Ward off your pet’s worst habits – without spending an arm and a leg
By Tails staff
Few things in life are as rewarding as the introduction of a furry member into the family. That is, until he poops on your new rug, shreds your favorite armchair, or gobbles up every plant in your house. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We put our heads together (and asked our readers to do the same), and came up with a few smart ways to curtail a pet’s worst behavior. Whether you already have an animal in your life—or are midway through the adoption process—you can take these preemptive and economical steps to saving your house and your sanity.
Dogs and cats love to bite, especially when they’re young. It can be charming to some, but downright annoying to the rest of us. “I had a problem with my puppy biting my arms and nipping at my ankles,” says Rochelle Dobrowolski, a pet parent from Clinton Township, Michigan. “I couldn’t even sit and watch TV without her biting me.” Dobrowolski was at her wits’ end until a friend suggested lemon juice. “A good squirt of lemon juice in the mouth, and the biting and behavior stopped ASAP. She became the best behaved dog overnight.”
Price: under $1 at most grocery stores
Dog and cat people seem forever at odds, but we can think of one thing both parties agree upon—neither enjoy unwanted pet hair. We hate it on our furniture, we hate it on our clothing, and we consider it a social faux pas when a hairball rolls across the dining room floor during a dinner party like tumbleweed across the plains. That’s why lint rollers were invented. If you’re like us, you forget that these handy tools are both lifesavers and can be purchased in bulk at places like Costco and Sam’s Club for next to nothing.
Price: under $5
Bostonians aren’t the only ones fed up with a big hole in their backyard. If your dog likes to dig, try this piece of sage advice from the folks at St. Louis–based Snowpaws SVU. According to them, if your pet has created an unwanted hole by digging, try laying down a piece of chicken wire, then re-covering it with dirt. This will discourage your pet from digging again in the same spot and hopefully in other places as well.
Price: under $5 for 100 square feet at most hardware stores
Cat people have a secret: It doesn’t take a ton of cash to entertain—or train—a feline friend. If Whiskers is shredding the side of your couch like it’s cheese, try introducing her to a cat scratcher of the cardboard kind. “These things really work,” says John Kramenski of West Hollywood. “The Scratch Lounge is good because it’s shaped like a shoebox, which my cat loves, and [it] also comes with catnip, but there are tons of different brands on the market.”
Price: under $25
One of the most annoying habits that untrained or rambunctious dogs have is chewing. “Mine chews table legs, chairs, even underwear left in easily accessible places,” says dog guardian John Gleason. To curtail this habit, try putting a thin coat of hot sauce on the areas that your dog likes to chew (and consider keeping your underwear in a drawer). Chances are that he won’t be back for another serving. Generally speaking, dogs dislike the taste of the spicy condiment, and by applying a little to table legs and such, you create a meal that dogs will turn away from every time.
Price: under $7
Sometimes life can be stressful for even the most well-adjusted felines and canines. “When we take our Chihuahua, Fergie, to the vet, she gets so nervous! She barks nonstop,” says Claire Williams, a canine guardian from Brooklyn. “A friend suggested we try Rescue Remedy drops [an herbal calming aid]. The next time we had to put Fergie into her carrier, she was much more mellow.” Rescue Remedy can be given to cats, dogs, and horses.
Price: under $15 at most drug and health food stores
We see pieces of furniture as treasured possessions; cats see them as scratching posts. “I was at my wits’ end,” says Tails Executive Editor Jason Heidemann, “until I tried double-sided tape.” Simply run strips of tape around the corners of your furniture (or wherever kitty is most likely to scratch). “Sticky Paws makes an excellent version of this,” says Heidemann, “but it’s pretty pricey.” Alternatively, hit your local grocery, hardware, or art supply store and see what they’ve got.
Price: under $5 at most art supply stores
Whether you’ve got a green thumb or not, your houseplants can be quite appealing for nibbling four-leggers. “After coming home to mangled lucky bamboo, we knew a diversion was in order,” says Tails Managing Editor Lauren Lewis. That’s where pet grass comes in. “As soon as we presented it to our wayward feline, she was hooked. No more bamboo obsession.” You can pick up some of the green stuff at your local pet store, or, if you really do have a green thumb, you can even grow your own.
Price: under $5 at most pet supply stores