Solving patients' behavior problems

Solving patients' behavior problems

Aug 15, 2007
By staff

There are only 42 boarded veterinary behaviorists in the country. You probably don't have one at your clinic. But one of them, Dr. Melissa Bain, DACVB, has basic knowledge you can share with new or newly exasperated owners:

1. The eight-week or 10-week new-puppy checkup is an ideal time to give new information to owners. "I preach to my veterinary students to get puppies socialized early," says Dr. Bain. That means exposing them to different people, animals, environments, and moving vehicles. "They're going to be sponges at that time," she says.

2. Most pets who are aggressive—the number-one issue Dr. Bain deals with these days—are actually fearful. "They have underlying anxiety," she says. "Very few are actually aggressive by nature." Owners have to understand that dogs need clear rules and structure. The dog performs a command and gets what it wants. "I ask clients, 'Do your kids have rules? A curfew? Your dog can have rules, too,'" Dr. Bain says. "Structuring a dog's life isn't punishment. It helps the dog understand what's expected and rewards him or her for appropriate behavior."

3. Once owners feel comfortable setting rules for pets, they may need to change their expectations about what they're asking. There are times when some dogs and cats just don't want to be petted. Some of them never like it. And it's natural for pets to growl at people who approach when they're eating. "People think they should be able to cuddle their pets anytime they want," Dr. Bain says. "But we all need a little space sometimes."