Cat Claws and Growling Dogs


cat claws

1. We recently adopted an adult cat from a shelter and he has started to claw at our hands. How do we teach him this is not okay?

First of all, try to figure out what causes the cat to claw at your hands. Some cats do this if you pet them a certain way or if they’re put in certain situations. Cats that get overexcited during petting can sometimes claw at you due to arousal, so if you notice a certain type of petting causes this, avoid doing it in the future. Never yell at the cat or do anything to startle it when the cat claws at you as this can increase the cat’s negative response. If the cat claws at you immediately get up and walk away and do not return to the cat until he or she has calmed down. Get a cat toy that is a “wand” – one that has a toy hanging from it by a string or rope. When the cat moves toward your hands to claw, take out the toy and distract the cat, and praise and reward the cat when it plays with the toy. The reward can be a food treat, or verbal praise, or more play with the toys, but avoid tactile praise. You need to continue to repeat this procedure until the cat learns that he will not be reinforced for clawing and will be left alone but will be reinforced for playing appropriate with a toy.

2. I bred my 4 year-old male springer a few months ago and since then he has started growling at me, but not at my husband, and he won’t come near me either. Any ideas why he has started to act like this?

It is really difficult to answer questions about an aggression issue as we need to take a full behavior history which involves questions about where the dog came from him, early socialization, training, interactions with people in the household, the environment, medical history and more. We also strongly recommend a full medical workup as sometimes aggression problems can be based on a medical issue such as pain, damage to sight/hearing/etc., or other medical conditions. The best thing to do is contact a qualified professional to come and meet with you and take a full history and together you can determine the cause for the growling and work on a behavior modification plan. You can find people near you at www.apdt.com or www.iaabc.org.

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