Pet owners frequently surrender their animals citing tales of house soiling, aggression, destructiveness, barking, and excessive meowing. Lamenting their failure to deal with these undesirable pet behaviors. In a society that typically disposes of anything that “doesn’t work”, dogs and cats who display undesirable behaviors are often relinquished by their owners to animal shelters. Because few prospective pet owners seek to adopt a pet with a known behavior problem, these animals are often euthanized. Given that an estimated four to six million companion animals are euthanized by animal shelters annually, undesirable behavior is perhaps the most deadly disease of all.
Barking dogs: Dogs bark for a number of different reasons. Try to evaluate your dog’s environment and perhaps you can come up with several reasons your dog barks. Is your dog left alone all day while the family is at school and work? Although many dogs can adjust to a life alone during the day, others may be lonely, bored or frustrated. They may turn to barking incessantly or chewing up the oriental rug. Do you leave your dog tied at the end of a chain 24-7? These dogs need more human companionship. This can be accomplished in a number of ways from hiring a dog sitter to adopting another dog. Two dogs can keep each other company, play together, and exercise each other. If you have a secure dog pen adjacent to the house, consider installing a dog door for your dogs to use at their discretion. Giving your dogs a variety of environments and allowing them to choose where they want to be will go a long way towards alleviating boredom and barking.
Jumping on people: Almost any dog can be taught to sit quietly on command rather than jump, and this behavior is especially easy to teach when the quiet and well behaved dog is amply rewarded with the attention she so desires.
Female dogs in heat: There is only one obvious answer to the problem of male dogs chasing after your female dog in heat! GET HER SPAYED!! Unless you breed purebred dogs, there is no reason to keep either your female or male dogs unspayed or unneutered. Spaying and neutering will eliminate not only the unwanted dogs in your yard, but also the unwanted puppies resulting from your dog’s indiscretions.
Aggressive dogs: An estimated 4.7 million people, most of them children, are bitten annually by dogs in the United States. Millions of these dog bite injuries could be prevented through public education and responsible dog ownership. Dogs who are properly trained and socialized, who receive adequate care and attention, and who are safely confined are less likely to bite. Dogs who are sterilized are three times less likely to bite.
Dogs that dig: The dog who digs up his owner’s yard cannot comprehend the amount of time and expense that went into the landscaping and rosebushes. It may also be true that his owner doesn’t appreciate a dog’s need to exercise and interact socially with other dogs or with humane companions. Denied social opportunities, the dog may decide that landscape destruction is an amusing way to keep him occupied. A dog who gets plenty of exercise and companionship and is given his own special part of the yard to dig in will no longer wreak havoc on the landscape.
Cats scratching furniture: Cats scratch. It’s a fact of cat life. Scratching allows a cat to stretch and exercise, to mark her home with her own scent, and to shed overgrown nails. Cat owners who understand and accept normal cat behavior provide an acceptable place for their cats to perform this instinctive activity, and the cat and owner live in peace.
Cats who refuse to use the litter box: Some cats, due to unpleasant (and sometimes unknown) experiences, refuse to use a normal litter box filled with kitty litter. Trial – and – error may lead to the discovery of a solution both cat and owner can live with, such as an empty box or a piece of clean newspaper in place of a litter box.
With commitment, tolerance, patience, expert assistance, and perseverance, almost every desirable companion animal behavior can be resolved. The key is to keep negative aspects of the relationship from overshadowing positive aspects. While it may seem that the animal benefits from resolution of the behavior, we must admit that humans benefit more. The difficulty of resolving an undesirable behavior is a small price to pay for a lifetime of companionship, love and acceptance.
Source: Spaulding County, GA, Animal Services