Behaviour problems can be due to behavioural or medical causes, or both. A full history is required to accurately diagnose a problem, and sometimes the pet may require veterinary tests to rule out underlying medical conditions.
Although there may be a single cause for a behaviour problem, it is often the combined effect of the environment and learning on the pets’ mental and physical health that determines behaviour. Genetics can predispose an animal to some behaviours, however the expression of those behaviours will depend on the animals early socialisation and training.
Changes in the environment may contribute to the emergence of behaviour problems. For example, schedule changes, a new member of the household (baby, spouse etc) moving, loss of a family member or pet, or the addition of a new pet can have a dramatic impact on behaviour. 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 very important that advice is obtained. Positive reinforcement is the preferred method; however this also needs to be used carefully as it can also encourage some undesirable behaviour if used incorrectly.
There is no simple cure for any behaviour problem, so be careful when taking ‘helpful’ advice. For example, many people with a destructive dog are given the advice to get another dog to fix the problem; usually the owner ends up with two destructive dogs! 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 extremely important to seek the advice of a qualified Animal Behaviourist; there are a number of unqualified people or ‘trainers’ who advertise and ‘deal’ with behaviour problems but do not have the correct training. A university qualification is highly desirable in dealing with your pets’ psychology. A guarantee is not enough: you cannot guarantee psychology, (or the pets’ 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 pets’ behaviour and welfare, not a household product!
In addition to the free information provided on this site, Clever Creatures has a range of products designed to assist with the prevention and treatment of minor behaviour and training problems. For example we have an affordable range of booklets, a DVD & CD available. We also have a number of training aids & products. From time to time we vary our range & will soon have some exciting new products. For updates please subscribe to our newsletter.
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.