BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT PRODUCTS
There are numerous products on the market that have been designed to help prevent
undesirable behavior in pets. Leads, harnesses and head collars are used to
keep pets under control, especially when outdoors. An indoor pen or cage can
provide a safe comfortable home for the dog, when the owners are not available
to supervise. Alternatively child locks and child gates can be used to keep
pets away from potential problem areas.
Since dogs, especially young puppies, are strongly motivated to chew, it is
important to provide a variety of chew toys. A chew toy can also help maintain
good dental health. Find a few products that are safe, durable and that appeal
to your dog. Each dog is an individual. There are a variety of rubber, rope,
nylon and compressed bone toys that have been designed for both chewing and
dental care. Chew toys made of hide are also appealing to most dogs and can
help reduce tartar. Soaking the toys in meat juices or coating them with some
type of flavored spread (cheese, liver etc.) may help kindle the dog's interest.
For dogs that chew on everything but their dog toys, it might also be possible
to increase the appeal by utilizing toys that are designed so that food or treats
can be placed inside.
Some cats chew and eat a variety of substances from wool to rubber to house
plants. Treating these cats can be quite a challenge but providing play toys,
adjusting the cat's diet so it has to "hunt" in order to eat and planting
a cat's herb garden can be beneficial. Keeping cats away from problem areas
can be useful as a means of managing these cats.
A far more common concern for cat owners, is household damage by scratching.
Providing a scratching post with a surface that appeals to your cat is the best
way of directing this behavior away from a favorite piece of furniture and onto
an acceptable surface. Other products that may be used are plastic claw coverings
that can be glued on to prevent damage and sprays of feline odors which can
help to reduce the incidence of inappropriate scratching.
Both dogs and cats have a strong desire to play. Social or interactive play
provides much needed attention and interaction with owners and other pets in
the household. It is also a great way to use up a little energy. Choose a game
that your pet enjoys. Retrieving, chasing, pulling, tugging or jogging can all
be considered. A number of balls and Frisbees have been designed to promote
interactive play with dogs. Cats on the other hand enjoy the type of toys that
can produce a moving target for chasing and pouncing. Objects with unpredictable
movement are ideal and can be used to encourage independent play. Even with
sufficient interactive play, most pets also have the urge to explore and play
on their own. Cats can be provided with feline aerobic centers for climbing
and exploring, and a number of toys have been designed to dangle from these
centers and be batted around. Catnip can also be used to help keep cats occupied.
What type of training collar should I use for walking and controlling my
There are a variety of leads, halters, and head collar systems that can be
used for walking and control. Although choke or pinch collar systems may be
effective for some dogs they often cause undue discomfort and fear, and may
also cause injuries. They should not be used by the average pet owner and their
use is very limited even in specialist hands. Body harnesses will help to stop
pulling, but they do little to provide the owner with additional control. One
of the most effective means of controlling unruly, disobedient and "headstrong"
dogs are head collar systems. Head collars enable the owner to gain control
naturally through pressure exerted behind the neck and around the muzzle. Since
the head collar is attached around the muzzle, it does not choke, and can be
used to effectively control pulling. It can also be useful in enabling the owner
to break eye contact in cases of dog to dog aggression.
What products are useful for house-soiling problems?
There are a range of commercial odor eliminators available that are marketed
for use in cases of indoor house-soiling. The most important thing is to remove
the scent of the urine and feces so that the pet is not attracted back to the
spot by the residual odor The animal's sense of smell is extremely acute and
even when the area smells clean to you your pet may still be able to detect
traces of the scent. The aim is to break down the odor entirely and not to replace
it with another odor that may be challenging to your pet. Avoid cleaning products
that contain ammonia or chlorine. One very successful method of cleaning is
to use a ten percent warm solution of a biological washing powder, rinse with
cold water and then wipe over with an alcohol, such as surgical spirit. Odor
eliminators that use chemicals, bacteria or enzymes to break down the odor also
claim to be successful in removing it entirely. For cats a synthetic facial
social odor is now available that can be sprayed on areas where the cat might
be inclined to spray or mark, in order to reduce the cat's anxiety and reduce
What products are available for correcting undesirable behavior?
By far the most effective way of correcting undesirable behavior is to teach
the animal to control its own behavioral responses and correcting behavior through
rewarding the alternative is far more effective in the long term than punishment.
Methods such as conditioned avoidance, whereby the animal is given a signal
that is paired with a lack of reward, can be used to condition the individual
to avoid that particular circumstance in future. Sound is the most effective
signal in these cases although light can be used in cases of deaf individuals
with the same effect. Once the animal has been conditioned to the stimulus it
can be used to interrupt the inappropriate behavior by signaling to the animal
that its own behavior is not rewarding. Of course it is essential that the owner
is on hand to redirect the animal into an appropriate alternative behavioral
response that can be rewarded. If the individual is already displaying a large
proportion of appropriate responses an alternative method is to work to reinforce
those behaviours through the use of operant conditioning and clicker training
is based on this principle. Once again the animal retains control over its responses
as the delivery of the reward is a direct consequence of its own behavior Shaping
appropriate behavioral responses opens up a whole new world for the owner and
enables them to manipulate their pet's behavior without recourse to elaborate
devices and potentially misplaced punishment.
