Sometimes we don’t understand our pet’s behaviour and it becomes difficult to communicate. Below is some basic information about pet behaviour to help you determine why your pet is misbehaving.
What makes a pet misbehave?
Behaviour problems can be due to both behavioural and medical causes. A full history is required to diagnose a problem accurately, and sometimes the pet may require veterinary tests to rule out underlying medical conditions. Although there may be a single cause for behaviour problems, it can be the combination of the environment and the pet’s mental and physical health. Genetics can predispose an animal to some disruptive behaviour; however, the expression of those behaviours will depend on the animal’s early socialisation and training.
Changes in the environment may contribute to the emergence of behaviour problems such as routine changes, a new member of the household (baby, spouse), moving, loss of a family member or pet, or the addition of a new pet. All these factors can have a dramatic impact on your pet’s behaviour and it is imperative that you are attentive to their needs should any of these changes occur. Any medical or degenerative changes associated with ageing may cause the pet to be even more sensitive to these environmental changes.
Learning (e.g. reinforcement, punishment) also plays a part in most behaviour problems. Punishment can make behaviour problems worse so it is important that the correct advice be obtained. Positive reinforcement is the preferred method; however, this also needs to be used carefully as it can encourage unwelcome behaviour if used incorrectly.
How are behaviour problems treated?
There is no simple solution for any behaviour problem, so be cautious when taking ‘helpful’ advice. It is very important that the cause of the problem is addressed, not just the symptoms. For example, don’t chain the dog up because it is digging; find out the reason for the digging and treat the dog accordingly.
When it comes to your pet’s behaviour, it is important to seek the advice of a qualified animal behaviourist. A guarantee is not enough as you can never guarantee psychology, your pet’s genetics, or that the owner of the pet will follow the behaviourist’s advice. A ‘guarantee’ to fix the problem is just a sales gimmick; this is your pet’s behaviour and welfare, not a household product.
In addition to the free information provided on this site (see below) Clever Creatures has a range of products designed to assist with the prevention and treatment of minor behaviour and training problems. The products are an affordable option to try before engaging the assistance of an animal behaviourist. Many of these products are also ideal to use in combination with behaviour modification.
If you require assistance for a behaviour problem, please contact Sarah for information on house calls in the Perth and surrounding areas. Phone consultations can be conducted for all areas within Australia.