Behaviour Problem or Problem Behaviour?
It is not uncommon for animals to develop a behavioural problem, and this can affect the relationship between you and your pet as well as potentially affecting their quality of life.
Differentiating between a problem behaviour and a behaviour problem is vital when looking at treatment options.
A problem behaviour is a normal pet behaviour that is undesirable to us, such as jumping up on visitors to greet them, defecating on your favourite rug or generally having no manners around people. This means that your pet is showing a normal behaviour which is undesirable when they are domesticated with humans. Some good advice from us via a phone call as well as some further training with a recommended dog trainer can usually rectify these problem behaviours. See below for some links to recommended trainers.
A behaviour problem is a whole different set of problems. A lot of behavioural problems stem from anxiety but can also be due to particular phobias, such as thunderstorm phobias. Such behavioural problems are not considered a normal behaviour and cannot simply be rectified through training. In fact, disciplining your dog if he or she is anxious, could even exaccerbate the issue. It is essential that dogs that are aggressive, show excessive fear, separation anxiety or severe noise phobias are seen by a veterinarian and discussed in detail.
Each case is different and should be approached in an individual manner. In these cases, the dogs’ quality of life is affected and often they require specific medication (the type of medication depends on the problem) to help them from day to day. Before any medication can be dispensed, a full physical examination and behaviour assessment through a series of questions needs to be carried out and usually a blood test is required.
The earlier a behavioural problem is addressed, the more likely that there will be a positive outcome.
Spraying cats can often be a combination of a problem behaviour (as cats do this naturally) and a behavioural problem (with anxiety often being the underlying reason or even a urinary tract infection), so please speak to your vet and have your cat examined if this is occurring as sometimes it can be a urinary tract infection and so medical problems need to be ruled out.
There are veterinarians at Gordon Vet Hospital that have a particular interest in animal behaviour problems, attending various behaviour specific conferences and seminars. Please phone us to book an appointment to see us on 9498 3000 if you are uncertain whether the behavioural problem requires veterinary assessment and treatment.
Behaviour consultations require a minimum of 30 minutes so please ensure you book in for a 30 minute (long) consultation.
Sometimes, for complicated behavioural problems, a referral is needed to a behaviour specialist. There are only a handful of veterinarians that specialise in behaviour in Australia (see list below).
Specialist Animal Behaviour Services (based at Seaforth) headed by Dr Kersti Seksel
www.sabs.com.au or ph 9949 8511
Dr Robert Holmes (based in Melbourne but does regular trips to Sydney and home visits as well as phone consultations)
www.animalbehaviour.com or ph (03) 9882 6789 or 0419 384 922
Training should begin early on with a 4 week puppy class which we hold on Saturdays 1pm at Gordon Vet Hospital (bookings are essential so phone us on 9498 3000). This is great for socialisation and learning the basics of training, however is certainly not a replacement for obedience classes as an adolescent (5-7 months). Ongoing classes for obedience can be accessed through Get Smart Dogs at St.Ives Showground, so check out the following link below:
The Pet SMART program offers 8 hours of tuition with a 3:1 ratio of students to trainers and is suitable for most ages and breeds. For those dogs needing a bit of individual attention, this can also be arranged. Either speak to one of the Get Smart Dog Trainers or find another trainer that uses the right techniques (positive training methods rather than punishment techniques) by visiting the Delta Society website below:
For more tips on how to ensure you have a happy life with a happy dog, click on this link to read more.