What are Behavior Problems?
Problem behavior is a very broad term for the collection of unacceptable behavior patterns that pets might develop. An animal’s "behavior" is determined by a number of factors such as genetics, environment and experiences.
The most common behavior problems are:
- Displacement activity
- Obsessive Compulsive behavior
If your pet is showing any uncharacteristic or ‘odd’ behavior on a constant basis (that is not due to illness or disease) and this behavior is having a negative effect on either your pet’s life or on the normal, day-to-day activities in your household, then this behavior should be viewed as problematic. The sooner the underlying root cause of the behavior can be identified the greater the possibility of correcting the problem behavior.
Which pets tend to develop Behavior Problems?
As a responsible pet owner it is your social obligation to ensure that your pet’s behavior is not offensive and that your pet is not a risk to society. Some pets are more ‘highly strung’ than others and certainly some breeds are predisposed to problem behavior. Aggression is more common in adult, male pets and more common during the mating season. Young dogs tend to be more submissive and may develop problem behavior such as inappropriate urination when in the presence of humans and other dogs.
Some pets will even develop attention-seeking behavior; this may include lameness, nervous twitching, snapping at imaginary flies or chasing their tail obsessively. Destructive behavior, such as digging holes, chewing and ruining furniture, clothing and carpets is quite common in sensitive breeds such a Dobermans, Labradors, Dachshunds and Dalmatians. The oriental breeds of cats can also show destructive behavior.
What Causes Behavior Problems?
There are numerous causes of unacceptable behavior and problems are often exacerbated by owners giving the incorrect response when the unwanted behavior is shown. When you return from a dinner party to discover that your furry friend has eaten your favorite pair of shoes, do not reprimand him/her for the behavior, as hard as it is, you need to ignore him/her totally. He/she will soon learn that this kind of behavior results in no attention.
Destructive behavior can be brought upon by fear, boredom, lack of discipline or may be due to anxiety that the pet feels when the owner is away from the house or anxiety that arises due to a new happening, person or pet in the home. By giving attention when unacceptable behavior has happened, even if this attention is in the form of punishment, the pattern of behavior is reinforced. When confronted with an episode of errant behavior, the best action is to just ignore your pet and walk away. Always, always reward the good and ignore the bad.
Diagnosing Behavior Problems
A conscientious pet owner will know whether their pet’s behavior is acceptable or not. If you suspect your pet may have a behavioral problem, the situation is best discussed with your veterinarian who, apart from taking a full history will also conduct a thorough examination of your pet to ensure that there is no underlying illness causing your pet’s abnormal behavior.
Once the possibility of illness or disease as a cause has been ruled out, your vet will then discuss the problem in more detail with you. Your vet will want as much information as possible and every potential reason for the change in your pet’s behavior needs to be explored. Your vet may feel that you and your pet need to consult a pet behaviorist.
Help for Behavior Problems
Changing an unacceptable behavior pattern can be a great challenge. Correction of unacceptable behavior in your pet will require a committed approach from you and everyone who interacts with your pet. Resolution of the problem is often easier with the help of a behaviorist who will teach you certain methods to encourage normal behavior and explain the best way to react when you encounter problem behavior.
Aggressive or destructive pets can be given mild sedatives or tranquilizers, but these are sometimes accompanied by side effects as they are not all natural medications. Although conventional sedatives and tranquilizers may stop the errant behavior, they are in fact treating only the symptoms. The triggers for the errant behavior need to be exposed and then removed. This is not always possible and in this case the help of a behaviorist should be sort to modify your pet’s behavior.
Having a contented, sociable pet is the aim of every conscientious pet owner. A socially unacceptable pet is always cause for concern and you understandably wish to do you all you can to make your pet an asset to society.
By adopting a holistic approach to your pet’s behavior problem not only are the chances of resolving the behavior problem greater, but your pet’s lifestyle will be balanced. A pet that has a regular exercise routine and is fed a balanced, natural diet will be better equipped to deal with the stresses of today’s rushed lifestyle
There are herbal and homeopathic alternatives to the conventional sedatives that may be prescribed. A combination of herbal and homeopathic ingredients such as Scutellaria laterifolia, Matricaria recutita, Belladonna, Arsen alb, Passiflora incarnate, Kali phos, Arg nit, Hypericum perforatum (St John’s Wort), Cantharis and Nux vom can be used to boost your pet’s confidence and help them handle unfamiliar situations.
More Information on Behavior Problems
Everyone would like to avoid a problem pet and certain steps can
be taken to lessen the chances of a behavioral problem developing.
- Choose a young animal bred by a recognized breeder
- Make enquiries about the temperament of the young animal’s parents and siblings
- Choose the strongest and healthiest puppy or kitten
- Ensure that your new pet is well socialized –attend your local puppy socialization class
- Start teaching good habits at an early age
- Reward good behavior, either with attention or a small, low-fat treat. Remember, it is essential to be consistent and praise is a far greater incentive than punishment.