The most common pets in our homes are dogs and cats. It happens quite often that owners of four-legged pets often struggle with their behavioural problems. These problems are sometimes psychological and sometimes health-related.
In this article, we will present the most common behavioural problems of dogs and cats and how to deal with them.
The most common behavioural problem is the inadequate resocialisation of animals.
Re-socialisation = socialisation – it is the acquisition of skills expected by society, in this case, us Humans, in which an individual – or animal – is supposed to live.
In the beginning, we will introduce you to the most common behavioural problems in dogs.
Aggression is one of the most common disordered behaviours in dogs.
It is assumed that the presence of a mother with puppies up to 7 weeks of age reduces the risk of aggression towards humans.
Small dogs are more likely to be aggressive than large breeds.
Below is a ladder of aggression in the dog that shows the degrees of aggressiveness of animals towards us. It is not only the case that a dog biting a human being is a sign of aggressiveness, there are also some subtle but equally dangerous behaviours of our pets.
Does your dog show you his teeth when you want to pick up his ball?
Does your dog show his teeth on walks toward another dog, and do you avoid contact on walks with other pets?
When you try to get your dog off the couch and reach your hand towards him to get him off, does he show you his teeth?
These behaviours are a tendency towards aggression and can lead to biting at some point.
It’s important that your dog feels the limits of his behaviour, including during playtime. When at some point play gets out of control and your dog is pulling his teeth towards you, stop it, and let him calm down so you can interact with him again without getting him excited again. Play is only acceptable if it is under control. Use a system of rewarding only for good behaviour, and do not over-react with emotion towards him. Remember, however, that in some dogs setting certain limits may cause his aggression towards us to increase, in which case you should see a professional behavioural trainer immediately.
What are our tasks, the owners of a dog towards its aggression:
First of all, avoiding situations that trigger aggression in them;
Implementing behavioural therapy, the so-called system of rewarding the desired behaviour (anti-conditioning, and desensitization);
When your dog is polite also, this should be the moment to reward it, not to ignore it;
Aggressive behaviour of our pet should be ignored or interrupted, but under no circumstances punished or reinforced;
An alternative behaviour should be found for the animal, e.g. rewarding exercise, playing immediately after stopping the undesirable behaviour;
Long and intensive walks to allow him to unwind and run around in the fresh air;
When you have the opportunity, withdraw from the stressful situation.
Barking is another of the problems dog owners face.
The golden rule: A dog barks, don’t respond to it with the same. The dog perceives this as an encouragement to bark even louder and does not take it as punishment or instruction. If you give him a toy or a treat at the same time as he is barking, you are showing him that his behaviour is drawing attention to himself. How can you avoid this? Teach your dog the commands „voice” or „silence”, after each of these commands rewards him with a treat that will remind him of what he must do at that moment.
As for begging during your meals. Your dog should be in his place or another room when you eat, otherwise, he will find that he can accompany you in this activity. Remember not to throw extra food from the table, as this increases your dog’s begging behaviour. Consistency in our behaviour is extremely important here, if the dog once gets convinced that he can be next to you during your meal, it will show him that I am doing the right thing. All members of the family should be patient during his loud waiting, whining, and begging – as long as it takes. We should only take an interest in the dog when we have finished our meal and he has calmed down.
Another abnormal behaviour is biting the house equipment during our absence.
What to do in this case? First of all, replace chewing of the household equipment with special toys or components of a dog’s diet. If the chewing doesn’t work, while you are away from home, limit his free movement around the house, preferably designate one room for our pet or set up a cage, remembering to leave the chew for him. In this way, the dog will be able to satisfy the need to chew and at the same time will not be able to choose among the objects in the house. If your dog is not interested in the chew, try another one until he finds the perfect one.
What don’t dog owners like? As many as 40% of dog owners believe that a dog jumping on people crossing the threshold of the flat is non-behavioural behaviour. This is usually due to his excitement and desire to say hello. Sometimes, however, it is a sign of dominance in our home. Whatever the reason, we aim to stop your dog from jumping on people. The first basic rule is to be less excited when greeting your dog. The second, when your dog gets excited at the arrival of guests, is to distract him or teach him a command such as sit and reward him for correct behaviour.
Teaching your dog to jump on people, although at first, it may seem to us a very difficult task to accomplish, requires above all patience and training. Self-discipline also of all household members will be an important rule to follow.
How to deal with submissive urination in a dog?
First of all, go to the vet and check if the problem is not on the health side. If it turns out that it is not a health problem what then? Do everything you can to prevent your dog from urinating in the house, keep an eye on him at all times and learn to anticipate his behaviour. Puppies usually do it after eating, playing and waking up. A dog that wants to go potty will show this by being anxious, squealing, pacing around the house and sniffing the floor. It is then necessary to react quickly, being careful not to frighten your four-legged friend. When on a walk, let your dog do its business without distraction and finish off with a treat and praise. Be patient, consistent and remember that mishaps can happen. Some dogs need more time to learn. When you are away from home for a longer period, when greeting your pet, do it with as little emotion as possible. In dominant dogs the solution may be sterilisation, work on dominance relations in the house or pharmacological treatment. These are sometimes used for anxiety.
Most common undesirable behaviour in cats
The most common causes of non-behavioural behaviour in cats are:
Stress and anxiety;
Genetic predisposition (oriental breeds e.g. Siamese);
Nutritional deficiencies and somatic diseases (especially those involving pain);
Hyperactivity and hyperactivity syndrome;
Cats adopted too early develop psychomotor hyperactivity. They very often suck on blankets, wool or soft clothes. Why? Just like a baby, they need to suck their thumb.
The abnormal behaviour of cats is often linked to an inappropriate or excessive attachment to the owner. Cats often suffer from separation anxiety.
Where does aggression in cats come from, for example?
Dual status in nature – the skilful use of aggression determines the survival of the species;
Cats prefer to avoid direct combat, as such wounds could interfere with successful food acquisition;
In a threatening situation cats send out signals to scare off the enemy, which are perceived by humans as aggression towards them;
Aggression in cats is a natural phenomenon, belonging to the ethogram of this species;
Pathology occurs when the animal starts to react inadequately to the strength of the stimulus and its psychological state prevents it from functioning normally in its environment.
How can we help our cat? Certainly do not punish them for undesirable behaviour or shout at them. The animal we shout at often does not know it is doing something wrong, and sometimes we have the opposite effect.
Let’s visit the vet and have our cat examined: when a cat pees outside the litter box, it could be a problem with its urinary system.
Male cats often mark the territory due to their species, talk to your pet doctor about neutering. Often this type of procedure becomes the solution to our cat’s territory marking.
If stress is the cause of a behavioural problem, consider buying a product containing cat pheromones, which increase their sense of security and have a positive effect on their mood.
Does your cat scratch your furniture? Buy him special scratching posts, which will allow him to regulate the length of his claws and relieve stress in the least comfortable for his situations.
When being trained by ourselves or by a professional dog or cat behaviourist, we have to be aware that this has its character. Not every piece of advice we hear can help when teaching our four-legged pet. The important thing is to be consistent and not to give up, striving for the desired goal based on observation of our pet and finding out what is the inflammatory element of the problem. It is worth involving your household members to cooperate in eliminating the problem of your dog or cat. If you are unable to deal with your pet’s behaviour yourself, you should seek advice from a vet or specialist behaviourist. Our responsibility towards the dog/cat will be rewarded with their love and trust.