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"How do I stop my pet from ___?" - Behavior Modification Isn't as Straight Forward as You Think

As a pet professional, I hear this question a lot. Even outside of work I am often turned to when friends or family have pet-related questions and problems and it can be a fun way to apply my knowledge. However, the biggest thing I run into is the assumption I will have a short and sweet answer to their question. They are often very surprised when I respond with 20 questions of my own before I can even begin to “diagnose” their animal and give them the proper tools to deal with their situation.

Girl on the beach sunset with two dogs on leash. One dog has a stick.

When someone brings questions about their animal’s behavior to anyone, it should be a huge red-flag if someone offers a “fix-all” solution without attempting to understand the full circumstance of the behavior. It’s best to avoid this type of advice-giver at all costs. They may seem like logical and easy solutions to your problem, but, not only can the advice be completely irrelevant and unhelpful, it can also be dangerous! Two dogs that bark at strangers might need completely different training plans in order to address the behavior. A tip that works for an excited dog that needs a reminder to ask politely for attention could lead to a fearful-barker who is asking for space to lash out and hurt someone. A cat that is chasing and attacking their pet parent could be overstimulated and asking for space, be bored and begging for more interaction and play time, or really hate the new scent their pet parent put in the diffuser! Each of those scenarios

would have completely different solutions and trying to address them with the same technique is going to have very different (and mostly unsuccessful) results.

Any behavior modification must start with understanding why the behavior is happening in the first place. This is why it is always important to come to a trainer with as much information as you can about a particular behavior, and have patience with them if they tell you they need more before they can begin giving advice on how to help. A good trainer knows they must get a full view of the circumstance before moving onto creating a training plan.

So, when gathering information to bring to your trainer, start a journal and log your answers to the following. Be as specific as you possibly can - every detail can be important.

  • When did you notice the behavior? Is it new? Were there any smaller/less noticeable behaviors that pre-cursed this one?

  • Are all of their physical and mental needs being fulfilled?

  • What is their history? Any recurring health issues or past traumas?

  • How often does it happen?

  • Are there any specific times or triggers that cause it to occur?

  • Has anything recently changed in their life - diet, health, age, daily routine, location, amount/frequency of interactions, other behaviors, etc.?

  • What do you think their motivation for the behavior is/what is the outcome of the behavior?

  • How do you react when the behavior occurs? How do others in the house react?

These are only the basics, and with each answer might come more questions from your trainer. Be patient. Remember effective training begins with understanding the nuances of why the behavior is happening in the first place and cannot be truly successful without this step. The following training plan created with this knowledge in mind reduces stress for you and your animal and saves you time in the long run. You’ll avoid using methods that won’t address the root issue and thus won’t effectively change behavior, and instead will be working with your animal’s needs to find a solution that works for both of you.

pug dog playing tug with human hand.

As trainers who understand this, Kind Animal Services will always strive to understand before we strategize. If you are having trouble with a particular behavior your animal is exhibiting, reach out to our pet professionals and KAS Trainers so we can help begin the process of understanding why. Then we can move onto the fun process of modifying the behavior as a team!

Book a session now to get started. Contact us at Your first conversation is free.

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