A Recommended Reading and Listening List for Pet Care Professionals

Kate and I are doing a presentation for the staff of the Bangor Humane Society next week where we will be discussing canine behavior, communication and handling. These are some big topics, so I have been preparing handouts for them, suggesting blog posts, podcasts, and books where they can learn more. After reviewing the list I developed, it was clear that this was information that would be beneficial to anyone that is a pet care professional, so here it is.

Blog Posts and Podcasts

Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family – In two podcasts and a blog post, Kate and Don discuss factors that one should consider before getting a dog. They discuss; fear of dogs, allergies, who will care for the dog now and in the future, kids and dogs, other pets in the household, the role the dog will play in the family, whether to get a puppy or an older dog, the importance of breed, size and the importance of the size of the dog you choose, coat-type, and the resources necessary to care for a dog. Then they discuss where to get a dog and what to look for when selecting a breeder, shelter or rescue. – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/01/16/adopting-a-pet-finding-the-right-dog-for-you-and-your-family/

Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic – In this podcast from The Woof Meow Show Kate, Don and Dr. Dave Cloutier of the Veazie Veterinary Clinic discuss the American Animal Hospital Associations (AAHA) new guidelines on behavior management for dogs and cats. This groundbreaking document represents the first time that a major veterinary organization has addressed pet behavior. According to the guidelines “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering.” The guidelines outline how the continuing promulgation of erroneous information about pet behavior and the ongoing use of aversives to train and manage pets are major causes for behavior problems, and recommend that concepts like dominance and the use aversives are not scientifically sound and are, in fact, counter-productive and harmful to the pets in our care. Every pet care professional needs to be aware of the 2015 American Animal Hospital Association Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelineshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/03/13/podcast-the-woof-meow-show-pet-behavior-vets-the-aaha-canine-and-feline-behavior-management-guidelines-with-dr-dave-cloutier-from-veazie-veterinary-clinic/

How to Choose a Dog Trainer – Don and Kate believe that finding a good dog trainer, even before you get your puppy or dog, is every bit as important as finding the best veterinarian for your pet. In this blog post and podcast they suggest criteria you can use when looking for a dog trainer. – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/01/08/how-to-choose-a-dog-trainer/

 

 

Pet Behavior as an Essential Component to Holistic Wellness – This post from Don’s blog is a handout from his presentation Pet Behavior as an Essential Component to Holistic Wellness given on Saturday, October 29, 2016, as part of Green Acres Kennel Shop’s fundraiser for The Green Gem Holistic Healing Oasis. It discusses the importance of addressing behavior as well as the reason for behavior problems becoming a bigger issue for pets. – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/10/28/pet-behavior-and-wellness-pet-behavior-as-an-essential-component-to-holistic-wellness/

Introduction to Canine Communication – This blog post discusses canine body language and contains photographs illustrating common calming signals. – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/01/16/dog-behavior-introduction-to-canine-communication/

 


 

Assessing Pets’ Welfare Using Brambell’s Five Freedoms – First published in the Fall 2014 issue of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers Chronicle of the Dog, this article discusses how one can assess an animal’s welfare by using Brambell’s Five Freedoms. This is important because failure to provide the five freedoms can often be a cause of behavioral issues with animals. – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/10/01/animal-welfare-assessing-pets-welfare-using-brambells-five-freedoms/

 

Dominance: Reality or Myth – Both a podcast and blog post, this article discusses the myth of dominance and explains why it is so detrimental to the human-dog bond. The blog post also cites the scientific articles referenced and provides links to those articles, where available. – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/20/dog-behavior-dominance-reality-or-myth/

 

A Rescue Dogs Perspective – Written from the perspective of Don’s rescue dog Muppy, this article first appeared in The January 2016 issue of Downeast Dog News and on dogs blog. It discusses training from Muppy’s point of view and why sometimes delaying starting a training class can be in a dog’s best interest. – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/01/04/dog-training-a-rescue-dogs-perspective/

 

 

Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stress – Stress is a major contributor to behavior problems. This post from Don’s blog looks at both good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress), discusses their physiological effects on the body, and reviews what animals do when afraid. Common causes of stress are reviewed along with how you can identify stress and reduce it. How stress can escalate and go from an acute event to a chronic condition is reviewed. Any dog exhibiting behavioral issues is under stress as are most dogs in a shelter or rescue environment. That is not typically due to any fault of the shelter it is just the nature of being homeless and uncertain. – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/11/01/canine-behavior-understanding-identifying-and-coping-with-canine-stress/

Dr. Sophia Yin – Body Language of Fear in Dogs – This poster from Dr. Sophia Yin illustrates how a dog may use their body to signal when they are afraid. You can download a copy of the poster from Dr. Yin’s website at http://info.drsophiayin.com/free-poster-on-body-language-in-dogs

Dr. Sophia Yin – How To Greet A Dog and What to Avoid – This poster from Dr. Sophia Yin illustrates how to greet a dog and how not to greet a dog. If you have a dog that is shy or reactive towards people you and they should familiarize yourself with the material in this poster. You can download a copy of the poster from Dr. Yin’s website at https://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/preventing-dog-bites-by-learning-to-greet-dogs-properly/

Dr. Sophia Yin – Canine Bite Levels – This poster from Dr. Sophia Yin illustrates how dog bites are classified by canine professionals, the legal system, and the insurance industry. You can download a copy of the poster from Dr. Yin’s website at http://info.drsophiayin.com/download-the-bite-levels-poster

 Books

Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet, John Bradshaw, Basic Books, 2011, 2012 – Dr. John Bradshaw is an animal behaviorist and if you look at recent scientific papers on dog or cat behavior, you will often find Bradshaw listed as one of the authors.  In Dog Sense Bradshaw summarizes the latest research for dog lovers like you and me. Topics he covers include; how the dog evolved, the fallacy of the dominance construct, how the dog’s role in society is changing and how that has led to higher expectations for non-dog like behavior and how these changes might affect the dog’s future. He addresses breeding issues and how the dog fancy’s focus on appearance rather than temperament and health may threaten the existence of many breeds. He also talks about how dogs learn and how research has demonstrated the many advantages of positive reinforcement/reward based training over the old training model based on force and intimidation.

Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet, John Bradshaw, Basic Books, 2013 – I first read John Bradshaw’s two previous books on cats; The True Nature of the Cat and The Behaviour of the Domestic Cat back in 2003. Cats, and specifically cat behavior is still under-researched compared to dogs, but Cat Sense nicely sums up what we do know. Bradshaw also discusses how the cat and society are changing and suggests what that means for the cats future. Bradshaw has posed some important questions and concerns about neutering and breeding which merit further discussion and action.

On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas, Dogwise Publishing, 2006 – This book and its author, Turid Rugaas, have influenced my understanding of dogs more than any other book or seminar. While this book is few in pages, it is rich in information depicted in great photos. This gentle, kind, woman is incredibly knowledgeable about canine behavior and ethology. She has taught many how to live in harmony with our dogs by helping us to better understand what they are trying to tell us, and in turn, she has taught us a better way to express ourselves to our dogs.

Full of photographs illustrating each point, On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals focuses on how dogs use specific body language to cutoff aggression and other perceived threats. Dogs use these calming signals to tell one another, and us, when they are feeling anxious and stressed and when their intentions are benign. If you have more than one dog, or if your dog frequently plays with others, or if you are a frequent visitor to the dog park, you need to be familiar with calming signals. This book will help you learn ‘dog language,’ for which you will be rewarded with a much better understanding of your pet and its behavior.

Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution, Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, University of Chicago Press, 2001  –  This book refutes a great number of the popular myths about the domestic dog with sound science. Dr. Coppinger is a professor at Hampshire College where he teaches evolutionary biology. He and his wife Lorna have over 40 years of experience living and working with all varieties of dogs.

The main premise of this book is that humans did not create the dog by taming and domesticating the wolf, but instead the dog self-evolved from the wolf. Tamer and less energetic wolves started hanging around human settlements for the discarded food and over time these wolves evolved into today’s village dog. Only in the last few hundred years have humans become involved in consciously, and not always responsibly, engineering the village dog into the many breeds we see today. The Coppinger’s have studied village dogs (feral dogs living in human communities) as they exist in the world today in places like Mexico City, and Pemba.

For the Love of A Dog Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend, Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D., Ballantine Books, 2005, 2006 – This book explores the emotional connection we make with our furry, four-footed canine companions. She also discusses how revolutionary it is to view animals as having a vibrant emotional life. Kudos to McConnell for being one of the few scientists with the courage to admit what almost everyone has known all along; animals experience joy and fear and everything in between. We do not know what it is they are feeling, but it is obvious the have a rich emotional life; in some cases very joyous and others quite sad.

After reading For the Love of A Dog, you will have a better understanding of the science behind emotions and why our dogs and we get along so well. McConnell has also included an excellent section on canine body language, one of my favorite subjects and one that is not emphasized enough in classes for pet professionals and dog owners. If you take your dog to the dog park, you MUST know this stuff.

The Other End of the Leash – Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs, Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D., Ballantine Books, 2002 – An information-packed, immensely readable book. In it, you will learn how to have an improved relationship with your dog through better communication. As a scientist who has studied both primate and canine communication systems, Dr. McConnell has a keen understanding of where the communication between humans and dogs often breaks down, creating frustration and stress for both species. For example, she explains how simple innate greeting patterns of both species can cause conflict. We know that when two people meet, the polite thing to do is to make direct eye contact and walk straight toward one another smiling. However, as Dr. McConnell notes: “The oh-so-polite primate approach is appallingly rude in canine society. You might as well urinate on a dog’s head.” Direct eye contact and a direct approach are very confrontational to a dog.

Dr. McConnell also emphasizes how dogs communicate visually, while humans are a very verbal species. The picture she paints of the frustrated chimp, jumping up and down, waving their hands, and screeching repeatedly is only a slight exaggeration of the frustrated human, saying “sit, sit, sit, ahh please sit” while displaying countless bits of body language. Primates, including humans, “…have a tendency to repeat notes when we’re excited, to use loud noises to impress others, and to thrash around whatever is in our paw if we’re frustrated. This behavior has no small effect on our interactions with dogs, who in spite of some barks and growls, mostly communicate visually, get quiet rather than noisy to impress others, and are too busy standing on their paws to do much else with them.” With these fundamental differences, it’s amazing we can communicate with our dogs at all.

The Power of Positive Dog Training, Pat Miller, Howell Book House, 2001. I have been reading Pat Miller’s articles in the Whole Dog Journal for years and have loved everything she has written. She is a skilled and compassionate dog trainer who knows how to communicate to dog owners through her writing. This book is a superb “basic dog book” for anyone with a dog, and I highly recommend it.

 

 

 

 

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Pet Behavior and Wellness – Pet Behavior as an Essential Component to Holistic Wellness

This post is a handout for my presentation Pet Behavior as an Essential Component to Holistic Wellness given on Saturday, October 29th as part of Green Acres Kennel Shop’s fundraiser for The Green Gem Holistic Healing Oasis.

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What is behavior? The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines behavior as:

  • the way a person or animal acts or behaves
  • anything that an organism does involving action and response to stimulation

In August of 2015, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) addressed behavior-problems-are-a-major-issuethe issue of behavior problems in pets with the publication of the AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines. This groundbreaking document reports that “Behavioral problems affect more dogs and cats than any other medical condition and are one of the most common causes of euthanasia, relinquishment, or abandonment of pets.” The report recommends that a behavioral wellness assessment should be part of every pet’s visit to the vet.

The task force that wrote the AAHA Guidelines also looked at the question “Why have behavior issues become the number one issue for our pets?” According to the AAHA guidelines, it is because of:

  • “Mistaken or misinformed beliefs…..” about canine behavior held by Breeders, Rescues and Shelters, Pet Care Professionals (Boarding Kennels and Daycares, Dog Trainers, Dog Walkers, Groomers, Pet Sitters, and Veterinarians), and Pet Owners
  • The Use of Aversive Training Techniques

While not cited in the guidelines, studies suggest only 5% of dog owners ever attend a dog training class, and I suspect that also plays a factor in the frequency of behavior problems. A well-designed dog training class will cover much more than just how to train the dog. Our classes at Green Acres discuss husbandry issues, health and wellness, ethology, animal learning, and normal and abnormal behaviors. As a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and Certified Professional Dog Trainer, I work with clients on both training and behavioral issues. Most of the clients that I see for behavioral issues did not take any dog training classes and may not have spent any time training the dog. I see very few clients for behavioral matters when the dogs and their people have been through at least one training class taught by a professional.

knowledge-1The AAHA Guidelines suggest that the some of the “knowledge” we have about pet behavior may be more myth than fact while some of it is just plain erroneous. This antiquated mythology may be detrimental to our pet’s well-being and our relationship with our pet.

So, let’s look at where people acquire knowledge about their pets. When I ask people this question, typical responses include; books, the breeder, a dog trainer, a family member, a friend, the internet, the shelter or rescue, or my veterinarian.

Not typically mentioned in the list is the societal influence of what we have knowledge-2learned about pets, especially dogs, through the mass media. Many of us had our first exposure to dogs through characters like Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Eddie, and Wishbone. We were probably exposed to these fictional dogs through TV shows, movies, books and sometimes all of the above. However, whether it was a book, movie, television show or comic book, it was a marvelous, heart-wrenching piece of fiction. Did it causes us to like dogs? Most likely it did, however, what these stories tell us about dog behavior is not real. As for cats, there is not as much “hero worship” in movies, books, and TV. When cats are portrayed in a movie, they are often the villain.

knowledge-3Personally, much of what I first learned about dogs was based on these two popular books written back in the 70’s. When we brought our Cairn Terrier puppy home, we purchased copies of How To Be Your Dog’s Best Friend by the Monks of New Skete and Mother Knows Best by Carol Lea Benjamin. These were two of the most highly recommended books at the time, and both authors took the position that the dog is a descendant of a wolf and that we as its “parent” should teach it, or train it, just as a mother wolf would teach or train their offspring. Sadly, that often involved lots of intimidation, fear, and pain. Even sadder, these recommendations were not made based on any sound science. To this day I regret how following the recommendations in these books damaged the relationship between Gus and me. I cannot recommend these two books under any circumstances, expect as examples of what not to do.

