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ADVANCE™ is scientifically formulated to help improve pet health.  Read all the latest articles and news, as well as get tips and advice on puppy, kitten, dog and cat nutrition and health care topics.  Brought to you by the experts at ADVANCE™ premium pet food.

Blog posts tagged with ‘behaviour’

We found 22 results tagged with 'behaviour'.

What your cat's tail is telling you

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This is an image of a cat walking.

Tail Talk

Would you like to know what your kitten is really thinking?  Well, there's a way to get inside your kitten's head and that's by becoming aware of their body language.  Here we'll take a look at what your kitten's tail movements can tell you about how they're feeling. 

Tail Talk

Would you like to know what your kitten is really thinking? 

Well, there's a way to get inside your kitten's head and that's by becoming aware of their body language.  In fact, your kitten's busy little tail is one of their most effective ways to communicate their mood.

Here’s our guide to what your kitten’s tail is telling you:

• Tail held high – your kitten is feeling happy and confident

• Wiggling at the base or tip – your kitten is saying a friendly “hello”

• Curled under their body – your kitten is feeling submissive

• Curled around another cat's tail or human legs - your kitten is being friendly

• Fluffed to more than twice its size – your kitten is scared, threatened and defensive  (if your kitten is also displaying an arched back, hair standing on end and unfurled claws then you should give them some space!)

• Rapid flicking – your kitten is agitated

• Wagging – your kitten is irritated (note that this is the opposite of a dog’s wagging tail!)

• Thumping – your kitten is highly frustrated, and may even attack

• Slowly twitching tail tip – your kitten is curious or excited (you’ll often see this when they're crouching)

So keep your eye on your kitten's tail.  You'll start to notice a wide repertoire of tail movements, and get to know you're kitten on a whole new level!

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Scratching behaviour in cats

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Puppy 03 puppy feeding time from Advancepet on Vimeo.

Scratching

Scratching is a normal feline behaviour that serves a range of important functions for a cat.  However, in the interest of a happy co-existence with your kitty, it’s important that this behaviour is directed onto appropriate surfaces.  Training is best started early on in kittenhood.  Read on for tips to help save your furniture.

Why do cats scratch?

Scratching is a normal feline behaviour. 

It’s used to groom nails, for marking territory (both visual as well as scent signals) and to help cats stretch and condition their muscles.  Most cats have 5 claws on each front leg and 4 claws on each hind leg, for a grand total of 18 claws.

Given that scratching serves a range of functions for a cat, it’s not a behaviour that can be stopped.  It is however a behaviour that needs to be directed onto appropriate surfaces.  Your kitten needs you to help them understand what is okay to scratch and what isn’t.  The effort you put in will be a life saver for your furniture and other valuables.

What do cats like to scratch?

In general, cats are attracted to textured surfaces and items they can sink their claws into.  However, different cats prefer different scratching surfaces, so initially you might like to offer a range of surfaces and see what your kitty is fond of.  Common materials to try are sisal rope, cardboard, carpet, rough fabrics and wood. 

Cats will often have a scratch after they wake from a nap and when they want to mark their territory.  They also like to scratch when they’re excited about something.

How do I prevent my cat scratching the furniture?

Ideally begin training to use the scratching post while your cat is young.  Supply both vertical and horizontal surfaces covered with your cat’s preferred material.  Make the scratching surfaces desirable by placing catnip or treats on them and train your cat by encouraging them with a toy held part way up, and reward the cat for using it.

If the cat prefers another material, such as the couch, attempt to get an appropriate item covered in a similar material.

Never punish your kitten or cat if you see them scratching an item they shouldn’t, as this will only teach them that scratching the item while you are around is scary.  Your cat will likely continue to scratch it when you are gone.

A better method is to cover the inappropriate item in double sided sticky tape or another material such as plastic which makes the item aversive at all times.  Meanwhile, positively reinforce the cat with praise and treats when they scratch the appropriate item.

Nail care can also help reduce inappropriate scratching.  Pair nail trims with positive reinforcement eg treats to create a positive association for your cat.

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Socialising your kitten

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This is an image of two kittens playing.

Positive socialisation practices are critical for your kitten                                                              

What your kitten experiences in their first few months will influence the rest of their life.  In fact, their early experiences shape their future character.  Cats that are under socialised may become shy and fearful.  In contrast, kittens that have been well socialised generally grow into happy, confident adults.   

Positive socialisation practices are critical for your kitten                                                              

What your kitten experiences in their first few months will influence the rest of their life.  In fact, their early experiences shape their future character.  Cats that have been well socialised generally grow into happy, confident adults.  

