Dog behaviour is a hot topic, and a very important issue. Sadly, we regularly hear news reports and anecdotes of dog attacks. Like all animals, dogs have the potential to be dangerous to humans, and injuries can occur. Even the cutest, fluffiest lap dog can snap under the right (or wrong) conditions.
With some dogs, it’s easy to spot behavioural problems. They may snap or growl with no provocation, or appear timid and nervous.
Other problems may not show up as aggression towards people, but can manifest as destructive behaviour. Dogs may chew furniture or re-arrange the contents of your house when bored or stressed. Excessive barking is another symptom that may indicate a deeper problem.
Perhaps the most challenging problem can be when an otherwise well-behaved dog suddenly acts inappropriately. An unexpected bite can be traumatic for the dog’s family and lead to a great deal of mistrust and distress. Tragically, behavioural problems are a reason commonly given for surrenders and euthanasia.
I recently witnessed an incident that really made me think about these issues. I was at our local vet clinic and there was a large dog in the waiting room with her owner. The dog was off lead and behaved impeccably - until her owner tried to call her into the consultation room. Rosie (not her real name) was at the clinic for her regular injections and appeared to know what was coming.
As Rosie’s owner called her, she stood still. On being called again with a sterner voice, she started to cower and took a few steps towards me, away from her owner. Her owner then shouted and grabbed her collar; Rosie reacted by snapping.
You can imagine the shock this caused. This was all witnessed by a number of people in the clinic.
This incident left me very upset. Rosie had shown all the signs that she was uncomfortable - such as ignoring commands, cowering, and moving towards another person in the waiting room, lip licking and whale eye. It is natural that dogs will attempt to avoid situations that they know will cause pain. This incident could have been avoided if the owner had remained calm and reassured her, instead of becoming terse? Using a leash in all public places is a necessity, in this stressful environment it would also have helped Rosie’s owner maintain more control to avoid the situation escalating.
As humans, we have the luxury of being able to express our emotions – anger, fear, frustration – in a way that others can understand. Unfortunately, inter-species communication can be far trickier. It is unrealistic to expect our pets to behave the way we wish all of the time, and the way we deal with this can make all the difference.
We owe it to our pets to make every effort to understand what they are trying to tell us. Dogs frequently show warning signs, and it’s important to learn how to spot them. It’s essential to understand that your pet will express his or her emotions, and to know how to react appropriately.
Symptoms of stress can include nervousness, growling, panting, and having ‘accidents’ inside. If your pet is showing unusual or inappropriate behaviour, it may be time to take steps to identify and deal with the root cause. While a visit to the vet may be an obvious cause for anxiety, other things may be less clear. Have you recently changed your routine? Are you away from home for long periods? Are there loud noises in your neighbourhood such as aircraft, construction, or fireworks?
It is our responsibility to ensure that our pets are happy and healthy, and their emotional well being is just as important as the physical.
We recommend that you seek professional advice if you are experiencing behavioural problems with your pet. Many issues can be overcome with patience and persistence, but DO NOT put your safety or that of your family at risk. Please do not be embarrassed to reach out to experts.
Please feel free to reach out to us at Moving Paws Inc if you would like to discuss your pet’s behaviour and we can certainly get you in touch with the behaviourists we work with.
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Regards, Debbie - Founder - Moving Paws Inc.
This blog post sponsored by Bluehound Content Studio