Is your cat urinating everywhere but in his litter box? Did your dog chew up your favorite shoes today while you were at work?
Animals have their own behavior, but it may be unacceptable to us. The staff at the Alexandria Veterinary Clinic PetCare Center can help. There are a variety of undesirable behaviors that we can assist you with. Some are as simple as "Sammy" jumps up on people. Other behavior problems are more difficult. An example would be when "Jack" destroyed $200 worth of carpet and sheetrock that used to be in your laundry room.
We need your help to modify these intolerable behaviors. One of our staff members would be happy to meet with you and discuss these issues at our clinic. First, we need to review your pet’s history: breed, gender, spayed, neutered, intact, routine schedule of day, and previous training and training techniques.
Then we can work together to find ways to deal with these problems. There are different ways to approach these behavior modifications such as desensitizing and counter conditioning, positive or negative reinforcement and punishment.
Desensitizing and counter conditioning are methods of slowly adapting a pet to the stimuli that are causing behavior problems and replacing it with something positive, i.e. "Sara" urinates on the carpet when there is a thunderstorm. In this situation desensitizing would involve gradually introducing the pet to loud sounds. Counter conditioning would be giving the pet a special treat when a thunderstorm begins.
Positive reinforcement can be used correctly or used incorrectly. Positive reinforcement should be used when a new puppy does his duty outside. But when we encourage the puppy to play tug-of-war we have misused positive reinforcement. Now the puppy is two years old and lets you know with growling and snarling that he does not have to share his toys with you.
Last, negative reinforcement is usually misused. Here is an example of incorrect use of negative reinforcement. When a puppy growls he is attempting to frighten you and make you back away. When we respond this way we are negatively reinforcing this inappropriate behavior.
Punishment is probably the most misused behavior modification. Punishment needs to be used at the appropriate time. When a pet urinates or defecates in an inappropriate spot, punishment must be used when you see this incident happening. If any time has passed the pet will not understand why he is being punished. It may appear that the pet "knows they did something wrong." Pets sense our frustration or anger by our voice and our posture. They then can become fearful or aggressive towards the punisher and in turn will not learn the correct behavior.
One of the most common reasons adult dogs are surrendered to shelters is because of behavioral problems. The staff at the Alexandria Veterinary Clinic PetCare Center would like to reduce this number by helping you and your pet live a long happy life together.