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Prevent pet behavior problems: ask your pet’s veterinarian

Aug 17

Categories: Blog

Good intentions go hand-in-hand when adding a new puppy or kitten to the family. Who doesn't want a house broken and obedient pet? Unwanted behavior, however, is the leading reason for euthanasia and shelter surrender in the United States according to the American Animal Hospital Association, an international professional association of veterinarians who treat companion animals. And, your be glad to know that your pet's veterinarians at Animal Health Care of Marlboro are members of this leading veterinary association.

Educating our pet parents is the key to preventing common behavior problems. We like to set rules and expectations from the start. If, even at the first well care visit a puppy or kitten exhibits unwanted benhavior it can easily be reinforced as a learned behavior. Dr. Deb says if she can't get a lick or a purr at that first visit she knows that education and demonstation of good socilaization techniques is in order. Basic training should begin immediately with diligence, patience, supervision, repetition and reward as motivators. New pet parents should be aware and supervising the new addition to  provide the tools for a great learning experience. Normal pet behaviors such as house training, destructive chewing can be avoided  by observing and learning the pet's basic needs and being aware of problem situations in which the pet can misbehave. You need to give pets the opportunity to succeed so don't give them the chance to act inappropriately, that way they don't learn to do it!

Young pets are willing to please and will be motivated by rewards which can often be praise alone. Correct unwanted behavior by encouraging and showing good behavior choices. So replace your shoe with an appropriate chew toy or try to put the litter box where the kitten can get to it: not down 2 flights of stairs and around the corner in the noisy laundry room: they just can't get to it reliably thereby setting up an unrealistic expectation and asking for failure. Food, affection, and praise are really effective motivators for good behavior in the young (and older) pet. And, don't forget that old dogs can and do learn new tricks!

Also important in raising a well behaved and adjusted pet is socialization. There are critical periods for socialization especially during the first 8 weeks of life of puppies and kittens. Introduce them to things and people likley to enter into their day to day living experiences. Equally important is puppy kindergarten where the pups can interact with their own peers speaking the same language and you can interact with other new pet parents. Often, I've thought that we should make that an available choice for kittens, too! Herding cats anyone?  (go to YouTube for some really funny video).

So after all is said and done if you still identify problem behaviors in your new puppy or kitten or if you adopt and older pet, don't lose hope. Your pet's veterinarian is a great resource for advice and help as well as training products and services.

Every pet and every home is different. What might be acceptable in one situation may be a deal breaker in another. Many problem behaviors can be fixed or manged in a safe humane way so that the pet can be part of the family home. Many resources are available to help with problem behaviors. Consult your veterinary healthy care team of animal lovers: we're here to help!