A cat scratches the couch.

We’d like to think that there are no bad dogs or chaotic cats out there, only those that have been undersocialized or lack training. It’s true that there are many behaviors our pets engage in that we’d rather them not, yet pet behavior problems are a common complaint. 

As a result, many pets end up in shelters each year because of these issues, rather than pet owners getting to know, understand, and treat them in our pets. Your friends at Conrad Weiser Animal Hospital are here to take you through the steps of understanding certain behaviors in cats and dogs. Our goal is to explain that training and socialization are necessary to redirect furry friends from the troubles they cause.

What Causes Pet Behavior Problems?

Behavior issues can be brought out because of genetics, lack of training, a medical problem, as well as an emotional one, like separation anxiety. Generally speaking, these long standing pet behavior problems are not just caused by one factor but a few. 

Some of the more common behavior problems in cats and dogs include:

  • Territorial marking
  • Scratching furniture
  • Digging
  • Chiewing
  • Excessive barking or howling
  • Aggression
  • Jumping up on people and furniture
  • Begging

In many cases, these behaviors were learned early on because they were rewarded, in some way or another, with attention – be it positive or negativet. This is an important thing to understand, because for pets, even scolding or punishment is a reward because it is attention brought about by the behavior. Some negative attention is underlining many problem behaviors pets learn.

Older pets sometimes have behavior issues due to cognition changes, such as a decrease in memory and aptitude, with increased confusion that causes them stress or anxiety. Other times, pain is at the forefront of pet behavior problems. As you can sympathize, when you don’t feel well you are generally not at your most happy or sociable. 

The Role of Animal Instincts

There are several behaviors pet owners lament in our pets, but when you scratch the surface of them, these behaviors link back to their DNA. Dog owners dislike their need to scavenge while cat owners dislike all of the scratching. But these behaviors play an important role in the survival of their earliest ancestors. 

Your cat needs to scratch, for example, to remove the sheath from the nail, for the growth of another one. Dogs dig because they need to bury their stash to prevent others from eating it, or else make a nice bed in the dirt. Instead of punishing them for behaving as they are meant to, learn how to accommodate their needs in a positive way.

This may cause you to fill a kiddie pool with sand for your dog’s special digging area, as well as provide your cat with several scratching posts. 

Getting to the Cause

Any treatment of behavior problems must first have underlying medical conditions excluded. Call our team for an appointment so we can look at the behaviors that are causing problems.

Other suggestions that help with pets who need behavior redirection include:

  • Make certain that your dog or cat receives the training and socialization they need. Use positive rewards based training and avoid any form of punishment for behaviors you deem wrong. Enroll your dog in a socialization class, if they need to acclimate to other pets and people.
  • Treat any underlying anxiety or stress by working with us on desensitization, redirection, and confidence building. Some pets need medications for their behavioral issues, too.
  • Give your pet at least 30 minutes of active exercise and play each day. 
  • Consider a pet sitter or dog walker if the bad behavior occurs when you are away at work.
  • Engage your pet’s natural instincts using enrichment toys, games, places to climb, and so on.

If you have additional questions about pet behavior problems or would like to schedule an appointment or consultation, please contact our team. We can help you better understand the cause and condition of these behaviors and get your pet on the right track.