2020 Animal Stories
"They're not just pets.  They're family!"

Understanding and protecting your pet's temperament
By Angela Reiners

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[January 28, 2020]  Good pets come with good tendencies and trust. It is the way people treat them can negatively affect their character, behavior and trust. When trust is damaged, the pet may become confused, ill-tempered and sometimes even aggressive.

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 treated him.

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 nail growth.

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 temperament.

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 Temperamental Cats.”

Chen, Daryl. “Decode Your Cat’s Behavior: 17 Things Your Cat Would Love to Tell You.” Reader’s Digest.


Read all the articles in our new
2020 Animals Stories Magazine

Introduction 4
The benefits of having pets in the family 5
Pet Contest photos and winners 9
Bakken's triple dog rescue a triple blessing 33
Understanding and protecting your pets temperament 37
Animal Story reader submissions 40
There are dog people, and there are cat people 44
Human Society of Logan County:  Volunteers serving the community 47
First Study of human-grade dog food says whole, fresh food is highly digestible 54
A place called Rainbow Bridge 57
Rainbow Bridge pet memorials 58
Rescuing racing Greyhounds 62


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