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Seek Help For Pet's Behavior Problems
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Unusual, offensive pet behaviors can shock and bewilder owners, but look for a treatment plan before giving up and getting rid of the animal.
Any animal can resort to undesirable behavior, even an adult pet that has been well behaved for a long time. In fact, many owners have the animals euthanized.
Dr. Richard Hopper, extension veterinarian at Mississippi State University, said pets behavioral problems result from a variety of reasons. The first step in eliminating a problem is having a veterinarian check for underlying medical causes.
"Behavior problems can be caused by medical or psychological factors. It is important to identify medical conditions quickly. Owners should take pets to a veterinarian promptly for a check-up when abnormal behavior occurs," Hopper said.
Veterinarians can usually help cure medical problems which cause pets to act in ways that owners often interpret as misbehavior. Behavior problems that are psychologically induced may be harder to solve.
Jane Yeatman, who teaches an obedience class for puppies at MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine, said one way to ensure pets will not misbehave is to employ strong training plans when animals are young.
"Prevention of behavior problems starts with a good obedience class. Obedience classes are beneficial not only for training pets, but they also help owners recognize different animal behaviors and teach them how to head off a problem before it becomes too serious," Yeatman said.
But even pets that have been well trained can take on unusual behaviors in some situations, especially if their environment or schedule has changed. Animals commonly develop bad habits after long periods of isolation.
Dogs especially need to be around their owners or other animals. Owners should make a point to play with their pets and make sure the animals get enough exercise on a daily basis.
"After a long day at work or school, owners may be tempted to neglect a pet's needs for attention and exercise, but that can lead to more problems later on for the animal and the owner," Hopper said.
Yeatman said owners should be extra sensitive to a pet's needs when a change has taken place.
"After a family move, or a new baby comes home, or even another pet is brought into the environment, the animal needs patience, attention and assurance from its owner," Yeatman said.
"When a pet's behavior changes, something has happened to trigger the change. Since a pet cannot communicate to the owner what the problem is, it's the owner's job to figure it out. Problems usually aren't hard to fix once you know what the animal's needs are," Yeatman said.
Hopper reminded owners that some behavior changes in pets are normal. For example, a sweet-natured dog who becomes aggressive after having puppies may only be protective of her litter, and her behavior will eventually return to normal.