successful booby trap out of everyday items. A few strips of double-sided tape, a few empty tin cans set to topple or an upside down plastic carpet runner may successfully keep pets out of an area.
Outdoor devices: Electronic containment systems that use citronella spray collars (scentless refills are also available) can be used to keep dogs within selected boundaries. Pet repellents (available from most garden centers), motion activated alarms (Critter Gitter™), a motion detector sprinkler (The ScareCrow™), or a motion detector can of compressed air, (Garden Ghost®) might keep the owner’s pet out of areas on the property (e.g. garden) or keep stray animals off the property. Ultrasonic deterrents appear to be variably effective at best.
Indoor devices: Indoor citronella (or scentless) spray containment systems can also be used with indoor transmitters to keep pets away from selected areas or out of certain areas in the home. The Scraminal™ is a motion detector alarm. Alarm mats (ScratcherBlaster™, SofaSaver™) and static mats (ScatMat™, PetMat™) are available to fit on windowsills, furniture or around plants. The Snappy Trainer™ has a plastic end that fits over a mousetrap to deter the cat or dog with minimal discomfort. A motion detector spray device (Ssscat) may be set up to keep cats (and perhaps dogs) away from plants, bird cages, fish tanks, drapes, windowsills, and furniture that might be scratched, as well as off tables and counters and out of rooms. Some cat and dog doors have been designed to be activated only by the pet wearing the activation collar or “key” so that individual pets may be allowed to access areas of the home, while keeping other pets away. Another product, the Virtual Barrier™, has a transmission dish that activates a spray collar as the pet approaches. You place the dish in any location that you want the pet to avoid and it will receive a mildly unpleasant spray from its collar each time it approaches.
What products are useful to control and deter barking?
For a bark-activated device to be effective, it must be sufficiently noxious to deter the barking, sensitive enough to detect each undesirable vocalization and specific enough that is not activated by extraneous stimuli. The Super Barker Breaker™ and K-9 Bark Stopper™ are audible bark activated alarms that are designed to be placed on a counter or table in an area where a dog might bark (front hall, cage, etc.). Bark activated collars such as the Anti-bark collar spray collar™ and Gentle Spray™ emit an audible or ultrasonic noise, or a citronella (or scentless) spray with each bark.
PRODUCT MANUFACTURER INFORMATION
Direct Interactive Devices:
Barker Breaker, Mini Barker Breaker (sonic), www.amtekpet.com
Direct Stop Repellent, (citronella spray), US: Premier Pet Products, www.premier.com, Canada: Multivet, www.multivet.net
Pet Agree / Dazer II (ultrasonic), KII Enterprises – www.kiienterprises.com
Ultrasonic Pet Trainer – www.petsafe.net
Ultrasonic no-bark trainer – www.innotek.net
Dog Off – Ultrasonic and Sonic deterrent – www.lentek.com
Tattle Tale, (vibration motion sensor), KII Enterprises, www.kiienterprises.com
Spray Commander (remote citronella or scentless spray collar), US: Premier Pet Products, www.premier.com, Canada:
Pet Pager – Vibration stimulation remote collar, www.petsafe.net
Ultrasonic remote trainer, www.petsafe.net
Booby Traps (Environmental Punishment Devices) :
Indoor pet barrier – shock – www.petsafe.net
Indoor pet barrier / containment (Spray Barrier) – citronella or scentless spray collar US: www.gentleleader.com,
Outdoor containment – shock – www.innotek.net, www.invisiblefence.com, www.petsafe.net
Outdoor containment (Virtual fence) – citronella or scentless spray collar US: www.gentleleader.com CAN: www.multivet.net
Ssscat – scentless motion detector spray (indoor use) – US www.gentleader.com, CAN: www.multivet.net (also available as
