Dealing With Dog Behavior Issues
Many dog behavior issues are frustrating, from chewing or jumping up, to dangerous dog attacks on humans and other pets. While some issues can be easily remedied through reward training and management (for instance leash pulling), others require more intensive techniques like desensitization and counterconditioning that may require assistance from both a certified behaviorist and veterinarian; sometimes medication is also necessary to address emotional and behavioral problems in these instances.
Some behavioral issues are more severe, including aggression and inappropriate elimination. It’s essential to consult a veterinarian or certified trainer if any such behaviors arise as they could indicate an underlying health issue that needs veterinary intervention.
Aggression in animals usually stems from perceived threats or violations to its territory, though additional factors can lead to this behaviour, including:
1) Genetic predisposition and environmental stressors that trigger the fight or flight response. This includes instinctual urges to protect food, toys or territory; maternal deprivation during gestation or postnatal and neonatal periods; fear of strangers who look or smell different than the pet owner; previous negative experiences with specific stimuli (eg tripping/vacuum cleaner use); as well as previous negative associations between specific stimuli such as vacuum cleaners/tripwires etc and negative experiences for your pet.
2) Faulty training and lack of outlets for normal behavior. This may be caused by inadequate early and consistent training and reinforcement of desirable behaviors, along with insufficient exercise and social enrichment opportunities for your pet. In other cases, inappropriate behaviors could be used as a coping mechanism to manage an underlying mental disorder (eg anxiety). Stereotypic behavior could also serve as an outlet and be due to dopaminergic stimulation.
(3) An inability of your pet to respond appropriately to stimuli from both people and other animals, including people. This includes excessive barking, chasing, or mounting. It could be the result of genetic predisposition and environmental stressors as well as lack of socialization during puppy period and adulthood; inability to calmly and consistently respond to commands; fear of certain objects/environments (kennels/grooming parlors etc).
Inappropriate elimination often stems from multiple sources. Dogs might have been taught by their parents or other dogs to eliminate in certain places; others might do it as an escape mechanism when nervous or stressed out. Reward training, a regular schedule, appropriate confinement and the removal of favorite items may often solve this issue, along with making sure there are ample alternate outlets for exploration, like food-stuffed chew toys, manipulation toys and designated outdoor areas for exploring.