Behaviour consults at the Ark
Our pets have good days and bad days. When the bad days start to outnumber the good, their behaviour can become a source of worry and concern for everyone in the family. Animals have complex personalities just like us and bad behaviours can have many different causes.
Fortunately, our pet behaviour specialists are here to support you in helping your pet become the best version of themselves. So both of you can feel happy and safe in your home environment.
On this behaviour page:
- Causes of behavioural problems in pets
- Common behavioural problems and their symptoms
- Behavioural assessments at the Ark
Pet Behaviour Assessment
Some behavioural problems can be caused by underlying medical issues. In order to form a correct diagnosis we need to perform a thorough medical and behavioural assessment. We use a behavioural questionnaire so we can gather more information about your pet. The more information better we can diagnose the cause of their problems.
Our assessment of your pet will enable our team to determine if your pet’s condition can be helped by training or medication. Medication for behavioural issues is most effective when combined with training and behaviour modification strategies.
Our team of pet behaviour specialists can provide you with a personalised plan tailored to your pet. Our specialised trainers can help you further in establishing a new training regime.
Causes of pet behaviour issues
Commonly, behavioural problems stem from things that happen to animals when they are very young. Early life experiences before they are adopted, how they are trained as well as stressful experiences (such as moving houses or a serious injury) early in life can all lead to problematic behaviour when they are adults.
The causes of these problems are often complex and differ from pet to pet. They may be triggered by a variety of events.
Our behavioural specialists are trained in assessing these problems. Together we work at the solution.
Common behavioural problems in pets
- Anxiety Disorders
- Toilet Training
- Destructive Pet Behaviour
- Excessive Barking
- Cognitive Dysfunction
- Resource Guarding
Anxiety disorders are the most common behavioural disorder in dogs. They are also very common in cats. They encompass a wide spectrum of behaviours, including separation anxiety, fearfulness, or phobias.
Some breeds are more prone to experiencing anxiety than others, but it can happen to any pet.
Common signs of anxiety in pets include shivering and shaking, urination in fear or in stressful situations, hiding, anti-social behaviour, crying or destructive behaviour when left alone.
Punishment should never be used to control anxiety. Anxiety often manifests in dogs that have experienced cruelty before adoption. This can exacerbate anxious behaviours. Fortunately, anxiety is treatable in dogs, both through behaviour modification therapy, as well as, if needed, anti-depressant medications.
The team at the Ark will be able to assess your pet to help you decide the most suitable course of treating their anxiety.
Barking and biting in dogs and scratching and hissing in cats is quite frightening. Especially when it is out of character for your pet. It can also pose a danger to other members of the community, and is therefore really important to get on top of.
Unexplained aggression in your pet can have many different causes. These can include fear or frustration, a show of dominance. It can also be a mask for illness or pain.
Aggression can be managed by identifying the causes and triggers of aggression (for example, being in a cage, or on a lead). And implementing training strategies to help your pet in these situations.
For your own safety and those around you, preventing aggression is the most important approach to take.
Often in dogs, excessive urination or defaecation can be a sign of an underlying anxiety problem. Both cats and dogs also use urine as a way of marking things that are important to them.
90% of territorial urination behaviours can be controlled by desexing your pet.
Cats can be very particularly about where they use the toilet, and so making sure their litter tray is clean and in a private place can encourage them to use it. Quickly clean and slightly change the areas your pet urinates in (such as putting down bubble wrap or foil) as changing the appearance of the location may prevent your pet using it a toileting spot.
Positive reinforcement when your pet shows the correct toileting behaviours helps them understand what the right thing to do is.
If the behaviour is caused by anxiety, as their anxiety is controlled these behaviours will decrease. Problems in toileting can also be caused by medical problems, especially in older pets, so if you have any concerns please book an appointment with our team.
Chewing and playing are normal behaviours in dogs. If they become excessive they can do a lot of damage to their owner’s property. Destructive behaviour, especially in puppies, can occur when they are teething. This normally resolves once their adult teeth come in.
In older dogs, destructive behaviour is often linked to separation anxiety, lonliness or phobias of loud noises such as thunderstorms. Sometimes we pay most attention to our dogs when they misbehave. So destructive behaviours can be a means of getting attention.
If you can identify the triggers that cause these behaviours then you can adopt strategies to protect your belongings. For example, keeping your dog in a safe, confined space during thunderstorms so they do not get as afraid.
Cats naturally want to sharpen their claws, and sometimes resolve this urge by scratching upholstery. Providing your cat with a scratching post, or a tree stump if they are allowed outsite will often help abate these behaviours. Cats avoid citrus smells, so citrus-scented sprays in the places they tend to scratch can act as a good deterrent.
Dogs bark as a means of communicating. So when they bark they are trying to tell you something. Whether they are trying to convey lonliness, fear, or are barking because they think that will cause you pay them attention or give them a treat. Identifying why your dog barks can help in controlling it.
Shouting at your barking dog rarely helps. From your dog’s perspective, you are joining in with them, and so can make the behaviour worse.
Rewarding or not
Don’t reward barking behaviour. If your dog barks when you get home from work, refrain from greeting or patting them until they stop. Giving a dog a treat to stop barking reinforces the behaviour.
Collars designed to prevent barking should be used as a last resort. If you are concerned about your options to manage your dog’s barking. book an appointment today to discuss your options with our team.
This is a condition that mainly affects elderly dogs and cats and can be likened to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Some symptoms can include abnormal meowing or barking, disorientation, staring and pacing behaviours.
While there is no cure for cognitive dysfunction. There are things you can do to slow the progression of the disease and make your pet more comfortable as they age. If your aging pet starts displaying abnormal behaviours, don’t hesitate in bringing them into the Ark for assessment.
When dog’s exhibit aggressive and guarding behaviours surrounding a particular object, it is referred to as resource guarding. It can be displayed in different ways, such as your dog growling when you approach and it is playing with its favourite toy. Also eating much faster and frantically when you are close, or very subtly, such as moving their body to shield a particular object from you.
Resource guarding can be effectively managed through behaviour modifying training.
Some dogs just have a lot of energy! This can become a problem though if it gets pent up and manifests as more destructive behaviours. Ensuring that your hyperactive pet gets plenty of exercise. As well as access to lots of interactive, puzzle-based toys can keep them stimulated and use up any excess energy.
A low-allergen diet can also reduce hyperactivity in some dogs.
Our pets all have little quirks that just form part of their personality. If you have concerns about your pet’s behaviour. Or if you want to find out if something they do is ‘normal’ or not. Please don’t hesitate to get into touch with the Ark team.
Our priority is making sure that your pet is not only physically healthy, but is calm, happy and free of anxiety.