The transition from summer to fall might have led some of your customers to experience a change in their pets’ behaviors. During my time as a professional animal trainer, I often found that, starting in late August through September, I would get an increase in people contacting me with behavior problems with their dogs and cats— you might still be getting behavior questions. The most common ones in dogs were excessive barking and inappropriate chewing. For cats, litter box problems topped the list.
In many cases, these behaviors manifested themselves in households in which the owner’s children had spent a great deal of time at home with their pets during the summer months and, upon going back to school, were spending significantly less time with them. Owners with no kids would also see an increase in problem behavior during these months. In most of these cases, they had taken time off in the summer and/or were simply spending more time outdoors with their dogs. When that ceased or decreased in the fall, the problems would commence.
Pet retailers noticing an increase in questions from clients about behavior and/or higher sales of products used to address behavior challenges during these months might be dealing with the same phenomenon.
To address this autumn challenge, you can give your customers some basic tips to help minimize the stress that is at the root of many of these behaviors. This is the key point: solutions to behavior problems are most effective when they address the root causes. Otherwise, you are just trying to react to the symptoms. So while chewing might be the reason a client speaks with you, the problem isn’t the chewing—it’s the stress that is causing the chewing.
Here are a few tips:
1) Encourage customers to spend additional constructive quality time with the pet. This means walks, playtime and obedience of at least 25 minutes more per day than they are currently spending.
2) Try to get the children to engage with the dog or cat for 10-15 minutes more per day as well. Many kids, especially those over the age of 9, will completely understand how their pet might be feeling “lonely” now that they have gone back to school. They may be quite receptive to “adult” solutions that they can help implement to assist their dog or cat in feeling better.
3) Chewing dogs should have special chew toys to keep them occupied when they are most inclined to chew. As a general rule, the more you can get the dog to chew on a proper toy, the less likely it will chew on improper items.
4) Excessive barking should not be encouraged by owners when they hear it. This is an important point. Some owners will reward barking without realizing it. For example, the dog barks for two minutes straight and the owner opens the door and lets the dog in the house. This teaches the dog that barking excessively is rewarded by being let inside. It is best to ignore the barking if possible. Let the dog in when it is quiet. Also avoid making the back or side yard a place of banishment for the dog. While having a backyard as a place for a dog to run around and spend time is a good thing, it should never be used as a punishment.
5) For cats, litter box issues can be addressed by making sure that the boxes are being cleaned as frequently as they were during the summer, with no changes to such aspects as new litter brands or relocating the litter box. Often, as people get busier in the fall, maintenance of the litter box is performed less often.
Armed with these simple tips, delivered to clients in an empathetic and clear fashion, pet retailers can continue to positively assist their customers in their quest for the best possible rapport with their pets.