I am pleased to say that there are now many books that I can recommend. They knowledge-4are based on sound science and respect for dogs. Five books that I believe belong in every dog aficionados library are: On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas, Dog Sense by John Bradshaw, The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D, For the Love of A Dog by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D, and Dogs by Lorna Coppinger and Raymond Coppinger. My training colleagues will probably want to know why I have not included a training specific book in my recommendations. My answer is that basic training information will typically be provided by any professional trainer teaching private or group classes and I believe that pet parents/owners should take their dog to classes taught by professionals if they want the best for their dogs. However, for those that want a book on the topic, I recommend The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller.

knowledge-5I have not forgotten cats. Unfortunately, cats have been studied much less than dogs and have typically been easier to acclimate into our lives. As a result, not as much as been written about them, especially their behavior. However, if you ask me to recommend a book on cats, the book I recommend will be Cat Sense by John Bradshaw.

knowledge-6Family members, friends and co-workers are often listed as a source of information about pets, often because they have had pets themselves. Some of these folks keep up with the latest information, but often they take the approach that is expressed in this slide; “I have had pets for over 40 years, and this is the way we have always done it!” implying there is no need to change. Since this person is often an authority figure in our eyes, we tend to follow their advice blindly. Recently I had a client tell me that their boss had suggested that they take a switch to their dog when the dog was whining. Even sadder is that I still occasionally have clients tell me that their breeder or even a member of their veterinary team has recommended hitting the dog with a newspaper for urinating in the house. It takes a long time for erroneous information and bad ideas to go away, so be a critical thinker when people suggest something and do not feel compelled to follow their advice.

knowledge-7Today, many people look to television, “Reality TV” in particular, for information. I am not sure why they make this choice, other than “it is easy” and that it is also allegedly entertaining. The fact that it appears under the auspices of National Geographic also frankly gives it an aura of credibility that is not deserved. As I address some of the specific harmful myths about dog behavior still being perpetuated, you will find that these are the things people are “learning” on this particular show.

Just to be fair, I am not a fan of most reality TV shows. They often present complex behavioral issues and then show them being “fixed” in a week’s time. I get it. People want an easy fix. Easy fixes are seldom reality with behavioral problems. When these same shows recommend things that the AAHA Guidelines specifically cite as the reason for behavior problems, I am going to advise you to turn them off.

Last on my list is the internet. In the last twenty years, the internet has become knowledge-8the first choice of information for many. Earlier in this article, I shared a definition from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. I love this easy access to valuable information, but as the State Farm Insurance commercial illustrated in this slide has demonstrated so well is that not all information on the internet is reliable information. Just because it is on the internet does not mean that it is true. Just as the internet has made information more accessible, it has also made the dissemination of inaccurate information easier. Be a critical thinker.

I am now going to address some of the most egregious myths about both dog and cat behavior. This will not be a complete discussion of the topic but will be a start. For those of you that want to know more (Good for you!!) I will list recommended resources at the end of this article where you can do just that.

This idea that dogs are the same as wolves is the big lie on which many of these dogs-are-wolvesother myths have been based. The fact is the wolf, coyote, and the domestic dog did have a common ancestor 9,000 to 34,000 years ago. However, that ancestor has been extinct for centuries, and the wolf, coyote, and domestic dog have each evolved to fit a different ecological niche. While biologically they can interbreed, behaviorally they are very different.

dogs-are-not-wolvesWolves do everything they can to avoid humans, having an almost instinctual aversion to us. This is easy to understand since humans have been trying to exterminate wolves as a species for thousands of years. At the same time, most dogs are drawn to humans as long as we treat them kindly. This attraction has much to do with how the domestic dog evolved. The best theory on the domestication of the dog was developed by Lorna and Ray Coppinger and is discussed in their book Dogs. The domestic dogs came about around the same time that humans shed their hunter-gather ways and settled into villages and developed agriculture. Since we were no longer on the move, we could not just walk away from all of the refuse our wasteful species creates, so some early person invented the concept of the village dump. The least fearful wolves noted this development and started feasting at the dump as the humans slept. Why go out on a dangerous hunt where you might not find something or could get maimed or killed, when you could feast on the waste of humankind. Over thousands of years these wolves evolved into the domestic dog, basically domesticating themselves.  In fact, feral populations of dogs can still be found in many places throughout the world, often around the city dump.

Since many people erroneously believed that dogs are wolves, they also assumeddogs-are-pack-animals that dogs were pack animals. A wolf pack consists of a breeding pair of wolves and often multiple generations of offspring, working together as a family, to survive and to pass on their genes. Both parents, as well as older siblings, play a role in raising the young. For male domestic dogs, procreation is all about a one night stand. In feral groups of dogs, the male plays no role in raising the young and usually is not seen again. A group of dogs does not resemble the tight-knit relationship of a pack in any way.

Dogs are social animals, and when they live ferally, they may form loose, dogs-are-not-pack-animalstemporary associations with a few other dogs. Two or more dogs may occasionally hang out together, but they do NOT live in close family groups like wolves. While many of us have multiple dogs living in our homes, they also do not have the tight-knit family connection and evolutionary drive to keep the family genes alive. That may be one of the reasons it is not always possible to get a group of dogs to live together peacefully. I have lived with a variety of multiple dog scenarios, and I can only recall two dogs that enjoyed one another’s company on a regular basis.

i-must-be-alphaAlso out of all this wolf nonsense came the doctrinaire belief that to keep order and to be able to train my dogs that one must be dominant, or that one must be the “Alpha.” Dominance is not only an erroneous understanding of the dog-human relationship, but it is also counterproductive to a harmonious relationship with our dog. Trying to be dominant may cause aggression.

The two books I mentioned previously, How To Be Your Dog’s Best Friend by the Monks of New Skete and Mother Knows Best by Carol Lea Benjamin, bought into the Alpha concept big time. In my opinion, this is the myth that has done the greatest harm to dogs. The idea that we must be the Alpha is responsible for training methods and tools based on force, pain, intimidation, and fear. Which is why, in the AAHA guidelines, the American Animal Hospital Association specifically tells veterinarians to avoid recommending clients to trainers that use the dominance model of training.

Most people get a dog to be their companion. Why would we want to use fear, force, and pain to nurture a relationship with a friend?

If you want detailed information on the dominance myth, with references to the scientific literature, read http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/20/dog-behavior-dominance-reality-or-myth/

Directly associated with the idea that one must be dominant over a dog was the you-need-aversivespromotion of aversive tools and methods designed to compel and intimidate the dog. These tools included; squirt bottles, choke collars, prong collars, citronella collars, shock collars, the Monks of New Skete’s infamous alpha roll and others. Some trainers and books even went so far as to recommend beating a dog or even almost drowning a dog for digging.

aversives-have-no-placeThe 2015 AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines opposes the use of aversives.

This Task Force opposes training methods that use aversive techniques. Aversive training has been associated with detrimental effects on the human–animal bond, problem solving ability, and the physical and behavioral health of the patient. It causes problem behaviors in normal animals and hastens progression of behavioral disorders in distressed animals. Aversive techniques are especially injurious to fearful and aggressive patients and often suppress signals of impending aggression, rendering any aggressive dog more dangerous.

Aversive techniques include prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating. None of those tools and methods should be used to either teach or alter behavior.”

The fact is, dogs respond well to a kind and trustworthy leader skilled in the dogs-respond-well-to-leadershipscience of reward-based training. Even children, with adult supervision, can take part in training when food rewards are used.

For reasons known only to them, the Monks of New Skete stressed that a dog should work just to please us and not for food. The fact is, rewards work very well for training almost all species of animals. When it comes to dogs, food has more value as a reinforcer than either praise or touch, as confirmed by a study published in the Journal of Experimental Analysis of Behavior in July of 2012.

dogs-want-to-pleaseI hear students say it, I see it all over the internet, and I get why people might want to believe that dogs naturally want to please us. Unfortunately, it is just not true. Put your logical hats on and ask yourself this; “If dogs naturally want to please us, why are behavior problems the number one problem facing dogs and dog owners? Why do dog trainers and dog behavior consultants even exist? The fact is, dogs are like every other living thing on this planet, they do certain things because it benefits their existence.

