Many owners report that their pets display unwanted, unhygienic or even dangerous behaviours but are often unaware that there are treatments available to them.
The way a pet behaves depends on their age, breed, personality and past experiences. Training your pet from an early age can enhance an animal’s quality of life and your relationship with them.
What types of dog behaviour can be treated?
Common issues for dogs include separation related problems, guarding issues, sensitivity to noise and reactivity to people or other dogs. Puppy problems such as toilet training, mouthing, stealing and chewing are often seen too, but can easily be changed.
What about cats?
Unfortunately cats also develop behaviour problems. In the UK, cats live in a wide variety of situations – indoor only cats, cats with access to outside and cats living alone or with other cats. All of these differences have the risk of causing stress and ultimately unwanted behaviour such as toileting in the house, over grooming and aggression. We often see cats as more solitary creatures that are impossible to train but there are in fact a whole host of treatment options available.
Toilet training a new pet
Toilet training is an important part, and often one of the first stages of pet ownership. Puppies and kittens need to learn basic control, and training is an important bonding experience between you both. If you’re toilet training an adult cat or dog that hasn’t been trained properly before, the stages will be the same, however it may take longer.
When you begin toilet training a dog, you need to give them plenty of opportunities to go. The main times are when they wake up, after every meal, before bed and after they’ve been left alone. Your dog may show the following signs if they need to go to the toilet; fidgeting, sniffing around, beginning to circle before squatting.
Toilet training steps
When you recognise the signs that your pet is thinking about going to the toilet:
Take them to the correct place so that you can reward them when they go. Try to take them to the same place each time.
Use a cue just before they go so that they can associate with the correct behaviour, eg. ‘Wee-Wees’.
When they’ve finished reward them immediately with lots of praise, a treat or play.
If you notice that your pet is about to go in the wrong place, interrupt them but in a way that doesn’t punish them. Trying calling them to you if you catch them before they start and then take them calmly towards the correct place and give them lots of praise when they go to the toilet there. Don’t shout otherwise they may learn that it’s only safe to go when you’re not around.
When taking your dog out, walk them around or play for a while. This way they don’t learn that going to the toilet ends time outside, which could mean they hold on until the last minute before going. Continue taking your dog outside and reward them with lots of praise when they go and eventually they’ll ask to go outside to toilet.
What to do if there’s an accident
Never punish your pet if you find an accident after the event or as it’s happening as they may become scared and confused. Simply clean the area using a warm solution of biological washing powder and rinse with water. This should remove the smell and reduce the chance of them using this area again.
There are different reasons for toileting indoors, e.g. anxiety, urinary tract infections or being confused so if you’re concerned seek advice from your vet or a pet behaviourist.
A behaviour consultation looks to the emotional cause of the undesirable behaviour in order to change your pet’s behaviour long term.
If your pet develops a behaviour problem you should always seek expert advice. It is important to get your pet checked by a vet first to rule out any form of illness or injury that could be causing the behaviour problem. Your vet can then refer you to a behaviour expert, or you can find out more on the RSPCA website.