Photo gallery: Bust these 10 common behavior myths

Photo gallery: Bust these 10 common behavior myths

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Aug 22, 2011

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These 10 myths about animal behavior may increase the likelihood that a pet will develop a behavior problem and possibly lead to the pet's abandonment or euthanasia. Find out the truth behind these misconceptions, and read the complete details about each of these myths in the article 10 life-threatening behavior myths.

Also, click here to download a related client handout on 10 common behavior myths in dogs.

Myth 1: "Puppies shouldn't go to puppy classes until they have had all their vaccinations, or they will get sick."

The fact is, more of your patients are likely to die because of behavior problems than of infectious diseases such as pavovirus infection or distemper, so teaching your clients the importance of proper socialization is critical.

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Myth 2: "Crazy owners have crazy pets."

The fact is, for many behavior problems, early recognition and appropriate management can improve a pet's behavior, strengthen the owner-pet bond, and help avoid relinquishment. An owner's personality has little, if any influence.

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Myth 3: "My dog is aggressive/fearful/shy because she was abused as a puppy."

The fact is, an animal's behavior is a result of a complex interaction between its genes and its environment. It can rarely be attributed to a single event, and even if it can be, change is still possible.

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Myth 4: "This new medication will treat your pet's [insert behavior problem here]."

The fact is, psychotropic medications are not cure-alls, but they do help relieve anxiety, may help to calm a dog, and, most important, can raise the threshold for responding to stimuli, putting the dog in a state of mind in which it can learn the new tasks that a behavior modification program is intended to teach it.

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Myth 5: "Dogs that are aggressive are acting dominant."

The fact is, aggression is more often related to fear or anxiety than to dominance. Take time to teach your clients appropriate interactions with dogs that have aggressive tendencies to keep everyone safe and happy.

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Myth 6: "See how guilty he looks? He knows what he did was wrong."

The fact is, pet owners need to be taught that dogs make associations between events that consistently occur in association with each other. Punishing a dog for something that it did even a few minutes ago (no matter how the dog is acting) does not teach the dog what you don't want it to do. It teaches the dog that people are to be feared.

Click here to download a client handout on providing effective punishment in dogs.

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Myth 7: "If you use treats to train a dog, they'll always be needed to get the dog to obey your commands."

The fact is, when used appropriately, food rewards are an excellent and effective way to teach a dog new behaviors. Once a dog learns a new behavior, these rewards should be used intermittently. One of the more common mistakes a pet owner makes is to think that a dog knows a behavior long before it actually does.

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Myth 8: "Dogs chase their tails because they are bored."

The fact is, the cause of repetitive behaviors can be a complicated combination of physiological, environmental, and learned factors.

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Myth 9: "Any trainer can handle all behavior problems."

The fact is, veterinarians must do thorough research before referring a client to a trainer or behaviorist. Sending an animal to an inappropriate trainer can exacerbate behavior problems and may have serious consequences.

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Myth 10: "I don't have time for behavior cases."

The fact is, you are in the best position to recognize behavior problems early and encourage owners to seek qualified help.

Click here to download a behavior assessment checklist.