Now I will agree that most dogs, not all, have an affinity for people. They enjoy dogs-have-an-affinity-for-peopleour company, seek us out, and have an uncanny ability to read us and behave accordingly. In fact, studies suggest that dogs read us better than wolves, the species closest to the dog, and chimpanzees, the species closest to humans. This ability to read humans probably has much to do with how dogs evolved, hanging around humans and observing our behaviors and signals that indicate when we are “safe” versus “dangerous.”

There are many other myths about canine behavior, but due to our limited time I have only covered some of them today. Subscribe to my blog http://www.words-woofs-meows.com and you will be notified when I post new articles.

so-what-about-catsSo what about cats? I think we would all agree that they do have behavioral issues. Like any animal, they can be afraid, angry, anxious and depressed. For whatever reasons people are more likely to live with a cat with behavioral issues than they are with a dog. Also, cats have been studied much less than dogs, so we do not know as much about them. However, there are some misconceptions about feline behavior that I would like to address today.

Many see the “domestic” cat as being independent to the point of being anti-cats-are-antisocialsocial. Compared to most dogs, cats are less gregarious, but there are some very good reasons for that behavior. Like puppies, kittens have a critical socialization period where they are more likely to be accepting of novel stimuli; however, this period is over before a kitten is eight weeks of age. Unless the breeder, humane society, or person with a box full of kittens has been actively and appropriately socializing those kittens, as adult cats they will most likely be fearful or at least suspicious of anything that they have not experienced before eight weeks of age.

We must also recognize that cats have been persecuted by humans for centuries, and I suspect we all have at least a few people in our lives who have stated: “I hate cats!”

cats-are-commensalistsLastly, although we consider the cat to be domesticated, animal scientists would suggest that is not the case. Feral colonies of cats are abundant throughout the world, and they survive well on their own. Cats are just not as dependent on us as dogs, which is why they are classified as commensalists; a species that derives benefits from living with another species but does not cause it harm.

Unlike their wild ancestor’s, cats are highly social with one another, and female cats-are-highly-socialcats that are related will often live in social groups and may even raise one another’s young. However, males are excluded from these groups as they would typically kill the kittens if given the opportunity. As a result, the males live in less affiliated social groups, away from the females.

cats-are-territorialCats are very territorial, both outdoors and indoors and with known and unknown cats. Litter box issues, the most common behavioral complaint with cats, can be caused by a cat guarding and denying access to the litterbox or a new outdoor cat moving into the neighborhood. Typical behavioral responses to territorial issues include; fighting, urine spraying, urine marking, fecal marking, scratching, and scent marking.

Most cats will live longer if they are kept indoors and not allowed to go outside; cats-are-not-better-off-indooorshowever, a cat who is not allowed to go outdoors is not necessarily living a better life than those who live indoors and out. The dog and cat are both predatory creatures, but the cat, because it is less domesticated, typically has stronger predatory instincts than most dogs. They still have a very instinctual need to hunt and if given the option, would be highly mobile, traveling as much as six miles per day.

Brambell’s five freedoms describe the basic needs we must meet to ensure an animals basic welfare, and one of those freedoms is the ability to express normal behaviors. Hunting, killing, and consuming small rodents is a normal behavior for a cat. When we deny that behavior, it may cause other behavioral issues.

bhx-driven-by-emotionBehavioral issues are usually driven by emotion. Whether your pet is displaying aggression, hyperactivity, fatigue, irritability, or a loss of interest in life, there will usually be an underlying emotion such as fear, anger, grief, frustration, or depression behind the behavior. Training, teaching a dog to sit or stay, does not typically change emotions and can, in fact, make a negative emotional response worse. For example, is your dog likely to feel better or worse if they are afraid of men in beards and you make your dog sit and stay next to you while you have a conversation with a bearded man? I suspect they will feel trapped and more fearful.

Now while you may believe that there is no reason for your dog to fear the bearded man, that DOES NOT MATTER! While your dog’s response may seem irrational to you, it is not irrational to them.

Some pet guardians insist that their pet MUST like all people. I understand why a pets-like-peopleperson may want that response, but is that a realistic expectation? If we are honest with ourselves, most of us would admit that we do not like and enjoy the company of every other human on the planet. Is it fair to ask that of our pets?

Equally problematic are the people who insist that they “love all animals” and that all animals love them. These folks then try to force their “love” on an animal and will not stop until you ask them to, and sometimes even then they continue. The fact is not all pets are going to like all people, and there is nothing we can do but to accept that.

What a wonderful world it would be if your dog liked all other dogs and all other dogs liked your dog. Moreover, it would be even better if all cats liked all cats, and dogs and cats all enjoyed one another’s company. While we are at it, let’s add mice and chickens to the dog and cat Kumbaya moment. Is this a realistic expectation? We all know that is not realistic.

pets-like-petsI have lived in a multi-pet household for over twenty years with a total of eight dogs and six cats. I had two dogs that, in my opinion, enjoyed one another’s company, two cats that had frequent positive social interactions, and I had a dog and a cat that had a “relationship.” However, in all those cases there were always times when the “friends” were not friends. In most cases, most of my pets had no interest in the other pets.

When we bring a pet into a home with existing pets, we cannot guarantee it will work out, and sometimes the kindest thing we can do is to rehome the newest pet. We introduced a new dog to our family that had to be rehomed because she was going to kill one of our other dogs.

I think it is great that people rescue pets; however, and each situation is different, I do believe that a home, and by “home” I mean more than the physical environment, has a maximum carrying capacity for pets. When you exceed that capacity, you start to see behavioral problems. My wife and I have intentionally downsized or furry family so that we can make sure each pet has the best life we can provide.

So, if you accept that your pet’s behavioral health is an essential component to seek-knowledgetheir overall health and wellness, what can you do? Since lack of knowledge or erroneous knowledge is a primary reason for behavioral issues with pets, continue to seek knowledge. Be open-minded and willing to let some of those old notions, like dominance, drift away. Be a critical thinker. Make sure what you are learning makes sense and feels right.

seek-help-earlyIf you have behavioral concerns with your pet, seek professional help early. The longer these problems continue, the longer they will take to resolve. The probability of satisfactorily changing a behavior also decreases the longer it occurs, as many of these undesirable behaviors are self-rewarding.

Many behavioral problems can be the result of medical issues.  Seek medical seek-vet-adviceadvice from trained veterinary professionals to rule out medical issues first. If there is an underlying medical issue, a behavior specialist may be of limited help. Discuss your pet’s behavior, good or bad, with your veterinarian at EVERY visit. Changes in behavior can be an early indicator of other health issues.

Make sure that your veterinary team meets or exceeds the standards set in the American Animal Hospital Association AAHA 2015 Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines and that they will work with the behavioral professional you choose. Also, make sure that your veterinary team does not use or recommend aversives.

Avoid seeking veterinary advice from Google, breeders, family members, friends, or co-workers.

seek-bhx-adviceSeek advice from trained behavioral professionals not Google, breeders, family members, friends, or co-workers. Pet training and behavioral consulting is an unregulated profession, so you need to choose your caregiver wisely. I only refer to those credentialed by the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). Also, make sure that your behavioral consultant meets or exceeds the standards set in the Position Statements of The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and the American Animal Hospital Association AAHA 2015 Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines.

