Who is to blame for our pet’s bad behavior?

Behavior ProblemsBehavior problems in our pets seem to be more common than they once were. Aggression, barking, digging, begging for food, and fear and anxiety seem to be common complaints with my clients’ pets. Are we just recognizing them more or are they really increasing? Well, if it were up to dogs they would be roaming the street scavenging food, defecating anywhere they wanted, and searching for the next sexual encounter. We have forgotten that this is normal canine behavior. Instead, we expect them to live in a house, ask permission to go outside, sit perfectly at our feet, and patiently wait for our next command. With training and persistence, they can learn to be comfortable in our idea of normal, but we need to remember this is contrary to their instincts.

Breeding Issues

So, how do we improve canine behaviors? First of all we need to put some regulations on how dogs are bred and sold. As it stands, if you have two dogs that are not neutered…Viola! You’re a breeder. Without proper breeding laws, we have people, who have no idea about genetics and how indiscriminate breeding brings out traits that are not beneficial to the animal or us, breeding pets. One of the first things we see with an overbred breed is aggression and anxieties. Most of the aggression is due to the animal’s anxiety and fear. We need to get our state and local governments to make changes and eliminate puppy mills. New laws were just passed in Ohio, which I hope will have a real impact. Now Missouri and Kansas, also hot beds for puppy mills, need to follow suit.

Are You Really Ready For A Pet?

As pet owners, or more importantly, prospective pet owners, we need to evaluate our lifestyle to see if having a pet is in the animal’s best interest. We need to evaluate how long the pet will be alone. Do we have the time to take the dog for a walk, to play with him/her in the yard, and to do dog-centered activities? Separation anxiety issues are very common in our pets due to our hectic lives. Dogs are pack animals and want to be with other dogs or people. Most of them do not want to spend all day in a cage or a house by themselves.

Who Can Help?

We now have behavioral medicine as a specialty in veterinary medicine. The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists is a group of board certified veterinarians who specialize in behavior problems. Trainers are NOT the same as behaviorists. Trainers are important too. They can help you to teach your dog obedience, but they’re not appropriate for true behavioral problems. Here is a directory if you need to find a behaviorist in your area.

While you may not be to blame for your pet’s behavioral issues, we can all play a part in reducing pet behavioral issues. Be an informed and proactive pet owner and your pet will be a happier companion.

Other posts by Dr. Riggs


Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.


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