Socialising your kitten involves introducing them to a whole range of new experiences including meeting different types of people, other animals, places, smells and noises. 

Positive socialisation

Be sure to present socialisation experiences in a gentle way that helps your kitten become accustomed to them.  Reward your kitten for calm behaviour and move only at a pace your kitten can handle.  If your kitten seems nervous or fearful, that's your cue to slow things down.  The aim is for new experiences to be presented in a positive way so that your kitten can develop into a relaxed, confident cat.  

Remember that it's still important that socialisation continues throughout your cat's life. 

Here are some typical situations in which kittens should be socialised:

Environment

  • Drive in the car
  • Trips to the vet.  Have your kitten weighed, handled and restrained for a health check
  • Using a cat carrier
  • At home, exposure to different floor surfaces, steps, tools, cleaning, working, music, pram
  • Outside (while on a harness) exposure to bicycles, gardening

Other animals

  • Other cats and kittens (all well-socialised and fully vaccinated)
  • Dogs (only cat-friendly ones)
  • Farm animals
  • Birds (in a manner where the bird is safely able to get away)
  • Any other animal they may come in contact with during their lifetime

Situations

  • Visitors in the home,
  • Being groomed
  • Having a picture taken
  • Being held (in a manner where they are never afraid and never dropped)
  • Tooth brushing
  • Nails clipped
  • Playing with a variety of toys

People

  • Children
  • People wearing glasses, hats
  • People with beards
  • Loud and timid people 

By providing your kitten with a wide range of positive socialisation experiences, you'll help them develop into a sociable and well-adjusted cat.

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Preventing boredom in dogs

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This is an image of a dog with a ball

Home alone

Many dogs are left alone for hours every day.  This can lead to boredom which is often the root of many behavioural problems.  Let’s take a look at how you can keep your dog occupied when you’re not there.

Home alone

Many dogs are left alone for hours every day.  This can lead to boredom which is often the root of many behavioural problems. 

Dogs are intelligent creatures and therefore require mental stimulation.  Left alone with nothing to do, a dog will create its own entertainment.  This could include such behaviours as barking at birds and clouds, running in circles, pulling clothes off the line or digging holes in the garden.  In extreme cases, some dogs will even resort to self-mutilation.

How can I keep my dog occupied when I'm not there?

The key lies in 'environmental enrichment'.  This means to make your dog's environment more interesting and complex, and is a strategy used in zoos and wildlife parks around the world.

Exercise

Dogs need daily exercise and ideally they should leave your property every day.  Taking your dog on a walk has many health benefits for both of you.  Try to vary your walks so that your dog gets to experience new sights, smells and interactions.

Find a safe off-leash area where your dog can let off some steam.  For high energy dogs consider dog sports such as Agility or Flyball.

A happily tired out dog is more likely to rest when you’re not home, rather than seek out mischief.

Toys

Have a collection of safe and fun dog toys and rotate them daily (yes, every day!) so they maintain their novelty factor and stay interesting for your dog.  Select toys that are appropriate for your dog’s level of destructiveness.  Always supervise your dog when first playing with a new toy to see if there is any potential risk of the toy becoming dangerous.  Inspect toys regularly for signs of wear, and replace any that are damaged. 

Make feeding time last longer

In the wild, an animal spends a significant proportion of their time seeking out their next meal.  When your pet can rely on you to meet their nutritional needs, they’re left with a fair bit of time on their paws.  So rather than feeding your dog from a bowl, scatter their dry kibble around the backyard.  It will take them ages to sniff out every piece.

Stuff a ‘Kong’ toy with yummy treats or put some kibble in a treat ball or ‘Buster Cube’.  Your dog will need to use their brain to work out how to get those treats.

Provide your dog with a raw bone and smoked pigs ears a couple of times each week to chew on.                            

You could also

Create a digging pit using a child’s sand pit.  Try hiding toys and treats in it for your dog to find as buried treasure.

Play hide and seek by hiding treats around the garden for your pooch to find.

If you don’t have time to walk your dog, consider employing a professional dog walker.

Investigate local doggy day care centres, where your dog can spend some quality time playing and socialising.

 

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Problem barking in dogs

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Puppy 03 puppy feeding time from Advancepet on Vimeo.

Dogs are social animals

Barking and other forms of vocalisation serve as a form of communication and are considered normal behaviour for dogs.  Tensions arise when a dog is considered to bark excessively.  Here we take a look at what you can do to help prevent and reduce problem barking.  