Make sure that your behavioral consultant will work with the veterinary professional you choose and does not use or recommend aversives.

Reject the use of ANY and ALL aversives and choose professionals that do so as well.

Aversives may stop behavior temporarily, but they do not resolve the underlying reject-aversivescause of the behavior nor do they teach the pet the behavior we want instead. Aversives impair learning and often cause the behavior to become worse. They can also damage the bond between you and your pet.

train-your-dogAs a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Certified Dog Behavior Consultant I work with a wide variety of people and their dogs. They might seek out my advice on what to look for in a dog or enroll in one of our training classes to learn how to effectively and humanely train their dog in a fun manner. In some cases, they come to me because they need help with a dog with separation anxiety or aggression issues. In almost all of the latter cases, those dogs have had little or no training.

If you get a dog, invest the time in taking them to at least a Puppy Headstart and Basic Manners training class. You will not regret it.

Thank you for your time today. If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at Green Acres Kennel Shop (207) 945-6841 or email me at donh@greenacreskennel.com

gaks-pet-friendly

 

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)

Dog Training – How science and reward-based training have pulled dog training out of the dark ages – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/21/dog-training-how-science-and-reward-based-training-have-pulled-dog-training-out-of-the-dark-ages/

A Rescue Dogs Perspective on Dog Training –http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/01/04/dog-training-a-rescue-dogs-perspective/

Canine Behavior – Understanding, Identifying, and Coping with Canine Stress –http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/11/01/canine-behavior-understanding-identifying-and-coping-with-canine-stress/

Dog Behavior – Dominance: Reality or Myth –http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/20/dog-behavior-dominance-reality-or-myth/

Dog Training: A Holistic Approach to Dog Training (Parts 1 & 2) –http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/02/01/dogs-dog-training-a-holistic-approach-to-dog-training-parts-1-2/

Dog Training – The Four Essentials For A Great Dog – Part 1 –http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/02/02/dog-training-the-four-essentials-for-a-great-dog-part-1-knowledge-relationship-management-training/

Dog Training – The Four Essentials For A Great Dog – Part 2 –http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/02/28/dog-training-the-four-essentials-for-a-great-dog-part-2/

Dog Training – What Is Clicker Training? –http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2007/02/01/dog-training-what-is-clicker-training/

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet-Friendly, Force-Free Pet Care –  http://www.greenacreskennel.com/boarding/what-is-pet-friendly

 Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/training/position-on-the-use-of-dominance-and-punishment-for-the-training-and-behavior-modification-of-dogs

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2013/08/05/dogs-the-unintended-consequences-of-shock-collar/

 

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show (http://www.woofmeowshow.com)

<Click on the title to listen to the show>

Canine Behavior: Myths and Facts

The Four Essentials to A Great Dog  

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 1

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 2

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 3

The Dominance and Alpha Myth

Books

Dog Behavior

On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas, Dogwise Publishing, 2006, An excellent book on understanding a dog’s body language. Includes descriptions of how you can use your own body language to better communicate with your dog.

Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet, John Bradshaw, Basic Books, 2011,

The Other End of the Leash – Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs,Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D, Ballantine Books, 2002, An information-packed, immensely readable book. In it you will learn how to have a better relationship with your dog through better communications. Dr. McConnell clearly explains the manners in which dogs and their people communicate.

For the Love of A Dog Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend, Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D, Ballantine Books, 2005, 2006, A superb review of emotions in both dogs and their people and how they bring us together and can rip us apart. Once again Dr. McConnell helps us to better understand our dogs and in doing so have the best possible relationship with them.

Dogs: A new Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution, Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, University of Chicago Press, 2001, An evolutionary biologist and dog lover, Coppinger outlines the likely process which resulted in the longstanding canine-human relationship.

Stress in Dogs, Martina Scholz and Clarissa von Reinhardt, Dogwise Publishing, 2007, This book outlines the physiology of stress in dogs, signs of stress, and how to make your dog’s life less stressful. It emphasizes that more activity and involvement in dog sports is often not the answer to reducing stress in dogs but can be a major contributing factor. This book is a must read for anyone with an anxious or hyper dog.

The Culture Clash, Jean Donaldson, James & Kenneth Publishers, 2005. An exciting book by an outstanding dog trainer and one of Don’s favorites. Donaldson makes a powerful case for thinking in terms of behavior modification rather than the older and more anthropomorphic dominance models of dog training. Includes an excellent section on operant conditioning. Winner of the Dog Writer Association of America’s “Best Behavior Book” award for 1997.

Dog Training – Basic

The Power of Positive Dog Training, Pat Miller, Howell Book House, 2001. I have been reading Pat Miller’s articles in the Whole Dog Journal for years and have loved everything she has written. She is a skilled and compassionate dog trainer who really knows how to communicate to dog owners through her writing. This book is a superb “basic dog book” for anyone with a dog, and I highly recommend it.

The Dog Whisperer, Paul Owens with Norma Eckroate, Adams Media Corp., 2007. This book emphasizes a compassionate, nonviolent approach to dog training. It offers great advice on building a relationship with your dog and shows you how to teach your dog all of the basics they need to be a great companion.

Don’t Shoot the Dog – The New Art of Teaching and Training (2nd edition), Karen Pryor, Bantam Books, 1999. A pioneering book using shaping to change behavior in animals – dogs, cats, even humans.

Cat Behavior & Training

Training Your Cat, Dr. Kersti Seksel, Hyland House Publishing, 1999. Written by an Australian veterinarian, this book is an excellent primer on cat behavior, care and training. While many people think cats cannot be trained, this book demonstrates exactly how easy training a cat can be.

______________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©26-Oct-16, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy)

Podcast – ENCORE: Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines – Dr. Dave Cloutier – Veazie Veterinary Clinic

<Click to listen to podcast>

2JUL16-ENCORE-AAHA Bhx Guidelines w Dave Cloutier 400x400Sometimes the topics we discuss on the show are so important we choose to run the show again. This is one of those shows. In this encore presentation of a show that aired on March 12th,  Kate, Don and Dr. Dave Cloutier of the Veazie Veterinary Clinic discuss the American Animal Hospital Associations (AAHA) new guidelines on behavior management for dogs and cats. This groundbreaking document represents the first time that a major veterinary organization has addressed pet behavior. According to the guidelines “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering.” Tune in and learn why behavior is so important and why a behavioral assessment should be part of every pet’s annual wellness exam.

Dr. Cloutier, Kate, and Don discuss reasons for an increase in behavior problems, and how these problems can best be addressed. Dr. Cloutier explains changes he and his colleagues have made to work towards free-free visits for their clients. We address serious behavioral problems such as separation anxiety and aggression as well as nuisance behaviors like jumping, barking, and counter surfing. We discuss how veterinarians and dog trainers can work together and why it is essential to focus on rewarding desired behaviors and removing rewards for unwanted behaviors. Lastly, we review the guidelines recommendations on refraining from using any training methods that use aversive techniques such as electronic shock collars, choke collars, prong collars, alpha-rollovers, and other things that work on the basis of fear, intimidation, force, discomfort or pain.

You can hear The Woof Meow Show on The Pulse AM620, WZON, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM on Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://www.wzonthepulse.com or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show, and can be downloaded at www.woofmeowshow.com and the Apple iTunes store.