MiniScareCrow or StayAway – www.scatmat.com)
Garden Ghost – scentless motion detector spray (outdoor use) – www.multivet.net
Scatmat – electronic avoidance mat – www.scatmat.com, www.petsafe.net
ScareCrow, motion activated sprinkler, Contech Electronics – www.scatmat.com
Scraminal /Critter Gitter, Scratcher Blaster, (motion activated alarms) – Amtek Pet Behavior Products – www.amtekpet.com
Snappy Trainer, Interplanetary Incorporated, www.interplanetarypets.com
Sticky Paws – www.stickypaws.com
Electronic Pet-Activated Doors:
Manufactured or distributed by Staywell, Solo, Cat Mate, Cat Walk: www.petdoors.com, www.solopetdoors.com,
www.catflaps.com, http://www.reilor.biz/pages/staywell.php, smarthome.com
Automatic Feeding / Watering Devices:
Automatic drinking fountain – www.petsafe.com, www.lentek.com, www.petmate.com
Automatic / timed feeding dishes – www.lentek.com, http://www.reilor.biz/pages/staywell.php, www.smarthome.com,
Water dog – outdoor motion detector dog watering system – www.scatmat.com
Kongtime – Kong toy dispenser – www.kongtime.com
Citronella or Scentless collars: US: Gentle Spray – www.gentleleader.com CAN; www.multivet.net
Sprinkler Barker Breaker, Ultrasonic Barker Breaker – www.amtekpet.com
Super Barker Breaker, SureStop Barker Breaker, Good Neighbor Barker Breaker (audible bark-activated deterrents) –
Ultrasonic bark control table top unit, sonic bark control collar – www.petsafe.net
Bark Free and Super Bark Free audible and ultrasonic bark activated trainer – www.lentek.com
Gentle Leader, USA: Premier Pet Products www.gentleleader.com, Canada: www.gentleleadercanada.com – for further
support see abrionline.org
Halti, Campbell Pet Products – www.campbellpet.com, www.coastalpet.com, www.companyofanimals.co.uk
Snoot Loop, www.animalbehavior.com
Easyway New Trix Head halter – www.newtrix.ca
Canny Collar, The Canny Company – www.cannyco.com
Halti Harness -www.companyofanimals.co.uk
Holt – Coastal Pet Products – www.coastalpet.com
No Pull Halter – Four Paws Products Ltd – www.fourpaws.com
Sporn training halter – Sporn Company – www.sporn.com
Gentle Leader Easy Walk Harness, www.gentleleader.com
Multiple sounds for desensitization on CD: PABA www.gentleleadercanada.com
Thunder and Fireworks CD’s for desensitization: Sounds Scary – www.soundsscary.com
Sound sociable – Socialization – www.soundsscary.com
Sound soothing – Babies – www.soundsscary.com
Master’s Voice: – www.mastersvoice-dog.com
Sounds for Behavior Therapy CD – www.companyofanimals.co.uk
Sounds Good CD – Babies – Ryan, T. Legacy Canine Behavior and Training, 2005
Thunderstorms, Fireworks and Traffic CD’s – www.calmaudio.com/products.html
Products for reducing anxiety:
Anxiety wrap – http://www.anxietywrap.com
Storm defender cape – www.stormdefender.com
Calming cap – gentleleader.com
KOE/AOE/Cat Off/Dog Off (odor neutralizers) – Thornell Corp. www.thornell.com
Moisture urine sensor, Anti-Icky Poo (AIP) – Mister Max www.mistermax.com
Outright Stain and Odor Removal Products – www.bramton.com
Urine-off – www.urine-off.com
Ask your veterinarian for suggestions on products that might be most suitable for your household.
Soft paws nail coverings – www.softpaws.com
Selected play and training products – see your veterinarian or pet supplier for other suggestions
Pavlov’s cat – cat scratch feeder – http://www.mktmkt.com/pavlovscat.html.
Dogzilla Dog Toys – www.aspenpet.com
Kongs, treats and stuffing – www.kongcompany.com
Nylabone – www.nylabone.com
Peek and Play toy box (cats) – http://www.esmartcat.com
Premier Pet Products – Busy Buddy Toys – www.gentleleader.com
Planet Dog Toys – www.planetdog.com
Buster cube – www.bustercube.com
Contributors: Debra Horwitz, DVM, Diplomate ACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, Diplomate ACVB Edited by: Lifelearn