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Behavior Modification
What Is It and Who Needs It...

Our dogs are so precious. They are our companions, our protectors, our playmates, and our family. They depend on us for every need including food, water , housing, exercise, and entertainment( or mental stimulation). They show us a type of “unconditional love” that no one else can provide!

So, why do these precious dogs become destructive? soil the house? disobey? jump on people? bark excessively?

Sometimes these “naughty” behaviors are “normal dog activities” that we have to teach them to modify.

Sometimes these “naughty “ behaviors persist or worsen due to an underlying anxiety or fear that has developed. It is incredibly heartbreaking to see a dog show severe anxiety or fear. Yet, it is quite common. One study showed approximately 14% of dogs receiving regular veterinary care reported Separation Anxiety. This is just one of the manifestations of fear or anxiety our dogs experience. Some dogs develop other anxiety-type issues such as noise phobia, fear of people or other dogs, and many more.

Any dog can potentially develop these issues, but it seems some dogs are born with a predisposition to being particularly fearful or anxious.

How we manage these dogs as they grow up will either lessen the consequences of the fear or anxiety or make it worse.

Behavioral Therapy involves behavioral modification, primarily, and sometimes additional therapy including anti-anxiety medication, supplements, aromatherapy, and more.

Behavior modification involves tailoring all interactions between dog and human (owners/family/ friends..) toward encouraging trust, obedience, relaxation and clear boundaries and rules. Be patient. This often begins with regular exercise, basic obedience (ie. sit, stay, come), and consistent boundaries. Very important for all dogs and essential for dogs with anxiety and fear. When there is uncertainty in boundaries, there is an escalation in anxiety. It is important to emphasize positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior and minimize negative reinforcement. Strong negative reinforcement (ie. punishment for bad behaviors) can be very detrimental to our fearful dogs.

There are particular exercises and behavior modification routines that are most appropriate for each dog’s specific needs. Behavior modification will require time and patience. But, your efforts will pay off. Consult with your veterinarian to help develop your plan appropriately. We encourage working with a trainer, as well, to improve your chance of success.

With severe anxiety, often best results are reached with a combination of therapies including behavior modification therapy and medications. (and more) Talk with your veterinarian to help you formulate a behavior modification plan and, if necessary, choose the appropriate medications, supplements, phermones, and additional aids. There is hope!

Jeanette Cole DVM, Gulf Gate Animal Hospital, 941-922-3917


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