How pet psychology helps us understand our four-legged companions in a better way

Mumbai-based Keyur Patel and wife Piyu Patel can’t ask for more from their pet Bruno. The three-year-old Labrador comes to protect the latter when the former beats her jokingly. In another instance, Komal has a stray dog, Mala, which was adopted by her father. When he recently passed away, Mala stopped eating. These are just a few instances how humans’ behavior impacts our pets psyche.

And, pet psychology helps us understand how dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals think, their social interactions between other breeds, and how they bond with each other and humans. “People must have a basic command of how pets think and communicate. One must have a solid grasp of basic canine psychology. This understanding is not difficult to obtain,” says Sabrina Shenoy, a canine behaviorist from Bengaluru.

Observing behavior

Pet parents would agree that their four-legged child seems to understand just what they are thinking. And, pet psychology has established that there is a large degree of truth in this. “Most of the pets are able to learn words, especially nouns and verbs in which most instructions are given to them. They understand the way their owner is referring and commanding them. They can even follow the gaze of their owners and act accordingly,” says Surbhi Varma, a canine behaviourist.

It may not be easy to know what your pet is feeling or thinking. It’s just like dealing with a baby who can’t communicate but can sense and feel. “Animals observe their owners closely. At times, owners don’t understand their behavior and then they need behaviourists. At the end of the day, it is the pet parent who lives with the pet and they have the most influence over the animal,” says Shirin Merchant, a dog trainer and canine behaviourist.

Behaviorists also discuss pet language, which plays an important role in pet psychology. While pets do not use words to tell what they are thinking, behaviorists say that owners need to know that pets have their language. This language consists of barks, meows, growls, yowls, whimpers, postures, and so forth. It is possible to identify different kinds of barks to understand signs of aggression.

“Pets are both familiar and yet fascinatingly unfamiliar. To adjust and appreciate their differences, all you need to do is understand that they have sensory power and consider that. Pet owners have certain responsibilities to make sure their pets are psychologically healthy,” says Sabrina.

Training to develop behavior

According to behaviorists, pets want their owners’ attention. And not giving them enough time send a strong signal to the pet. Folding your arms, looking away and ignoring your pet despite being in the same room are apparent to your pet. This behavior may be good when it comes to disciplining them but if it is done every day, it will put your pet in an anxious state.

“Pets realize which behavior is working. And, when you punish them the right way would make your pet realize that s/he did something wrong. The pet will then learn to behave in a way that is acceptable to the master. Most pets want to play and please the people who love them,” says Dr Krishna Swami, a canine behaviourist from Chennai.

Five hacks to keep your pet mentally healthy

1. Make sure your pet gets ample exercise. A long walk, a game of fetch, etc., can boost your pet’s mood.

2. Just like children, pets like routine. Maintain a steady timetable for their meals, exercise, bath and playtime.

3. Make sure your pet gets to socialize with friends and family. This will make them less territorial.

4. Never miss an appointment with the vet. Keep up with all the booster shots of vaccines.

5. A collection of toys is a good idea. Fix a playtime to enable your pet to look forward to the fun time.

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