Q: How can I train my pet to stay off the furniture?
A: Some pets learn new rules more quickly than others, but teaching your dog or cat to stay off the furniture is a relatively simple task, as long as everyone in your household is consistent.
To train a dog, attach a lightweight leash to its collar (you can cut off the loop so it doesn't get caught on anything). When your dog is about to jump up, clap and say no. Praise and reward it for obeying the command; otherwise immediately use the leash to gently pull it off the couch. Expect to repeat this for days or even weeks; the pup will eventually realize that the up-and-down isn't worth the effort. You should, however, anticipate that the dog will try to sneak a seat when you're not looking. So until it's trained, don't let it in the room alone. (Use baby gates to close off a room.)
Nimble cats are harder to control, but tinfoil or an upside-down carpet runner on your furniture should deter them. You can also purchase motion-activated devices that deliver a harmless puff of air or spray of citronella to deter pets. Most cats won't stand for a leash, so simply pick your kitty up off the furniture when it's breaking the rule.
Offer a comfortable alternative to your sofa, such as a fluffy dog bed or a cat tree or perch in the same room. Teach your pet to enjoy time on its own furniture: Keep the dog bed near a couch leg, and give the dog a treat to chew while you're relaxing there, too; do the same with a cat and its perch. Eventually you can grant the animal more freedom — lose the gates and tinfoil, let up on the dog's leash — and give fewer treats.
If you allow your dog on the sofa sometimes but want it to stay off when company is over, try this: Say a word specific to this behavior — “off” or “floor,” for example — and toss a treat on the floor. Once the dog learns this pattern, toss the treat only after the command is obeyed (and no double treats for the sneaky pooch that jumps back up). Phase out the treat over time.
If you decide to invest in a furniture cover, choose one that will hide dirt and is easy to remove, water-resistant, machine-washable and as close to the color of your pet's fur as possible.
Q: I'd love to learn how to make a beautiful card. Do you have any tips?
A: You will need some basic materials to get started. Many projects require card-weight paper in a variety of shades, double-sided tape, craft glue, colored pencils or pens, sharp scissors, and a craft knife.
Before deciding on a design, think about how many cards you would like to make. For a very special card (say, one for your valentine), you might try an intricate method, such as quilling, embroidering, or folding for a 3-D effect. All three of these techniques will get a single card to stand out.
If you plan to produce several cards at once, block-printed, clip-art and printable-photo cards are easy projects to do in bulk. You can find instructions for the cards mentioned here — and the tools and materials needed for each one — at marthastewart.com.
Another simple way to create personalized cards for a group is the Martha Stewart CraftStudio app (download it from the App Store) for the iPad. The app allows you to design a virtual card on-screen and print it out at home. If you're printing a number of cards, you can do so via Snapfish (snapfish.com).