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I don't use a spray bottle in training our pets. I did use it in the 80's when I had the 2nd cat of my own, but it did not really work out so well. With the first cat I did not know about spray bottles being used for this, and later I've not seen a need to use one.

Now I hear a spray bottle is useful whenever my dogs or cats (we have both) behave badly, and for example to teach them not to get on couches and chairs. Well, our dogs don't go on couches and chairs anyway. I heard that the dog/cat should not see me spray it, but I should do it covertly from behind a corner or something. Why is that?

Is a spray bottle useful in training? What is the correct way to use it as a training aid?

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    they shouldn't be taught to obey the spray bottle but they should obey you – ratchet freak Dec 19 '13 at 9:24
  • cats can be conditioned to certain behaviors, the methods don't need to include a spray bottle though – ratchet freak Dec 19 '13 at 10:06
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    @ratchetfreak - If you think the correct way to use a spray bottle with pet behaviour control is to not use it, then please post it as an answer. Comments is not the place. – Esa Paulasto Dec 19 '13 at 10:24
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    It works not at all for our dogs... the dogs feared the spray bottle but think it is great fun to be sprayed by it... We recently moved and we have stopped using it all together. – user9 Dec 19 '13 at 16:17
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I'm just addressing cats here. I actually grew up with dogs (not cats), but as an adult who owns cats, I've done a lot more study/reading of cat behavior and don't feel qualified to speak on dog behavior.

Punishment rarely works because cats don't have a social structure that recognizes you as the dominant being in the home, they only understand that you're doing something to them that they don't want (squirting them with water, for example).

Therefore, it's much more effective to figure out why your cat is exhibiting the undesireable behavior and meet those needs in a way that is acceptable to both of you rather than punishing the cat for the undesireable behavior.

I don't think there's any useful way to use any sort of punishment as a cat training aid. Redirection (for bad behaviors) and reward (for good behaviors) work much better.

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    I'd like to add a point that if the cat sees you squirt it, it'll just avoid scratching your furniture while you're around and do it when you're gone. – Chris Dec 20 '13 at 19:54
  • @Chris From someone who managed to teach our cat to not get caught upstairs or on the kitchen table, I definitely agree! – starsplusplus Mar 29 '14 at 13:35
  • @Chris Agree on the point that if the cats sees what you're doing, it will only avoid the bad behavior when you're around. It is so true for my case too! – Win.T Jan 7 '15 at 6:47
  • @Zaralynda are you able to explain or give an example for this: "Redirection (for bad behaviors)". Thank you. – Win.T Jan 7 '15 at 6:48
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My experience as a cat owner is that I get better results when my cat sees me spraying it, but it depends on what the problem is. The main reason we end up using a spray bottle is when we need the cats to leave a room and they decide to resist our instruction because they are being playful. A combination of first indicating to our cat what is expected and then spraying her with water to coax her out of her hiding spot has worked very well and while still occasionally necessary, she now realizes what is coming if we leave the room after indicating to her that it is time to go and she will then run out on her own most of the time.

Important caveat: Do not try this if your cat is hiding for fear, only if they are hiding to be playful. You can tell by watching how they behave. If they are out normally and immediately go hide when they realize it is time for them to leave and is a very playful cat, then they are being playful. If they stay hidden when you offer them play, then they are scared.

The one major caveat I have to indicate though is that they do not easily form that connection. When training our cats, we would always go over and spend time being affectionate and friendly with them after a short interval after they did whatever it was they were supposed to do. This way we reinforced that it was not us just being mean to them, but rather connected with their action and showing them that we are still friends. I end up doing it more often than my wife and I've noticed that the cat that requires the most frequent discipline responds more positively to me than my wife.

She is still very affectionate towards me though, so it does not seem to have harmed our relationship any. She knows she can't push back against me, but she also loves to be affectionate with me.

  • +1 for offering this example of usefulness of a spray bottle. I had thought there's none. – Esa Paulasto Dec 26 '13 at 21:50
  • Cats hide when they're scared and you're scaring her further by spraying her with water. This is a bad use of a spray bottle (I've voice trained my cats to leave certain rooms when I do with vocal commands. Takes a bit more patience, but I'm not terrorizing my cat either). – Zaralynda Dec 26 '13 at 22:06
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    @Zaralynda - if she hid because she was scared, I would agree. This one doesn't hide because she is scared though, she hides because she wants to play. Spraying her just makes her leave because it isn't fun anymore. You are correct that it isn't right for all cats though and certainly not scared cats. You should never punish a cat for being scared. I have updated my answer with some advice on how to tell the difference between the two. I forgot about the possibility of cats hiding because they are scared because neither of my cats ever gets scared because they are both very outgoing. – AJ Henderson Dec 26 '13 at 22:09
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    @AJHenderson you're still punishing her for being playful which really isn't ideal. If she's being playful I would try to entice her out of the room with a toy or something to use that playful energy to get her to do what I want. – Zaralynda Jan 5 '14 at 22:06
  • @AJHenderson toally agree to the way you describe as it reflects the same for me. At times even when I tried forcing my cat out of her hiding spot by pointing the spray bottle directly at her, she will tend to be stubborn and able to resist the water spraying directly at her. What could this meant? Is she scared or just stubborn? My cat has quite an attitude when she do not want (to do) something. – Win.T Jan 7 '15 at 6:58

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