1. Implement a routine
Animals thrive on routine because there is comfort in knowing what to expect from life. Uncertainty and unpredictability bring stress, so, as far as possible, implement regular and consistent feeding times, greeting routines, exercise, play, training and grooming times.
2. Let your dog be a dog and your cat be a cat
A release of serotonin results in your pets experiencing great enjoyment from being able to do what comes naturally to them. Play with your cats in a manner that resembles hunting or allow your dogs to sniff on a walk – they experience the world in this way, and pulling them along without being allowed to stop and smell the roses will steal some of the benefit and enjoyment from the walk. Think of all of their chew, lick, sniff, catch, scratch, fetch and play needs (which will differ by breed) and meet these needs daily to make for a happy and balanced pet.
3. Feed the best food that you can afford
Feed your pet a food that best suits his specific needs and life stage, opting for the best quality that you can afford. By choosing a PFI (Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa) member brand, you can be assured that you’re feeding a brand that has commitment to your pet’s overall health and wellbeing. You are spoilt for choice by the number of brands available, so make sure you feed a pet food that suits their age, breed, life stage and lifestyle. Feed according to the guidelines on the bag and consider all treats as part of their daily intake. Refrain from feeding human foods, table scraps and food that may have gone off.
4. Be responsible
Always consider your pet before making your own plans and ensure that they are firstly safe and secondly calm and comfortable. Make use of pet/house sitters or kennels if you’re going away; get your animals chipped; have collars with tags on them in case they get lost; walk them with reflective gear if visibility is low; don’t force them into situations they are not comfortable with; ensure that they have clean water at all times as well as adequate shelter; and have them sterilised. Also, take care of their teeth – you’ll be happy you did in the long run.
5. Use daily life as a training opportunity
Every moment of every day is an opportunity for you to communicate with your pet and shape the behaviours you want, weeding out those that you don’t. Having 10 to 20 minutes of focussed training a day is vital, and allows you the opportunity to develop and condition a method of communication which, when pulled through to the rest of daily life, can have massive benefits for your relationship and result in a wonderfully obedient companion. Keep a handful of your pet’s daily food ration handy and use it throughout the day to reward behaviours that you want to encourage. Ignore the behaviours that you want to discourage. Decide on the rules and be consistent with these – that goes for everyone who interacts with your pet. And finally, set your pet up for success – training is not a test to see how clever your pet is, but rather showing them the right way, so do all you can to set the situation up to ensure they succeed.