Few dogs are always perfect, but aggressiveness or destructive activity, especially on a regular basis, should be addressed with a professional trainer or animal behaviorist.
A leading cause of pet abandonment is poor behavior.
- Negative behavior may be due to medical causes such as pain or organic dysfunction.
- Or the cause may be a traumatic event the pet has suffered, such as abuse, house burglary, dog fight, etc.
- Some dogs are not properly socialized during early puppyhood; this, combined with a lack of proper obedience training, can cause it to act aggressively in adulthood.
- A dog’s breed should also be considered, as many working-breed dogs require a job or some sort of activity to keep them occupied (see next bullet point.)
- All dogs require human companionship, to feel they are a part of the “pack.” Left to its own devices, a dog that is bored or ignored can become destructive.
Medical causes of poor behavior should be ruled out first. The pet owner may wish to then contact a professional trainer or implement an at-home behavior modification program. Some veterinary companies have introduced medications that are meant to be used as training aids for dogs that suffer separation anxiety. Two of the most commonly used drugs are Clomicalm and Reconcile. Both drugs come with training instructions which should be followed on a consistent basis by each member of the family. Neither drug is meant to control aggression in dogs.
Owners who are considering euthanizing an aggressive or destructive pet may first try placing the pet in a boarding kennel or other temporary home for two to four weeks.* The owner should then gauge his feelings during the pet’s absence. Does the owner feel relieved the pet is gone? Does he or she long for the pet’s return? Does the dog’s absence inspire the owner to continue searching for a solution? Or is the household better off without the pet? The answers to these questions can help determine whether the pet should be returned to its household or placed with a new family.
*The act of kenneling the dog is not meant to modify its behavior. Rather, the purpose of kenneling is to allow the owner to experience and examine his or her feelings about living without the pet.
In the case of aggressive dogs, care should always be taken so that no one in the former home or foster home is injured. Owners are urged to contact a professional trainer who has a record of success and humane methods of working with aggressive pets.
Finally, how does your pet compare to the following list of behavior standards? Is there room for improvement?
- Friendly toward people, including well-behaved children.
- Friendly toward other friendly dogs.
- Does not become anxious if left alone for a reasonable period.
- Eliminates appropriately.
- Readily gives up control of food, toys, and other objects to owner.
- Relaxed during normal handling and touching.
- Calms down quickly after being startled or getting excited.
- Not overly fearful of normal events.
- Barks when appropriate, but not excessively.
- Plays well with people, without becoming too rough.
- Plays well with other dogs.
- Plays with its own toys and doesn’t damage owner’s possessions often.
- Affectionate without being needy.
- Adapts to change with minimal problems.
- Usually responds to owner’s requests and commands, such as sit, stay, come.
(From JAVMA 2004; 255(4): 506-513 and Veterinary Forum, June 2008, P. 28)