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Protecting Your Home from Pet Accidents with Marc

Martha Stewart Living Television

One of the most frustrating problems pet owners encounter are "mistakes," or elimination at the wrong time or place: dogs who repeatedly soil living-room rugs, or cats who refuse to use their litter boxes. To combat this problem, it helps to understand what can trigger such behavior. If you notice a sudden troublesome change in your pet's behavior, take it to the veterinarian for a checkup; some behavioral problems are symptomatic of underlying health problems such as bladder infections.

If your pet has an accident, never punish him by rubbing his nose in it or hitting him. Even if only a few minutes have passed, your pet will have forgotten the incident and will not understand the punishment. If you do catch your pet in the act of eliminating in the wrong place, startle him with a loud voice, scold him, and immediately take him to his toilet area or litter box. Praise him if he finishes in the correct place.

Be sure to clean pet-soiled spots thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner such as Nature's Miracle so that the pet will not be lured back by lingering odors. If your pet has repeatedly soiled the same spot, try covering the area with cardboard or tinfoil secured with duct tape. You might also try feeding your pet near the offending area, as animals will seldom eliminate where they eat.

Better than reprimanding your pet once it has made a mistake, take measures to assure that the animal is not tempted to misbehave in the first place. Cats adapt to the litter box instinctively, and they generally are fastidious animals. Make sure that your cat's litter box is placed in a safe and private place and that it is kept clean, or your cat may be deterred from using it. Some cats won't use a litter box that has been used by another cat, so you may need to provide a box for each cat in a household with more than one cat. Finally, don't spray your cat's litter box or its environs with strongly scented products; cats have a sensitive sense of smell and may shy away from the area altogether.

Instead of reprimanding your pet for a mistake it probably doesn't recall, train your pet properly. Cats are generally fastidious animals, and they adapt to litter boxes instinctively. Place your cat's litter box in a safe, private place, and keep it clean. Some cats won't use litter boxes that have been used by other cats, so you may need to provide a box for each cat in a household with more than one cat. Don't spray your cat's litter box or its environs with strongly scented cleaning or fragrance products, as cats have a sensitive sense of smell and often avoid heavily scented areas.

Puppies may take up to a year to become completely housebroken, so be patient. A technique known as crate training can aid in housebreaking: the crate keeps your puppy safely and comfortably confined when he's alone. Because dogs have a strong instinct to keep their sleeping area clean, they will not soil their crates.

Remember that dog walks are designed to facilitate exercise as well as elimination. Many dog owners walk their dogs until they do their business, then head home. Doing so conditions a dog to believe that the longer he waits to relieve himself, the longer the walk will last; if the dog holds out too long, hoping for a longer walk, the owner may take him inside before he is ready. To avoid this, be sure to give your dog nice, lengthy walks.