Dogs are social animals

Barking is considered a normal behaviour for dogs.  Barking and other forms of vocalisation serve as a form of communication between individuals, such as to alert to an approaching threat.  This ability was a seen as a good thing when humans were domesticating the dog.  Breeds were developed based on individuals who were very good at alerting us to danger.  A dog's hearing is about 4 times better than ours, and things they can hear (from some distance away) can be very arousing to a dog, whose response is often to bark.

Many dogs also vocalise when they are frustrated, excited or anxious.  If dogs are left alone for long periods, they may become under-exercised, under-stimulated and may bark as a result.         

Tensions arise when a dog is considered to bark excessively.

How can I help prevent my puppy becoming a barker?

There are quite a few things you can do when you first bring your puppy home to reduce the chance they will develop into an excessive barker.

Positive Socialisation

Ensure that your puppy is positively socialised, and that this continues for life.

Socialising your puppy involves introducing them to a whole range of new experiences including meeting different types of people, dogs, other animals, places, smells and noises.  It’s important that these interactions are a positive experience for your puppy.  Introduce them to new situations gently and reward them for calm behaviour. 

Dogs that are under socialised may become fearful and suspicious of things they haven't encountered before.  These things will be seen as a potential threat, and something that the dog then barks at.

Encourage calm

Develop a routine that encourages your puppy to display quiet and calm behaviour.  Teach your puppy that it's OK to be alone for short periods and encourage their love of chew toys which helps keep them mentally stimulated.

Crate training helps reinforce happy, quiet time and teaches your puppy that the night is for sleeping, not for barking at cats or possums!

Training

Teach your puppy to 'speak' on cue, along with the alternative command 'shush' to stop the barking.  This is a lot easier than trying to teach your puppy to be quiet when they are barking excessively (and in an aroused state).  By practising these commands when your puppy is calm and focused, they'll make the learning connection.  You then have an effective cue to offer them when you want them to stop barking.

My dog seems to be barking a lot, what can I do?

Ideally, determine the cause of the barking.  Keep a barking diary where all members of the household (as well as neighbours) note down the times of day when the dog barks.  From this, it may be possible to understand what triggers the barking. 

Another option, especially if your dog only seems to bark when you’re not home, is to use video surveillance to observe what your dog is doing.  Only when you understand why your dog barks can you start working to reduce the noise.  Options include changing the way your dog is managed, changing the places they have access to, covering over fences or gates to reduce visual stimuli or allowing your dog a better view of the world.  Sometimes the answer is to bring your dog inside the house when they are most likely to bark, or when you're not at home.

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Treating your puppy

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This is an image of a puppy running.

Treats

Who doesn't love a tasty treat from time to time?  Pet food treats come in a wide range of formats and flavours and are generally designed to satisfy one of 3 key need states.  Here we look at how to use treats wisely.

Treats

Who doesn't love a tasty treat from time to time? 

Pet food treats come in a wide range of formats and flavours and are generally designed to satisfy one of 3 key need states: to reward/bond, to occupy and for functional health.

Types of treats

Treats provide an important mechanism for strengthening the bond you share with your pet and are frequently used as a motivating tool for training.  Certain treats are designed to be longer lasting to help keep a pet entertained for a period of time.  In addition, some treats have positive effects in areas such as oral health and joint health.

How can I use treats wisely?

Treats are particularly useful for training, but due to the risks of overfeeding and nutritional imbalances, their use should be controlled.  As a general rule, no more than 10% of the calories in your puppy’s diet should come from dog treats.  Keep a close eye on how many treats your puppy is getting, and how often they are getting them. 

It’s likely in the early days of puppy training that you’ll use food treats as rewards a lot.  Consider using part of your puppy’s daily dry food allowance as treats.

Get the timing right

When using food treats as training rewards, timing is crucial.  Only offer a treat when your puppy responds correctly to your training command and is calm.  That way you’ll avoid inadvertently rewarding any over-excited behaviour.

Stick to pet treats

Treats designed specifically for dogs and puppies are best.  Chocolate and foods containing xylitol (a sugar substitute) are just a couple of examples of human treats that are highly toxic to pets.

Consider life rewards

Whilst food treats can be very effective for a puppy when learning a new behaviour, you should introduce other rewards that your puppy responds to.  A ‘life reward’ is anything that your dog desires in their day to day life.

Consider the following life rewards:

• A tickle on the belly

• Verbal praise

• Playing a game of tug 

• A pat on the head

• Playing with a toy

Life rewards teach your puppy that it’s important and worthwhile to listen to you, even in the absence of food.

By using food treats, in conjunction with life rewards, you'll keep training fun and interesting for your puppy while helping build reliability in their behaviour.

 

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Puppy spending time alone

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Puppy 03 puppy feeding time from Advancepet on Vimeo.