<Click to listen to podcast>

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)

Dog Training – How science and reward-based training have pulled dog training out of the dark ages – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/21/dog-training-how-science-and-reward-based-training-have-pulled-dog-training-out-of-the-dark-ages/

A Rescue Dogs Perspective on Dog Training – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/01/04/dog-training-a-rescue-dogs-perspective/

Canine Behavior – Understanding, Identifying, and Coping with Canine Stress – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/11/01/canine-behavior-understanding-identifying-and-coping-with-canine-stress/

Dog Behavior – Dominance: Reality or Myth – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/20/dog-behavior-dominance-reality-or-myth/

Dog Training: A Holistic Approach to Dog Training (Parts 1 & 2) – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/02/01/dogs-dog-training-a-holistic-approach-to-dog-training-parts-1-2/

Dog Training – The Four Essentials For A Great Dog – Part 1 – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/02/02/dog-training-the-four-essentials-for-a-great-dog-part-1-knowledge-relationship-management-training/

Dog Training – The Four Essentials For A Great Dog – Part 2 – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/02/28/dog-training-the-four-essentials-for-a-great-dog-part-2/

Dog Training – What Is Clicker Training? – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2007/02/01/dog-training-what-is-clicker-training/

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet-Friendly, Force-Free Pet Care –  http://www.greenacreskennel.com/boarding/what-is-pet-friendly

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/training/position-on-the-use-of-dominance-and-punishment-for-the-training-and-behavior-modification-of-dogs

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2013/08/05/dogs-the-unintended-consequences-of-shock-collar/

 

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show (http://www.woofmeowshow.com)

<Click on the title to listen to the show>

2015 Dog Training Classes at Green Acres Kennel Shop

Canine Behavior: Myths and Facts

The Four Essentials to A Great Dog  

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 1

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 2

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 3

The Dominance and Alpha Myth
©2016, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Podcast – The Woof Meow Show – Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic

12MAR16-AAHA Bhx Guidelines w Dave Cloutier 400x400In this week’s show Kate, Don  and Dr. Dave Cloutier of the Veazie Veterinary Clinic discuss the American Animal Hospital Associations (AAHA) new guidelines on behavior management for dogs and cats. This groundbreaking document represents the first time that a major veterinary organization has addressed pet behavior. According to the guidelines “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering.” Tune in and learn why behavior is so important and why a behavioral assessment should be part of every pets annual wellness exam.

Dr. Cloutier, Kate and Don discuss reasons for an increase in behavior problems, and how these problems can best be addressed. Dr. Cloutier explains changes he and his colleagues have made to work towards free-free visits for their clients. We address serious behavioral problems such as separation anxiety and aggression as well as nuisance behaviors like jumping, barking, and counter surfing. We address how veterinarians and dog trainers can work together and why it is essential to focus on rewarding desired behaviors and removing rewards for unwanted behaviors. Lastly we review the guidelines recommendations on refraining from using any training methods that use aversive techniques such as electronic shock collars, choke collars, prong collars, alpha-rollovers, and other things where that work on the basis of fear, intimidation, force, discomfort or pain.

To listen to the show <click here>

You can hear The Woof Meow Show on The Pulse AM620, WZON, and WKIT HD3 at 12 Noon on Saturday. If you’re not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://www.wzonthepulse.com or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show, and can be downloaded at www.woofmeowshow.com and the Apple iTunes store.

Animal Welfare – Assessing Pets’ Welfare Using Brambell’s Five Freedoms

(This article was first published in the Fall 2014 issue of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers Chronicle of the Dog  – [Click for a PDF of this article])

As trainers and behavior consultants, it is essential for us to consider whether or not a pet’s basic needs are being met if we are to offer our clients the best possible training and behavioral advice. This becomes even more important when facilitating the treatment of “problem behaviors,” as these often manifest when a pet’s welfare is compromised or when basic needs are not being met consistently. Brambell’s Five Freedoms are a very useful set of guidelines for assessing a pet’s welfare and developing a corresponding training, behavior modification, and management plan.

Brambell’s Five Freedoms originated in the United Kingdom as a result of Parliament creating a committee to assess the welfare of livestock raised in factory farms. In December of 1965, the Report of the Technical Committee to Enquire into the Welfare of Animals Kept Under Intensive Livestock Husbandry Systems, the Brambell Report, December 1965 (HMSO London, ISBN 0 10 850286 4) was published. The report identified what are known as the five freedoms that a farm animal should have: “to stand up, lie down, turn around, and groom themselves and stretch their limbs.” The British government then established the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, which later became the Farm Animal Welfare Council, to further define these freedoms to what we know today as: Freedom from Hunger and Thirst, Freedom from Discomfort, Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease, Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour, and Freedom from Fear and Distress.1,2

While originally intended for farm animals, the freedoms can be applied to any animal that is kept by humans. During my training in the Bach Practitioner program in the U.K., we discussed how Brambell’s Five Freedoms applied to dogs, cats, cattle, horses, rabbits, hogs, ducks, and a variety of other species. It is imperative that we have adequate knowledge of a species’ husbandry requirements and natural behaviors in order to appropriately assess whether their freedoms are being restricted. Even when we do have adequate knowledge, we may find that the freedoms sometimes conflict with what are considered best practices. Likewise, they may be inconsistent with what may be necessary to protect a pet or others. Not everything is black and white, and considering the freedoms over the years has brought me many answers, but also many questions for which I have no definitive answer. I invite you to consider some of the questions that have occurred to me and contemplate how you would address them within Brambell’s Five Freedoms.

  1. Ensure the animal is free from hunger, thirst, and malnutrition.

This sounds relatively simple, right? Provide animals with food and water and the need is met, but…

  • Does the type of food matter? Cats are true carnivores and most dogs, if left to their own devices, would eat a diet with very few carbohydrates. However, the average dog and cat are fed a diet that is probably at a minimum composed of 40% carbohydrates. Both dogs and cats would usually be eating fresh food, yet most pet food is highly processed. Feeding a pet as naturally as possible is not inexpensive. Is it better to have one pet and to feed him really well, or is it better to have multiple pets for social interaction? What about pets on prescription diets? They may need it for disease purposes, but is it optimal nutrition? Which takes precedence?
  • Many pets in the U.S. are obese, clearly due to overfeeding, improper diet, and lack of exercise. How does an animal’s obesity affect its welfare?
  • Does the source of water matter? Cats often depend on getting the majority of their hydration from eating live prey, yet few cats have that opportunity in today’s world. Would they drink more and have fewer urinary issues if they had ready access to fresh meat and running water? If you don’t drink from your tap, should the animals?
  1. Ensure the animal is free from discomfort.

Originally this freedom focused on shelter, and seemed relatively straightforward: make sure animals always have adequate shelter from temperature and weather extremes. However, there is much more to comfort than hot versus cold and dry versus damp.

  • Animals need down time. Does the pet have a quiet, comfortable resting place where he can be undisturbed and where he will feel safe? Is the pet’s environment free from things that may cause harm and discomfort?
  • Many people have multiple pets. Does each pet have adequate space, or are there too many animals for the amount of space available? Do the pets get along and enjoy each other, or is there constant conflict? Are there sufficient resources for all of the animals?
  • Breed also affects what an animal needs to be comfortable. Pets with long coats often cannot groom themselves adequately, and their hair can become tangled and matted, causing them discomfort. This becomes an even bigger problem if the pet is obese and as he ages. Are your clients making sure that their pets are adequately and properly groomed?
  1. Ensure your pet is free from pain, injury, and disease.

