Mike and I have been watching a lot of The Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic Channel (best channel ever!). I know his techniques are a bit controversial, but I think that for the most part Cesar has it right about dogs being pack animals and needing a leader to follow. We sort of started wondering what would happen if we tried applying (some of) his techniques to training Biggs.
First a couple of things about Biggs. He is a black cat, 12 years old or so, and pretty set in his ways. He doesn't make friendly with pretty much anybody (animals, people, plants, etc.). Other than Mike and, to a lesser extent, me. It is fairly clear from our interactions that he is still asserting that he is dominant over me. I think he has accepted that he is not dominant to Mike.
The thing that has driven us crazy of late is that he likes to go walk on the kitchen counters during and after Mike and I eat. I think he is showing that he can do something that we don't like and that he intentionally does it while we are eating to prove a point.
So the other evening, we decided to set the boundary and enforce it. Edge of the kitchen. The fact that his water (and snacks, but not main food dish) are located at the edge of the kitchen makes the task more difficult, but why move those things when it is so much more interesting to have to work around that problem?? So for one entire night, every time he headed for the kitchen or a counter leading to the kitchen, Mike or I got up, reprimanded and removed him from the area. It seemed to be all we could do. A constant effort for the whole night.
He got mad at us. Primarily at me, because I was the more vigilant one, dishing out my own brand of Texas-style justice*. And because he is pretty sure that he outranks me. Over the course of the evening, I think that he shed an entire coat of fur. Primarily on my sweater. He also made some pretty angry screeching noises. The kind which should not be made by any living creature at any time (possible exception: when being slaughtered).
At the end of the night, I think we had an understanding. Even for part of the next day, he seemed a bit more hesitant to run in and jump up. I actually think that if (1) Mike and I took a consistent approach and (2) we had the energy to devote to this effort and the vigilance to catch him every time he did it in our presence for a few weeks, we could quite possibly train him not to do it (when we are around). However, neither (1) nor (2) seems particularly probable on its own, much less both (1) and (2) at the same time.
So enjoy the counters, my non-pack animal, dominant pet. Dammit.
*I hope that this is a show slogan that I picked up somewhere, because otherwise I am a bit (more) concerned (than usual) for my sanity.