Home alone

All puppies have to get used to spending some time by themselves.  Help your puppy learn that their time alone can be a positive thing, through training and a little planning. 

Home alone

All puppies have to get used to spending some time by themselves.  Help your puppy learn that their time alone can be a positive thing, through training and a little planning. 

Start small

You should begin by leaving your puppy alone in a room for a couple of minutes and gradually increase the amount of time.  The time alone should be a positive thing, so providing suitable play toys in your absence will help to keep them occupied.  Having your puppy crate trained means that you have a safe refuge for these short periods of confinement, as well as a place where your puppy feels relaxed.            

              

Leaving the house

Start leaving the house for short periods and gradually increase the amount of time your puppy is left. The length of time alone should be varied so your puppy learns that you leaving doesn’t always mean you will be gone for a long time.  

When leaving them alone it's important not to make lots of fuss saying goodbye; it's better to simply leave as if nothing is happening.  On returning, it can help to ignore your puppy for a few minutes so they are not rewarded for any over-excitable behaviour.

If your puppy has had an accident and messed in the house you should simply clean it up as if nothing has happened, and never punish them for it.  It may also help to leave a radio on whilst out, so your puppy has some background distractions and the home is not so quiet.  This will also drown out any noises coming from outside that your puppy may react to.

Boredom busters

Toys that provide mental stimulation such as chew toys and those that dispense kibble as a reward for puzzle solving, help keep boredom at bay.  Remember to rotate toys on a daily basis so that they maintain their novelty factor. 

Consider other ways for your pup to stay entertained, such as creating a digging area using a child’s sand pit.  This can also teach a puppy where the ‘approved’ digging location is and help save your garden.

 

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Basic puppy training

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Puppy 03 puppy feeding time from Advancepet on Vimeo.

Sit, stay and come

Puppies sure are on a steep learning curve, especially in their first few months.  How’s your puppy going with the three key commands of sit, stay and come?      

                                                                                                                           

Sit, stay and come

Puppies sure are on a steep learning curve, especially in their first few months. 

How’s your puppy going with the three key commands of sit, stay and come?

Positive reinforcement

Puppy training should be based on a positive reward based training method.  This gentle method of training is effective with all breeds of dog. Punishing your puppy with harsh reprimands if they misbehave is not necessary.  

The key to your puppy learning desirable behaviour is to ignore the alternative undesirable behaviour.  By rewarding desirable ‘good dog’ conduct, your puppy will offer these behaviours more often.  Likewise not rewarding poor behaviour will encourage it to cease.

Rewards

For early puppy training, food treats are generally the most motivating and convenient reward.  However, as the desired behaviour is learned, the use of food treats should be phased out and replaced with other forms of reward.  This can include offering praise, patting or playing with a toy, as well as 'life-rewards' which are things your puppy enjoys in their daily life such as games, trips to places they like, extra walks etc

Remember that food treats should not make up more than 10% of your puppy’s daily food intake and chocolate should not be used as a treat for your dog.  If you need to do a lot of food reward training, which is common in the early days with your puppy, consider using a portion of your puppy’s main meal dry kibble for training.  That way they are receiving complete and balanced nutrition, and you can reduce their main meal volume accordingly to avoid over-feeding. 

‘Sit’ Command

Hold a food treat in your hand and place your hand in front of your puppy’s nose.  Gradually move your hand upwards.  Your puppy will follow the food treat causing their head to move upwards and their backside to move towards the floor.  Just before your puppy’s rear touches the floor, say ‘sit’.  At the moment their rear touches the floor, praise and reward.  Repeat over several training sessions.

The next step is to fade out the food lure.  Say ‘sit’ and use the same hand signal as in step one but do not have food in your hand.  When your puppy sits, then you can praise and reward them with a treat.

‘Stay’ Command

Begin with your puppy sitting in front of you.  Say ‘stay’ and wait 2 to 3 seconds.  If your puppy does not move, praise and reward them.  If your puppy moves, simply turn away and do not offer a reward.  Now ask your puppy to ‘stay’ and take one small step sideways.  If your puppy remains still, offer praise and reward them.  Gradually increase the distance you move away from your puppy.

‘Come’ Command

Show your puppy that you have their favourite treat or toy.  Call your puppy’s name followed by the word ‘come’ in an enthusiastic tone.  Step backwards.  As your puppy comes towards you, praise and reward them.  If there are others in the household, practice calling the puppy between you.  Never ever call your puppy to you and punish them.  This will make them less likely to come to you the next time you call.

Everyone learns best when they're having fun, so keep your practice sessions short and enjoyable.

