Have you spotted an increase in behavioural problems with your pet dog?

Northampton vet says there has been a rise in cases and has highlighted the top five issues reported

Thursday, 11th February 2021, 11:45 am
Updated Thursday, 11th February 2021, 11:46 am
Paula Zurawel, from White Cross Vets

A Northampton-based veterinary practice is reporting an increase in the number of dogs exhibiting behavioural issues.

In response, White Cross Vets has launched specialised behavioural consultations to help owners with difficult dogs and problem puppies.

Registered veterinary nurse, Paula Zurawel, from White Cross Vets, who has qualifications in pet behaviour, explained: “The pandemic has resulted in a surge of people getting a puppy or dog for the first time in 2020, often, as a result of being more home-based. However, the lockdowns and change to people’s routines have inadvertently triggered behavioural problems.

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“With little access to puppy training and socialisation classes, changes to daily routines and negative experiences, young dogs can quickly form bad habits. It is important to remember though, that it’s never too late to start addressing a problem. With time, patience, and consistency, nearly every issue can be improved upon.”

The top 5 behavioural issues reported by White Cross Vets are:

Separation anxiety.

Dog on dog aggression.

Play biting.

Fear of the vets.

Nail clipping angst.

Paula added: “The main behavioural problem we are seeing is separation related anxiety. This occurs when owners leave their dog at home and the dog displays anxious behaviours such as barking, chewing household items or even toileting in the house. These cases have increased because people who got their dog in the first lockdown, were normally at home most of the time with their pets from an early age. When they returned to work, or started leaving the house more, this change of routine caused anxiety.”

According to White Cross Vets, the next biggest behaviour problem is dog on dog aggression. Paula added: “It’s usually caused by a negative experience with another dog, such as an attack, or due to lack of socialisation from an early age. This can manifest either as confident or nervous aggression depending on the cause.

“Play biting is another troublesome issue, mostly seen in puppies when they get really excited and start to nip at people’s hands, ankles, clothing or hair. Fear of the vets is another problem, which can have several causes. This normally manifests with the dog freezing and shaking, but it can also lead to nervous aggression.

“Another issue we are seeing is dogs panicking about having their nails clipped! So many dogs are afraid of their paws being handled, again this is usually due to a negative experience like having had their nails clipped too short in the past, but it can lead to anything from being a bit fidgety to a full on, aggressive response.”

According to White Cross Vets, the solutions to each of these problems is dependent on the individual dog, the owner, and the specific circumstances. Paula added: “Most of these issues are preventable, with the correct socialisation from an early age, but owners can still improve behaviours, no matter how old their dog is or when the problem started.

“I'm a big believer that dogs are never too old to learn. Of course, the longer something goes on, the harder it is to break the habit, but with the right advice and guidance there is always a way to manage the behaviour.”

According to Paula, it is often the owners who are unwittingly causing some of the behavioural issues. She explained: “It can be as simple as a behaviour, like barking, being accidentally reinforced or rewarded by the owner. If the dog is afraid or nervous, it becomes even more anxious if the owner is also tense. There are no quick fixes. Any training programmes take time and commitment if they are to work. If the dog or the owner is not responding to one method, then it can be adapted.”

White Cross Vets is offering owners one to one behavioural consultations for puppies and dogs which can be accessed virtually. Drawing up a personalised plan for clients to action and regular follow-up calls to monitor progress will be provided. Once lockdown restrictions are relaxed White Cross Vets will also be offering desensitisation clinics.