Can Bad Dog Behavior Be Treated with Medication?

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Tags: Puppy 101, Health

Bad dog behavior can be treated with medication, but bad dog behavior should be treated initially with proper obedience training, behavior modification, or a combination of behavior modification and medication, depending on the cause of a dog’s bad behavior.

Underlying Causes of Bad Dog Behavior

Since bad dog behavior is usually the result of an underlying cause (abuse, age, breed, health problems, injury or poor training), pet owners should consider the cause before they treat the symptom.

Some dog breeds are naturally inclined to be territorial, aggressive or less affectionate than others. If a person plans to adopt a new dog, he should consider a breed with a longstanding reputation for being friendly to humans. If a pet owner has a puppy that is constantly biting (a normal behavior for teething puppies or a dog that is trying to get his owner’s attention) then behavior modification may be in order.

Health problems can influence bad dog behaviors like aggression, compulsive behavior (licking a single spot more than usual), self-mutilation and indoor soiling. Brain tumors, epileptic seizures and intense thyroidal activity can all cause a dog to behave aggressively, and kidney and digestive problems can cause indoor soiling. If a dog who normally behaves well displays any of these behaviors, then he may need to see a veterinarian for medical consultation.

Injured dogs can behave aggressively, and if they do, it is usually done to keep their injuries from being damaged. If a dog is injured and is behaving aggressively, his owner should avoid initiating excessive play or activity until the dog’s wounds heal.

Aggression, excessive chewing, and other bad behaviors are also common in dogs that have been abused, poorly trained or abandoned. These traits are common in dogs that come from animal shelters and puppy mills, and can be treated through gradual behavior modification.

Behavior Modification

Aside from choosing the right breed and avoiding puppy mills, the best way to avoid bad dog behavior is to put the dog through obedience training at a local, accredited obedience school.

Consistency and repetition are the foundation of Behavior Modification, which pet owners must use if they want their dog to behave appropriately. If a dog is in an environment with multiple people, then all members of the household should follow through with the basic training rules.

Behavior Modification can also include objects that are meant to correct, punish, or startle—but not harm or frighten—a dog when he is committing an undesirable act. Some of these objects include soup cans filled with small rocks, crates, harnesses, muzzles and choke collars.

How to Modify Bad Dog Habits

  • Begging usually results from boredom, feeding between meals, hunger or a dog’s desire for attention. Pet owners should stick to a strict feeding schedule to avoid begging, and not feed him in between meals. If the dog still begs during mealtime, then the family should ignore him.
  • Aggression is usually the result of breeding, illness, injury, abuse or neglect, but can also be attributed to a dog’s natural instinct to protect a possession or important object or person. When a dog shows aggression, his owner should pull him back, yell “NO”, and reinforce the rule each time the dog acts that way.
  • Chewing and biting is normal for puppies who are between the ages of four and six months old to chew and bite excessively, but this behavior can be modified by establishing and reinforcing the “no biting” rule and keeping objects out of the puppy’s reach. Pet owners should address this action immediately, taking the object away, yelling “NO”, and then following through with the appropriate punishment.
  • Digging comes from a dog’s natural instinct to provide himself with shelter. Pet owners can usually avoid digging by putting a wading pool in the backyard.
  • Housetraining should begin immediately when an owner brings a new puppy or dog into the home. If a dog does not have any health problems but is still urinating and defecating indoors, it is important to catch him before or in the middle of the act and startle the dog with a loud “NO” or “HEY”. After the owner startles the dog, he should take the dog outside, allow him to sniff around, and immediately praise the dog when he defecates or urinates outside.

Medication as a Final Resort

If a dog has health problems or is not responding to behavior modification, medication should be the final resort. Lab tests, physical examinations, and behavioral observations should determine whether medication or a combination of medication and behavioral modification are necessary. All of this should be done at the discretion of a licensed, practicing veterinarian.

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