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Puppies and chewing behaviour

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This is an image of a puppy with a stick in their mouth

Nom nom nom

Given that puppies learn through mouthing behaviours, it's normal for puppies and dogs to chew on objects.  Many pet parents find that chewing behaviours start to increase in intensity when their puppy is around 4 to 6 months of age due to teething.  Chewing helps a dog achieve a number of things, so let's take a look at how you can help manage chewing behaviours in your puppy.

Nom nom nom

Given that puppies learn through mouthing behaviours, it's normal for puppies and dogs to chew on objects.  Many pet parents find that chewing behaviours start to increase in intensity when their puppy is around 4 to 6 months of age due to teething.  

Chewing helps a dog achieve a number of things.  For puppies, it’s a way to help relieve teething pain when the gums are sore and new teeth are erupting.  For older dogs, chewing helps exercise the jaws to keep them strong, as well as promoting dental health by helping keep teeth clean. 

Chewing also plays an important role in alleviating boredom and can help a puppy self-soothe which relieves mild anxiety or frustration. 

Tensions can arise over what is being chewed - a chew toy is fine, your new shoes are not!

How can I stop my puppy from chewing everything?

Given the benefits that chewing provides to puppies, we don't want to inhibit the behaviour but we do need to teach a puppy what is okay to chew and what is not. 

By offering a range of chew toys, and rotating them regularly to maintain their novelty factor and prevent boredom, you can show your puppy what is acceptable to chew.  Provide a range of different toys with varying shapes, textures and flavours. 

As part of puppy proofing your home, be sure to remove any items you value out of your puppy’s reach to prevent them being chewed.  This also helps ensure your puppy's safety (think chewed electrical wires). 

Ensure that the chew toys you offer your puppy are safe.  Inspect them regularly for signs of wear and replace any damaged toys.

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Ouch! Puppy mouthing and biting behaviour

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This is an image of a puppy with a toy.

Sharp puppy teeth

Spend a few minutes with a young puppy and you’ll soon become aware of just how sharp those puppy teeth are.  Puppy play can quickly turn rough, but it’s important to remember that your puppy isn’t trying to hurt you.  Puppies are learning about the world, and they use their mouths to explore.  You need to help your puppy learn appropriate behaviour, so that play time is a fun and bonding experience for you both.  Let’s take a look at what you can do.

Sharp puppy teeth

Spend a few minutes with a young puppy and you’ll soon become aware of just how sharp those puppy teeth are.  Puppy play can quickly turn rough, but it’s important to remember that your puppy isn’t trying to hurt you.  Puppies are learning about the world, and they use their mouths to explore.  You need to help your puppy learn appropriate behaviour, so that play time is a fun and bonding experience for you both.  Let’s take a look at what you can do.

Play fighting

Puppies aren't able to use their hands, so they use their mouths instead.  It's normal for puppies to bare their teeth, growl, nip and bite their litter mates.  In fact, play fighting begins to develop in puppies from 2 to 3 weeks of age.  Puppies also mouth on things around them which often includes their mum.  It's often mum who is the first one to let a puppy know if a bite is too hard, or play is too rough as she starts to teach her litter 'bite inhibition'.  A puppy's litter mates also help with this too.

Learning bite inhibition

It's important to teach puppies to inhibit their biting when interacting with humans and other pets.  What might seem cute while your puppy is young can become a serious problem as your puppy grows.  You don't want your puppy biting hard or biting children.  Bite inhibition is something that every puppy needs to learn, and they'll need your help.  That way they learn how to control themselves so they can develop into a well behaved, balanced adult dog.

What should I do if my puppy is mouthing and nipping?

Think about how you play with your puppy, and encourage gentle play right from the start.  Remember that your little puppy will grow, and you want them to be well mannered around people of all ages.

A range of safe and appropriately sized chew toys are a must for every puppy.  When play becomes more vigorous, redirect your puppy by placing a chew toy in their mouth.  Your puppy then learns that this is an appropriate item to mouth on.  In the early stages, you'll need to redirect your puppy a lot so be consistent and have plenty of chew toys on hand.  

If your puppy bites you, make a short sharp yelping sound just like a puppy in pain would.  Your puppy is most likely to be startled and stop biting you.  At the same time withdraw your attention from your puppy and ignore it.  This shows your puppy that when they bite, the fun and play stops.  When your puppy is calm, gently praise and reward them. 

Positive reinforcement

Remember not to punish your puppy, as this affects the bond you are trying to develop with them.  It also gives your puppy attention when they are displaying undesirable behaviour which can back-fire on you and actually encourage the behaviour that you don't want to see.  When your puppy engages in well-mannered play, offer food rewards and verbal praise to reinforce the behaviour.  

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