Separation Anxiety, Fearfulness and Aggression
Behavior problems in cats and dogs manifest themselves in many ways: excessive barking, destructive chewing or scratching furniture, inappropriate urination, aggressiveness, digging, and spraying are just some of the ways animals act out.
Nervousness, separation anxiety, fear of loud noises such as fireworks and thunderstorms,, stress and general anxiety are common in many pets and can lead to unwanted behavior.
A destructive or aggressive pet can be re-educated as to what is appropriate and acceptable behavior. Through awareness, positive reinforcement and training, a "bad dog" or "naughty kitty" can become the beloved companion that we seek when we bring animals into our lives.
While training is your first step, there are natural treatments and herbal remedies to help resolve behavior problems in dogs and cats.
- Natural calming products such as Composure, PetCalm and Quiet Moments have calming botanicals that can help with anxiety and nervousness in pets.
- The combination of five flower essences found in Rescue Remedy for Pets have been used widely to combat fear, nervousness, trauma, distress and shock in dogs and cats.
- Aggression Formula from PetAlive helps to curb restlessness and aggressive behavior in pets.
- And all natural, preservative-free treats like Mini Naturals from Zuke's are great for positive reinforcement training.
Awareness and Training
Before resorting to prescription drugs, confinement or worse, caretakers should look at the environment and determine why the cat or dog is behaving the way they do.
In many cases, you can correct the behavior by eliminating the cause or changing the environment. If a dog is digging holes or barking excessively, he may be telling you he’s bored and needs more stimulation or exercise. If your cat suddenly begins urinating outside the litter box, she may be suffering from a urinary tract infection.
Be aware that the following factors can contribute to behavioral or emotional problems in pets:
- Medical – Diseased gums, joint or muscle pain can turn your previously friendly pooch into an aggressive or surly dog. A visit to the vet may reveal the reasons for changes in your pet’s behavior.
- Stress – A family pet can sense discord in a household and may act jumpy, distrustful or defensive. Evaluate your environment to see if there are ways to alleviate tension so that your companion feels safe and valued as a member of your household.
- Anxiety – Kenneling and travel can produce anxiety in pets. Some pets experience nausea in the car, while others may associate a ride in the car with being left at a kennel or a trip to the vet. This type of anxiety, as well as separation anxiety, can result in a range of unwanted conduct from your pet. Acting in a calm, unhurried manner will help reduce some anxiety. Products containing natural calming herbs such as valerian root, chamomile and passion flower help to sooth the nervous system. Flower essence (Rescue Remedy) have been used successfully for many years to reduce anxiety.
- Jealousy – A new member of the family – a boyfriend, new baby or new kitten or puppy -- can result in jealousy. Extra attention and affection toward your pet can go a long way to prevent unwanted behavior. Exercise – Lack of exercise and attention often results in destructive or annoying behavior such as barking, digging or chewing on the wrong things. A daily walk or game of catch provides an outlet for your dog’s energy. And it is good for your health too!
- Loud noises – While you can’t always prevent loud noises, you can reduce the fear or anxiety your pet feels by providing companionship during holiday celebrations or thunderstorms. When that is not possible, natural calming aids such as PetCalm or Quiet Moments may help calm nervous pets.
- Nutrition – Make sure that your dog or cat is getting a high quality diet with the proper balance of nutrients. For example, an all protein diet can cause anxiety or hyperactivity and chemical additives can lead to aggression or hypersensitivity. If your dog or cat begins behaving badly or has sudden changes in their demeanor, evaluate what they are eating. As the old saying goes, you are what you eat.
Consult a Professional
In some cases, a visit to the vet may uncover the source of your pet's unruly behavior and medical treatment may be all that is necessary to correct the problem. However, in the vast majority of cases, some type of behavior modification training will be needed. Ask your vet for a recommendation on a trainer or visit one of these websites for accredited trainers or behaviorist:
- Association of Pet Dog Trainers
- Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers
- International Positive Dog Training Association
- Association of Companion Animal Behavior Counselors
- International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
Use an Integrative Approach
In summary, look for the causes of the inappropriate behavior and try to correct them. Rule out medical conditions. Consult with a professional trainer or behavioralist.