Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.
- Ralph Marston
I’ve finally become one of you…in the trenches. Dealing with unwanted behavior. The constantly on the table grabbing for food. Acting out of control and breaking a lot of things. Just acting like a terror in general. The difference is, this is my kitten, Pixel.
Yes, I’ve had these problems with dogs in the past, but I tend to buckle down quickly and focus on addressing these problems. They subside, if not disappear, entirely within a few days. Granted, I’ve been training dogs since before I was born, but still, I’ll admit I’ve had it easy when it comes to the general “livability” of my dogs. Yes, Orion has a nervous bent to him, which I frequently need to Pilot him through, but it’s like night and day compared to how he was when he first joined our herd (I’ve decided since we have 2 cats and 2 kids, it’s not a pack anymore…it’s a herd. I’m certain Pixel has something to do with my change of mind.) Yes, Sparta is very dog-reactive, but we manage that very well. In the house, my pack was a dream to live with. No destruction, barking only at legitimate (in their mind at least) things, and then immediately ceasing and looking to me for the next step. Even Echo, my beautiful white cat, was more like a well-behaved dog: coming when I called him, never scratching anything, even tempered.
Then came Pixel. For those of you who don’t know, Pixel and his sister were both found in the woods by me during one of our Pack Walks. We decided to keep one. Some days I wonder if I made the wrong decision. His sister was so sweet and docile!
Now I’m stuck with this kitten who is becoming a cat. Yesterday was the last straw. He had been up on the mantel systematically knocking off all of my plants, killing them and breaking their pots. I wanted to kill him.
I realized I needed to take a step back. Deep breaths. Afterall, he’s just a kitten (although soon to be a cat). I needed to take my anger and frustration out on him, but decided to do it in a positive way rather than a negative way. (Note: I still answered his question about the mantel, “No, you can not go up there”, but I still had a LOT of residual anger left over.) I decided to teach my cat agility.
Agility (or any tricks in general) with dogs is awesome because you are asking them to let you Pilot them through a situation for which there is a reward at the end for doing so. I’ve done it
a lot of times all the time with dogs, and when they finally “get” it, it’s a huge burst of positive for both of us. We are working together as a team.
It works with dogs. What about cats? I knew I needed to do something with this little beast other than constantly getting after him. We started off simply, with a yard stick on the ground, and me literally dragging him over it with his favorite treat, repeating the words “over, over, over” until he made it completely across. He did it!!! And he loved it!!!!! I was so proud of him. After about 5 minutes of this, I was able to start giving him the command without using the treat as bait, only giving it to him when he made it across on his own.
This was awesome! I was finally able to give this
damn sweet kitten some positive reinforcement, even if it was contrived. Who cares! I was psyched and pumped. I’ve never been able to do agility with a cat before (the thought never, fortunately, crossed my mind).
How many of you out there have dogs who you are at wits end with? Who when you come home to a new mess, a new bout of barking, new dog reactivity, have had it up to <here> with your dog? You’ve forgotten that there are indeed positives. And guess what, if there aren’t, you can create them. Give them a reason for you to be happy and praise them. If I can wring a positive response from Pixel, you can get one from your dog as well.
So what have I learned about cats vs. dogs? Cats can be trained to tricks much easier than I anticipated. I guess the major differences is that after you get a dog to do the jump, they immediately look at you as if to say, “What’s next?”. A cat looks around and may walk away to find out what’s next. Cats are on autopilot. It can be difficult to keep their attention. So we worked at it. Even Echo got into the fun.
So instead of stewing in my anger and frustration, I’ve decided to boil it off. Or as I look at it, give me a reason not to kill this kitten. Today. But it’s okay…I’ve got enough treats to last through the week. Then things get iffy.