Regular and as-needed veterinary care goes a long way toward meeting this freedom, but breeding also plays a huge role, as well as how we respond when a dog is injured or ill. Mental disease needs to be considered along with physical disease.

  • Working dogs and dogs who compete in dog sports can experience injuries that cause pain. Is just using painkillers enough, or do we need to consider removing the dog from the activity causing the pain? Physical therapy for pets is still a relatively new treatment modality. Should it be a routine part of care for a working or competitive dog?
  • Breeding has resulted in some pets who essentially have physical impairments that can affect their ability to breathe, to move, and even to give birth naturally. How much should these animals be put through in an effort to correct their conditions? How do we help our clients separate their emotions from those of their pet? How do we handle it when it is one of our own pets?
  • Many purebred pets are susceptible to one or more genetic disorders, as well as physical conformations that often cause impairments. Are breeders doing everything that should be done to eliminate these disorders and create healthier pets? When clients are considering what type of pet to get, should we steer them away from certain breeds that have physical impairments or are prone to genetic disorders? How do we educate without being judgmental?
  • Animals can experience mental disease and disorders (anxieties, phobias, dementia, etc.) just like humans. How do we reconcile that the treatments of these disorders are often not considered as important as physical disorders? Is it appropriate to breed a dog for behavioral traits that might be an asset for a dog who works or competes, but might negatively affect that dog’s ability to thrive as a companion dog? How do we best counsel clients who wish to keep their dog involved in activities that have great potential to exacerbate behavioral issues?
  1. Ensure your pet is free to express normal behaviors.

The ability to express normal behaviors is often problematic, because many normal behaviors are the behaviors that people dislike the most (e.g., cats hunting and killing birds and dogs sniffing people’s crotches, to name two).

  • Do your clients’ pets have an adequate and safe space in which to run and express normal behaviors, both indoors and outdoors? Are they provided with an opportunity to do so on a regular basis? Cats are all too often neglected here. Are they getting ample chase games?
  • Is the environment in which the animals live suitably enriched so that it stimulates their minds? Do they search for their food or is it just dropped in a bowl?
  • Do the pets have sufficient interaction with family members to establish a bond and to provide emotional enrichment?
  • Are there opportunities to interact with suitable members of their own species, if they choose to do so, in a manner that is rewarding for all parties?
  • Humans use dogs for a variety of jobs. Is it ethical to put dogs in working situations where they are not allowed to express many normal behaviors for most of their lives?
  • There are a number of breeds that humans choose to physically alter by docking their tails or cropping their ears. Tails and ears are both tools that dogs use to communicate with one another. Do physical alterations impair a dog’s ability to express normal behaviors and to communicate?
  1. Ensure your pet is free from fear and distress.

I truly believe that no psychologically healthy human would ever intentionally cause their pet fear or distress. However, a lack of knowledge — or incorrect knowledge — about animal behavior often is a cause of fear and distress in our canine and feline companions.

  • Early socialization and habituation is key to freedom from fear and distress, as is ongoing socialization and enrichment throughout a dog’s life. What can we do to make clients, breeders, shelters, rescues, and veterinarians realize the importance of socialization and habituation? What can we do to help our clients to be successful in socializing their puppies gracefully and gradually without overwhelming them?
  • Cats have an even earlier socialization period than a dog (two to five weeks). How do we make sure that breeders and shelters are aware of this and taking steps to accomplish this? Should we be discouraging clients from adopting kittens that have not been properly socialized at this age? What about the feral population? Is it just kinder to leave them be?
  • Additionally, many animals have a more fearful baseline, either due to genetics, prior history, or a combination of both, and with the best of intentions, well-meaning pet owners throw the animals into situations that involve flooding to re-socialize them. How do we decide when enough is enough? At what point does management become preferable to continued trials of desensitization and counter-conditioning?
  • Dog bites, especially of children, are a significant problem, and are often caused by a dog who is afraid or is otherwise under stress. In some cases the child is the direct cause of that fear. How do we convince the dog-owning public and the non-dog-owning public of the importance of learning basic canine body language so that many of these bites can be prevented?
  • A lack of adequate physical and mental stimulation can cause a pet to be distressed. How do we help clients understand and find the time to ensure that their pets get appropriate amounts of stimulation and exercise?
  • On the flip side, too much stimulation and exercise can also be detrimental, causing a state of chronic stress. Many dogs will not do well in a daycare setting, playing all day or going for a five-mile run every morning. How do we educate our clients and others in the industry that too much activity can be as detrimental as not enough activity? How do we help clients to find the balance for their pet between too much and not enough?
  • While both the domestic dog and domestic cat are considered to be social animals, some are more social than others. Feral dogs and cats choose which bonds to form; in most households, humans choose which pets live together. How do we get clients to understand that pets who do “okay” together may not be thriving, and may be living under stress? Is that fair to either pet? Should one be rehomed, or would that be worse? If so, how do we counsel clients about which one should stay?
  • Communication and understanding are the cornerstones of good relations. How do we get the dog-owning public to understand that learning dog body language and training their dogs with reward-based training is key to ensuring that their dogs do not live in fear and distress?
  • Stress comes in two varieties: distress (scary things, trauma) and eustress (excitement). Whether distress or eustress, what happens to the body physiologically is very similar, and being in a state of frequent eustress or distress can have negative impacts on health. How do we get people to understand that, while occasional, moderate distress and eustress is in fact essential to life (and unavoidable), high or frequent doses can be extremely detrimental? How do we help them balance and manage their pets’ lives to avoid long-term, high levels of stress? If going to the vet is causing extreme stress, yet is necessary for freedom from disease and pain, how do we respond? Which carries more weight?
  • As trainers we may choose to put our own dogs into situations where they serve as a decoy dog while we evaluate a client’s dog-aggressive dog. Even though we take great effort to prevent physical and emotional harm to our dogs, the latter is not always easy to measure at the time. Is it ethical to place our dogs in this situation?
  • Working with dogs, and observing others working with dogs, is an essential part of how we learn to become better trainers. Is it fair to bring out a dog who is experiencing fear and distress and to use him in a demonstration in front of a group? Can we come up with a better way for us to learn, without causing dogs even more distress?

There are not necessarily any straightforward answers to satisfying Brambell’s Five Freedoms for all animals in all situations. As with any treatment or training plan, all factors need to be considered and weighed. I encourage you to spend some time thinking about the freedoms and how they apply to the animals in your life, the global ethical questions they bring, and also learning how you can use them to help your clients and their pets.

 

Footnotes

1 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs-Farm Animal Welfare Committee-Five Freedoms: http://www.defra.gov.uk/fawc/about/five-freedoms/

2 “Press Statement”. Farm Animal Welfare Council. 1979-12-05: http://www.fawc.org.uk/pdf/fivefreedoms1979.pdf

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Cat Behavior – Inappropriate Elimination (Urination & Defecation)

You can listen to a podcast where we discuss this topic by clicking here

Inappropriate elimination (Urination and/or Defecation) is when a previously litter box trained cat begins urinating or defecating in areas other than their litter box. This problem can be caused both medical and behavioral causes.

A blockage of the urinary tract can constitute a medical emergency, especially with a male cat, and can result in death. If your cat is experiencing urinary issues, contact your veterinarian immediately.

If you have multiple cats, resolving an inappropriate elimination problem can be especially difficult because you must first determine which of the cats is eliminating inappropriately. Talk to your veterinarian and they can provide you with a non-toxic, fluorescent dye that you can feed one of the cats. The urine of the cat fed the dye will fluoresce when exposed to a black light, thus allowing you to determine where that cat is urinating.

