Lazy Leaders

Tears were streaming like waterfalls down the woman’s face.  Her hysterical sobs wracked her body so hard that she shook.  Redness flushed her face until she looked like a spring ripened tomato.

A stunned Jackson Galaxy stared on from a corner of the woman’s bedroom.  What had caused her to go into such hysterics?  One of her cats had become spooked and let out a small “Meow.”

“I hate to see them upset,” she sobbed.

“Whoa!  This has got to go,” said Jackson as he pointed to the woman’s face.  He informed her that she could not fall to pieces every time her cats appeared moody.  She needed to be the pack leader.

In the same episode of “My Cat from Hell,” Jackson met with a family who refused to help care for their two cats.  As a result, their single mom became the soul caregiver.  He also told the worn out mom that she needed to take charge and be the leader.

This woman made every excuse that she could possibly think of for her children.  One daughter had dance lessons after school.  The other daughter was heavily involved in sports.  And the son had worked hard all day at school and needed to rest.  I was ready to throw something at my television.

Due to the carelessness of the children and the mom’s fear of angering them, one of the cats began to bully the other.  The bullying was so bad that the victim cat had to have his litter box placed on the kitchen counter.  Yes, you read that right.  The cat’s litter box was on the same kitchen counter where the family’s food was placed.

Just as in a family dynamic, our furry family members need to understand exactly who the pack leader is.  If this leadership is not established, they will take it upon themselves to fill the role.  Without proper training and guidance, these loving creatures can create havoc of the worst kind.

One of my friends received a Corgi puppy as an anniversary gift from her husband.  She fell completely in love with the ball of fur.  Her Facebook page became flooded with selfies of the inseparable pair.

Just two short weeks later, I received a text asking if I would be interested in keeping the pup.  I could not understand it.  She had seemed so smitten.  What had gone wrong?

Since both my friend and her husband work, the puppy was left home alone for hours on end every day.  When he was finally released from his crate, he would run amuck.  He chewed on the carpet and delighted in peeling wallpaper off of the walls.  Marking became an issue as the playful pooch seemed to think that everything in the house belonged to him.  He also refused to sleep through the night and had begun howling.

I asked my friend what types of training techniques she had been using.  There was a lengthy pause before she admitted that she had not done any.  No wonder the puppy was behaving poorly!  He had no idea what kind of behavior was expected of him.

Unfortunately, my grandmother was the same way.  She owned a Shiztsu that she had had since he was a pup.  As grandma aged, she stopped requiring her dog to behave.  She was no longer quick enough to get to the door to let her pooch outside to potty.  Instead, he would simply go wherever he felt like.  I tried showing grandma different options including a doggy door but she just wanted to adore and cherish her furry companion without rules.

I believe that many pet parents feel that they are being cruel if they establish dominance over the animals in their lives.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Showing that you are in charge does not mean that you are using force or being malicious.  You are giving your pets the gift of stability.  They will know exactly where they stand within the family hierarchy and take pride in their role.

The easiest way to set boundaries is through obedience training.  There are four basic commands that all dogs should master.  The commands are:

 

  1. Sit
  2. Stay
  3. Down/Off
  4. Come/Heel

 

My in-laws have had huge success in clicker training their Min Pin, Kallee.  They combined positive reinforcement while using the clicker device.  She can do tons of amazing tricks in addition to following the basic commands listed above.

If you live in a multiple pet household, chances are you know exactly who the pack leader is among your furry bunch.  For our family, the leader is Theo, our long-haired Chihuahua.  He automatically took to the role as we began to adopt more precious pets.

 

Theo with Muffin's Halo

Theo, our fearless pack leader!

Watching Theo meet his new siblings was like watching a lion with his pride on National Geographic.  He would immediately walk up to the new dog/cat and begin sniffing.  Theo would then sit a few feet away and stare directly into the dog’s/cat’s eyes.  Amazingly, each dog would lower him/herself to the ground and roll over on his/her back.  The cats would turn their backs and just walk away.

Theo established dominance without any use of force.  He never barred his teeth or tried to bite.  Instead, he exuded confidence that the other animals could literally see.  His status among the pack has never been questioned.  He rules with a soft paw and only lets out a growl if he thinks the other dogs are playing too rough with each other.

The same is true of our cats.  Miracle is our majestic queen.  We rescued her from the middle of Main Street in our town when she was just two weeks old.  She very quickly became one of the dogs.  Two years later, we adopted Olaf.  Miracle was less then pleased.

The initial meeting was somewhat tense.  Olaf gave her a sniff…and she hissed in his face.  For the first few days, Miracle did her best to avoid Olaf.  She made sure that she always sat on the highest perch possible.  In doing so, she was showing Olaf that she is the boss.  He soon learned that Miracle wanted her space and he respected her authority.

Sven entered our lives in April of this year.  He was drawn to Olaf immediately.  Being one year old, Sven still has a lot of kitten-like behaviors.  He sauntered up to Olaf and tried to rub up against him.  This was met with a hiss and a smack in the face with a quick paw.  Miracle had a similar reaction.

To the woman on “My Cat from Hell,” this would have been a sign that the three would never get along and more hysterical tears would have ensued.  We knew that all our cats really needed was more time to get adjusted.  In a matter of weeks, Miracle, Sven and Olaf were all drinking out of the same water dish.  Olaf even started licking Sven’s face!

The key to being a good leader is to have patience.  Nothing lasting is ever achieved overnight.  Goals need to be set along with a plan for how to reach them.  The next step is to follow through on the plan every day.  Nothing is worse than initiating training and then immediately stopping for several days.  The dog or cat that is being trained will become totally confused and any learning that has taken place could go right out the window.

Another quality that is essential to leadership is authority.  This means truly taking charge of the situation.  Every action taken must be done with certainty.  Dogs and cats will sense the confidence and soon learn where they stand in the family.

We have found the word “no” to be a very powerful tool.  When one of our cats decides that he/she wants to pick a fight, we sharply say the cat’s name followed by a loud “NO!”  This typically curtails any mischievousness right on the spot.

With our pooches, we found that using a water bottle filled with cool water works like magic.  We NEVER spray the dogs in the face.  Just one quick spritz on the behind is all it takes.  Our dogs have become so used to the bottle that they hardly even need to be sprayed anymore.  Once they see me or my husband shake the bottle, they snap to attention.  Chaos is stopped and order is restored without the use of force or cruelty.

Without established rules and a pack leader, more than just the furniture can get ruined.  A pet’s very life may be in danger.  In a more recent episode of “My Cat from Hell,” one formerly feral kitty almost took the tail off of his new litter box mate!  This cat had severe territorial aggression.  Had his cat guardians not taken steps to rectify the situation, they might have ended up with a very injured (and tailless) cat.

Being a pet parent is not all about snuggles and kisses.  By adopting these amazing creatures, we have vowed to give them the best life imaginable.  This includes setting boundaries and enforcing rules.  Providing leadership is essential to ensuring that our beloved furry family members have an outstanding quality of life where they will be protected and respected.  Step up and be the leader for your pack today!

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