An animal’s temperament is part of what makes up
their personality and disposition, but also what causes them to
react certain ways to their environment.
There are various factors that can affect a pet’s temperament. For
example, the American Veterinary Medical Association says,
“Frequent, positive contact with people and other dogs early in the
puppy’s life enhances its future interactions with your family,
other people, and their dogs.”
Dogs tend to be social creatures, so they need contact with humans
to develop appropriate socialization. According to the American
Veterinary Medical Association, “Any dog can become bored and
potentially destructive if left alone all day without an outlet for
its exercise, exploratory, and social needs. Therefore, set aside
time each day for activities that are fun for you and your dog such
as walking, playing, petting, grooming, etc.”
The Association also says, “Remember that dogs are highly social
creatures and isolating a dog to the backyard or an area of the home
with no interaction is one of the worst things you can do.” When
dogs feel isolated, they may act out to get your attention, but you
need to consider how you react to their behavior.
Your interactions with your pet need to be positive. Consider a
scenario where a puppy runs out the door and you try to encourage
him to come back inside the house. Instead the puppy may run away
from you. Though frustrated, you calmly call him back.
To teach him not to do it again, some people might grab the puppy’s
collar, swat him and yell at him for running off. However, these
actions are likely to have the opposite effect, with the puppy
becoming scared and running and hiding as he remembers how you
Once you have reacted this way, your puppy will no longer respond to
you calling him to come back because you have damaged his
temperament. Physical discipline will not only make the puppy less
likely to listen, but can also make him fearful and mistrusting.
The better way is to respond calmly and gently, and redirect a pet’s
behaviors using positive reinforcement. Praising and petting your
pet and giving them treats when they respond to you by doing what
you ask will help you earn an animal’s trust and respect. The animal
is even more likely to listen to your commands when you reinforce
their good behavior.
If the puppy does not listen, it is acceptable to withhold the
reward. Soon he will learn he must do what you have asked in order
to receive the reward.
To prevent puppies from running away from you in the first place,
consider using a leash to help keep them in your line of sight.
With other animals, you may need to try different techniques to work
with their temperament. For example, because cats are often not as
social as dogs, you may need to work harder to gain their trust and
let them slowly warm up to you. To earn a cat’s trust, it is
important to provide an environment where the cat feels safe.
Cats have certain behaviors people my not understand. For instance,
cats like to scratch, and they may scratch the furniture or their
owners. In “Decode Your Cat’s Behavior: 17 Things Your Cat Would
Love to Tell You,” Daryl Chen says scratching helps cats remove dead
Therefore, yelling at cats for doing something natural to them may
damage their trust and will not likely keep them from scratching.
Since cats have a need to scratch something, a better option is to
get a scratching post and give them a treat when they use it instead
of the furniture.
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Another guideline for dealing with cats’ temperament
is to recognize when cats want to be petted and only pet them for a
short period. In “How to Deal With Temperamental Cats,” Kimberly
Caines says, “excessive and rough petting might trigger a mean
temper if your feline friend has a short fuse.”
If the cat responds well, Caine says you should “give your cat a
treat afterward to reinforce his good behavior. With consistency, he
might allow you to pet him longer in anticipation of the treat.”
Caine says you should “avoid punishing or scolding your cat when
his temper flares, because he might start fearing you and his temper
might worsen.” As with dogs, punishments tend to damage a cat’s
temperament and not have the desired result, while reinforcing their
good behaviors is likely to improve their temperament.
With many animals, learning to read what their body language is
saying will help you avoid negative situations and enhance positive
ones. It is important for you to acclimate to their personality and
Christy Turley, Customer Service Representative Manager for Best
Friends Animal Hospital, says it is important to remain calm and try
to keep your voice low when approaching an animal. If she sees an
animal who appears to be fearful, she will temporarily back off and
give it the space required.
Turley says she does not force herself on a pet. She tries very hard
to prevent animals from feeling anxiety and stress from her actions.
Knowing how to deal with your pets’ personalities and sometimes odd
behaviors can be frustrating.
Understanding their temperaments, learning to read their body
language and responding to them in a calm and patient manner make a
difference. By doing that, you will hopefully be able to guide your
pet to being well-behaved and even tempered.
American Veterinary Medical Association.
“Selecting a Pet Dog.”
Caine, Kimberly. “How to Deal With
Chen, Daryl. “Decode Your Cat’s Behavior: 17
Things Your Cat Would Love to Tell You.” Reader’s Digest.