When you know which cat is the problem, have them examined by your veterinarian so they can rule out any medical reasons for the cats change in elimination habits. Medical conditions that can cause inappropriate elimination include diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, kidney or liver disease, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).

Anything that causes pain when urinating or defecating may also be a contributing factor. If your cat has arthritis and you have a box with high sides, your cat may find it painful to get in and out of the litter box and thus may choose to eliminate elsewhere. As a cat gets older, they may experience some cognitive dysfunction that can also cause changes in elimination habits.

Behavioral causes of inappropriate elimination are usually stress related. Any change can be a stressor. Evaluate any changes you have made in the desired elimination area.

The Number of litter boxes – Suddenly having fewer litter boxes can be a stressor. We recommend one for each cat, in separate locations, plus one extra. For two cats we would recommend three litter boxes in three different areas throughout your home. Three litter boxes lined up side by side, especially if one cat starts guarding the litter boxes from the other cat, may not work and adding a litter box in a separate location may be all you need to do to solve your problem.

Location of the litter box – If the problem started after you moved the litter box, try putting the litter box back in its old location with a new one in the new location. If the cat resumes using the box in the old location, place some of the soiled litter from the old box in the new box, and your cat may figure out what you want.

Equipment and objects next to the litter box – Most of us like to put the litter box in a secluded location out of major household traffic patterns. This is a good choice for the cat as well unless the box is next to some piece of equipment that has the potential to make noise or move when they are using the litter box. A clothes dryer may normally be okay but when unbalanced it can make louder and different noises. A malfunctioning furnace in need of a cleaning can also be startling when it kicks in. If the cat is scared once, they may abandon the use of the litter box in this location.

The size of litter box – The size of the litter box, especially the height of the sides, can be a big deal to a cat especially if it is suddenly more difficult to get in or out. If you have a large cat, you need a large litter box that will contain your cat comfortably. Often litter boxes are too small.

The type of litter box – Some cats prefer the traditional open litter box while some prefer the privacy offer by a covered litter box. While the automatic cleaning litter boxes are a great convenience for us, the noises and motions they make when operating can be scary to some cats and can cause them to stop using the box.

The depth of litter in the litter box – Sometimes we humans like to load up the box with litter thinking we’ll need to change it less often. Many cats will stop using the box if there is too much litter or too little litter.

How often you clean the litter box – Many cats will not use a dirty litter box, and their definition of dirty may be different from ours. We recommend scooping at least once a day and changing all litter and washing the box weekly. Very few cats object to a litter box that is too clean.

Chemicals used to clean the litter box – Cats are very sensitive to odors, so when washing your litter box do not use a strong smelling cleaner and make sure that you rinse it thoroughly.

The litter used (Brand, Material, and Scent) – Cat litter comes in a wide variety of substrates (non-clumping, clumping, sand, wood chips, corn cobs, newspaper, scented, unscented, etc.). Not all cats are going to like all types of litter no matter how much we like them. If you had something that worked before, switch back. Many cats are especially sensitive to some of the scented litters.

Other changes in the cat’s environment, not related to the litter box, may cause elimination and defecation issues. Changes you should review are listed below.

Changes in diet – Most cats need and demand changes in their diets; however, a change in diet can also cause changes in elimination habits especially if the new food is causing some digestive upset. If you have recently changed foods, try changing back and see if that helps.

Changes in medications – If your cat has recently been put on medications or has had a change in the dosage of an existing medication, ask your veterinarian if this could have any effect on elimination habits.

Household changes – The domestic cat is a social species and usually bonds closely with those in its immediate household. The loss of a family member or another pet can trigger depression and grief that can sometimes be enough of a stressor to cause a change in eating, elimination and sleeping habits. Likewise the addition of a new family member, human or animal can also be a stressor. If the elimination problem has started after the addition of a new cat or dog, you will want to work with an animal behavior consultant to assist you in assessing and changing the relationship between the two pets. It is not unheard of for one cat to guard access to the litter box by the other cat. This does not necessarily mean they will fight. It might be as simple as one cat lying at the top of the basement stairs which will prevent the other cat from going downstairs.

A pet behavior consultant can often help restore harmony to your pet family; however, be advised that this does not always work out. Occasionally one needs to make a choice of living with a problem or re-homing one of the pets.

Cats are also very sensitive to everything in their environment and sometimes moving furniture around, changing access to certain rooms or adding or removing furnishings can be a stressor.

Changes outside of the home – If our cat is an “indoor only” cat we tend to believe that they are only concerned about their immediate environment – what’s inside the house. That is not the case. Cats can be very territorial and a new cat or dog in the neighborhood, especially one frequently hanging around your home, can be a stressor. Cats mark their territory with both urine and feces. Territorial concerns may cause inappropriate elimination.

When marking territory with feces, it is usually left uncovered, so it is obvious to other cats in the area. Urinating as a territorial response occurs in two forms; 1) spraying and 2) marking. Spraying typically involves backing up to a vertical surface and spraying urine. Spraying is a very overt act by a confident cat that wants to be seen. Marking involves small drops of urine on a horizontal surface and is usually the result of a non-confident cat that does not want to be observed. Vertical scratching is also a very overt behavior used to mark territory and when combined with spraying and feces marking suggests a territorial component to the cats’ inappropriate elimination.

Other changes in your neighborhood may also be stressors for a cat. New neighbors, noisy, rambunctious children, a raccoon family visiting the yard, or a construction project can all be possible triggers for inappropriate elimination.

Possible Solutions

Use an enzymatic cleaner like Nature’s Miracle or Urine Off! to thoroughly clean and deodorize any places your cat has eliminated inappropriately. You may need to use a black (ultra violet) light to find all of these spots.

Avoid any use of punishment. Shouting at your cat, squirting them with a spray bottle, or throwing things at them, is very likely to make your cat feel more stressed and is very unlikely to resolve the problem.

Review the list of changes that may have triggered your cats change in elimination habits. If you can undo any of those changes, do so.

Locate your cat’s food and water bowls to the area where they are eliminating inappropriately and keep them in this location. Typically a cat will not eliminate near their food and water; however, this may just cause your cat to eliminate elsewhere.

If possible, locate a litter box in the area where they are eliminating. If they use the box, try moving it gradually, a few inches every few days and see if you can retrain them.

Start using Feliway® with your cat. Feliway® is a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone, used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure. A pheromone is a chemical signal, conveyed by smell, which triggers a natural response in another member of the same species. A cat’s facial pheromone signals safety and security, so when detected by your cat it will help comfort and reassure them, reducing their stress. Feliway is available in a spray and an electric diffuser.

Consult with a Bach Flower Remedy Registered Practitioner animal specialist and ask them to prepare an appropriate formulation of Bach Flower Remedies for your cat’s emotional state.

Drug therapy, prescribed by a veterinarian with experience with behavioral medications, can help with many behavioral issues. Discuss your pet’s behavioral issues with your pet’s veterinarian and ask about medications that may be helpful. If your veterinarian is not comfortable and experienced using these drugs, you can work together with them and a veterinary behaviorist. Your veterinarian should be able to help you set up a relationship with a veterinary behaviorist. Here in Maine, the nearest veterinary behaviorists will be found at the Tufts Animal Behavior Clinic and the behavior clinic at MSPCA Angell, both of which are located in Massachusetts.

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