The use of specific deterrents
Once behavior problems develop there are numerous products on the market that
have been designed to interrupt or deter undesirable behavior. This is a controversial
area and one in which the quality of research available to back up the claims
of the product is an important consideration. It is important that anyone using
these products follows the instructions carefully, and supervises the pet well.
To be successful, punishment must be administered during the misbehavior, and
must be sufficiently noxious to deter the pet. If a training device is not effective
immediately it is potentially dangerous and can cause more behavior problems than
it cures. In general such products should not be used by the average pet owner
and should only be used by specialists with expertise in their use. It is a matter
of great controversy whether such products should be available to the general
Why do some behavior products utilize shock?
Punishment, by definition, is the application of a stimulus that decreases
the probability that the behavior will be repeated. This means that the punishment
must be sufficiently aversive to overcome the pet's tendency to perform the
behavior It is essential when using punishment (a job best left for the specialists)
that the aim of treatment is not only to deter the pet from performing the undesirable
behavior, but also to redirect the pet into alternative and desirable behaviours
that can be immediately rewarded. Devices that cause physical discomfort (and
those that cause nausea), are generally the most aversive and for this reason
many of the deterrent devices that are available will utilize uncomfortable
but safe levels of shock. Many shock devices are paired with an audible warning
signal so that the pet quickly learns to avoid the warning signal alone, without
the need for further shock.
Owners should never consider using one of these devices without very specific
one to one specialist advice. Devices that use shock should be considered as
a last resort. There may be occasions, for example when the animal is facing
euthanasia or when the motivation to perform the undesirable behavior is so
strong that other methods of interruption are unsuccessful, when the use of
such devices may be considered necessary in order to offer a fast and efficient
means of dealing with a very serious behavior problem. That said they should
always be kept within specialist hands. Whenever an electronic shock product
is used it is essential that the manufacturer is experienced and reputable and
that the product is of high quality.
What devices can be used for pets that misbehave in the owner's presence?
In order to avoid an association between the owner and an unpleasant experience,
which could result in fear of the owner and damage to the owner-pet bond, any
deterrent device must be seen as a direct consequence of the undesirable behavior
and should not be associated with the owner. Physical punishment should be avoided
since it can aggravate fear and submissiveness and may even cause aggression.
Direct punishment or disruption devices must be activated as soon as the inappropriate
behavior begins, and should be "turned off" as soon as the inappropriate
behavior ceases. During training applications these products can be used to
interrupt the pet and as soon as the behavior ceases an alternative desirable
behavior can be encouraged and rewarded. Another use would be to teach the pet
that the inappropriate behavior (e.g. jumping up, chewing) has immediate undesirable
consequences and that as soon as the pet stops, the unpleasant stimulus will
Why should the owner remain out of sight during punishment?
If punishment can be administered while the owner remains out of sight, the
pet will not associate the "punishment" with the owner. On the other
hand, if the pet realizes that the owner is administering the punishment, this
may not only damage the pet-owner relationship and induce fear of the owner
but in addition the problem may cease when the owner is watching, but the pet
may learn that it is safe to indulge in the behavior when the owner is away.
What can be done when the owner is absent?
Booby traps are a practical form of punishment since they train the pet to
avoid the site of misbehavior even in the owner's absence. Choosing the appropriate
device should be based on the application, the pet's level of motivation to
perform the behavior and the pet's sensitivity to the aversive stimulus e.g.
noise and the seriousness of the problem.
With a little planning and ingenuity it is often possible to design a successful
booby trap out of everyday items, for example a few tin cans set to topple off
the kitchen work surface.
Electronic containment systems use an underground or remote transmitter wire
and a collar that delivers a tone/shock combination to contain dogs on a property
or away from selected areas. Indoor units utilize a transmitter dish to activate
the collar so pets can be kept away from selected areas inside the home and
an outdoor and indoor containment system has also been recently introduced that
utilizes a tone and citronella spray collar. These are devices that should only
be used with specialist advice since misuse could lead to a range of potentially
serious consequences. Other electronic devices designed to keep animals away
from certain areas and rooms also carry the same risks.
A number of commercial products have been developed to deter undesirable chewing.
Products such as bitter apple and Tabasco sauce may also be effective, but some
pets actually find them appealing.
Are there products that can be used to control and deter barking?
When barking occurs in the owner's absence it is essential that a full behavioral
work up is carried out. There are a number of bark activated devices that are
marketed to deal with the problem, but none of these should be used without
an accurate diagnosis of the motivation for the problem behavior. Some of the
collars emit an ultrasonic tone each time the dog barks whilst others have built
in microphones which activate an audible signal when the dog barks.
These latter devices must be set up in a room or area where the dog barks, since
they are not designed to attach to the dog's collar. Another form of bark activated
device emits a spray of citronella each time the dog barks. It is a humane alternative
to shock collars, but not all dogs will be deterred by the spray. Bark activated
electronic (shock) collars should not be used in cases of barking in the owner's
absence and even when the owner is present they should never be considered without
a very accurate and specific diagnosis. They must be a last resort. They should
never be used without individual specialist advice are not recommended for general
availability to the public.
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