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The "Aloof" Cat or Dog

The term "aloof" means a personality that is very independent. In some degree this is desirable since the opposite extreme results in separations anxiety or other behavior problems as a result of too much bonding.

On the other hand, we humans like a pet who likes us back. Some pets seem to not know we exist, and do not seek our company or attention. Some of this is simply their individual personality, which means there is a large genetic component. This pet may never be as highly bonded as you would like.

Another significant factor in bonding vs. aloofness is that personality is heavily influenced by the pet's critical socialization period.

This is the period in their youth, when the brain was ready to develop bonding with people. In the cat this occurs between 3-7 weeks of age. In the dog is happens from 4-12 weeks. If the pet did not get sufficient exposure, or worse, negative exposure, this can result in a personality later in life that does not seek out companionship.

This behavior might be partially a ploy on the part of the pet to try to control the owner, the home environment, or both.

If the pet has been punished, and did not understand the circumstances or reasons (e.g. punishment after the fact) the pet might see the owner as unreliable, and therefore someone to be avoided. A good rule is to never punish the pet, instead interrupt when caught in the act, otherwise ignore and find a way to prevent the problem the next time.

Steps you can do to increase your bonding with a pet

  • Feed meals instead of free choice, so you are seen as the giver of the food.
  • Hand feed the pet the first several kibbles.
  • Don't let the pet see you clean up the elimination.
  • Don't hold the pet against its will with your hands, even though you feel like being close.
  • In dogs, begin "Close Tethering" where you tie the dog to your chair. When first doing this, give a chew toy, ignore fussing (don't touch the dog) and praise any relaxed posture.
  • If the pet does seek your affection, give it gently. Try to make it as positive as possible.
  • Keep a air-tight jar with some pet treats near where you lounge. Periodically toss one, gradually closer to entice the pet closer or onto your lap. Give one periodically while acting in the way you want.
  • Avoid any physical punishment or any reason. Put the emphasis on praising the positives.
  • Try to find toys that will excite the pet
  • Consult with an experienced pet behaviorist for more specific advice.

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