Chances are if you are a pet lover as well as a home owner you have become acutely aware of the fact your furniture isn’t holding up so well.
Our pets are best friends to many of us.
However just because there are no visible signs your pet has had the run of the house, does not mean they have remained true to the rules established by you while you are not at home. Whatever dog or cat you own, it is in their nature to be naturally inquisitive.
Loneliness plays a big factor here. Dogs in particular are very social creatures. Think about it this way. Humans are social creatures too.
How would you like it if you had absolutely no interaction with another living soul for 8 hours every day?
Would you be inclined to discover new ways to amuse yourself by yourself?
If the answer is ‘yes’, then do not assume the answer for your pet is anything but. Alas, as humans we are exceptional good at the art of self-deception; convinced of our superiority over man’s (and woman’s) best friend.
Cats and dogs in particular (although the same rules apply to cats) require constant attention.
They reciprocate our love for them back to us tenfold. Whatever sort of day we are having – good, bad or indifferent – they wait in bated anticipation with only affection and loyalty in their hearts. However, in absence of our companionship they are apt to become bored and curious. In one regard, your beloved boxer, chow chow, shih tzu et al. is very much like an inquisitive child. They like to explore when you are not around.
And dogs, even those successfully coached by the likes of Cesar Millan, will still test the boundaries of their training when you are not there to dictate otherwise. A dog or cat will quickly know how to cover their tracks so the illusion of their fidelity to your house rules is preserved by the time you come home. So, if you have expressly trained your animal not to sprawl on your new sofa, you won’t find any evidence they did just that for a few hours while you were out shopping.
Animals are smart, but also a little devious. They learn commands. They also desire to please. But consider this too: they have seen you sit on your sofa. You may have even allowed them to climb up there with you, thus establishing two sets of ‘house rules’ your pet now believes apply equally when you are not at home. Even if you have forbid your animal from doing certain things, like jumping up on your favorite chair, chances are the old adage of ‘when the cat’s away, the mice will play’ rings true.
Animals reciprocate the love and affection they are shown.
However, while we would all like to think of our four-legged best friends as subservient to our needs, they do possess minds, a will, and impulses of their own. They are not robotic, but rather instinctual, behaving according to their own set of primal urges to satisfy their basic needs. Simply because their need to please us supersedes this instinctual behavior when we are in the room does not necessarily mean it will continue when we have gone away. All bets are off then.
Animals are out to please themselves. Dogs need our constant companionship as well as our guidance to be good citizens. Without it, their nature is to find something to preoccupy their time and their interests. This surpasses virtually any and all good intensions we might have had for their ‘upbringing’ by taking them to obedience school. So, how best can we deter a beloved house pet from turning our sofas into their favorite scratching posts or daybeds?
1) You could try placing protective pet covers over the surfaces you would prefer your pet did not sit on while you were not at home.
2) Find ways to keep your animal engaged when you are not in the room; fun games, interactive toys, a ball loaded with catnip, etc. can provide hours of amusement for pets that does not involve engaging them with your new leather sofa or velvet wing back.
3) Find ways to give the illusion you are still in the house even when you’re not. Some people leave voice recordings on a continuous play audio device to keep their cat company while they are out.
4) If you’re comfortable with the idea, get a well-known retired neighbour that your pet knows to let themselves in to your house every day and check on your animal in the middle of the afternoon. Animals prefer routine. Like us, they are creatures of habit. Familiarizing your pets with another person performing a routine check-up can help keep them on their best behavior even when you’re out for the day.
5) Reward your pet for being obedient all day long. If you come home and find no discernible evidence they have been disloyal to your rules, surprise them with an added treat or toy to say ‘thank you’ for a job well done.
6) Conversely, if you arrive home to discover the cushions to your new settee ripped wide open and hi-density foam scattered everywhere in chunks, there should also be some sort of disciplinary action taken. Nothing cruel; but a firm reminder such misbehavior has greatly displeased you.
Pet etiquette is a harsh lesson for humans to learn. But it is not mean-spirited to place restrictions in your home where you allow your pets to frolic and play while you are out doing whatever. And the rules can change when you are at home and able to keep an eye on what your pet is up to. But don’t be naïve about their behavior while you are at work, paying a few bills or shopping for their kibble.
Pets will do as they like, within reason, knowing your level of displeasure, but again, endeavoring to find clever ways of getting around it when you are not in the room. They are not being disloyal. They are simply being themselves. If you can live with that – fine. Just be aware, your furniture may not be as forgiving or up to their challenges.