Behavior problems are a clear pain point for pet parents. I have written in the past about dogs who bite and how to prevent dogs bites. Other common behavior issues include anxiety, inappropriate urination and litter box concerns. All these behavior problems are cause for relinquishment of pets to shelter. To help pet families cope with behavior problem in their pets, I have collated some behavior resources, because when your pet is misbehaving, you want help fast.
#1: Your Veterinarian
No one knows your pet like your family’s veterinarian. Bad behavior can simply be bad behavior or it may indicate a medical problem. For example, urinary accidents often indicate a bladder infection and an unprovoked bite suggests there may be a painful disease underlying your pet’s uncharacteristic biting behavior. So if your pet is acting out, the first stop is your family’s veterinarian.
#2: Veterinary Specialist Certified in Behavior
If your family veterinarian doesn’t find a medical problem and the behavior problem is serious, you and your pet might be referred to a board certified veterinary behaviorist. These specially trained veterinarians have residency-level training and specialty board certification as experts in correcting serious behavior problems in pets. Because these specialists are veterinarians, they can use special techniques to improve bad behavior AND prescribe medications such as tranquilizers, antianxiety drugs and behavior modifying drugs to curb bad behaviors.
#3: Certified Dog Trainers
Some behavior problems can easily be corrected by diligent work with a certified dog trainer. Certification is not required to be a dog trainer, but choosing a trainer with a certification suggests that he/she has participated in a training program to gain skills. A full discussion of the various types of certification is beyond the scope of this blog, but the Association of Professional Dog Trainers has a nice discussion on the topic.
#4: Graduate Trained Animal Behaviorists
Animal behaviorists have a Master’s or PhD degree in animal behavior from a university. While they are not veterinarians and thus cannot prescribe medications, many veterinarians collaborate with animal behaviorists to correct behavior problems in their patients.
#5: Internet Resources
Sometimes you just need a bit of information to help you correct your pet’s bad behavior or understand what might be going on. Here are some internet resources from reliable sources:
- American Animal Hospital Association behavior guidelines
- Maddie’s Fund Guidelines for evaluating behavior and temperament
- ASPCA’s description of common canine behavior issues
- The Ohio State University’s Indoor Pet Project environmental enrichment suggestions
- Embrace Pet Insurance’s training recommendations