Understanding common pet behaviour and how to handle it can help you determine when to book a vet appointment for your dog or cat and when you need some training tips.
If your dog is barking constantly, the first step is to find out why. There are several reasons why your dog might be barking excessively, including overexcitement, boredom, anxiety or as a warning. They may also bark to communicate with other dogs. This type of dog behaviour can be dealt with through training – it's up to you to teach your dog when to be quiet. If boredom is the problem, then make sure your dog has access to toys and is regularly exercised, and avoid leaving them alone for extended periods of time. It might be tempting to comfort your dog if he or she is barking, but this will only encourage the behaviour. Get your dog's attention with a command (avoid shouting) and once he or she is quiet, reward with a treat. If the problem persists, consult your vet.
Coming home to find your shoes in pieces, your furniture damaged or the paper shredded can be an annoying – and expensive – problem. Chewing is a natural dog behaviour – and one that can be taken care of with chew toys. But when the chewing extends to furniture or footwear, then it becomes a behavioural issue. Keeping items out of reach is the first step, and if you catch your dog chewing something he or she shouldn't, swap it with a chew toy immediately.
If your dog is having frequent accidents around the house, your first step should be to take them to the vet and rule out any medical issues such as a urinary tract infection. Puppies can be prone to urinating when excited – this is a habit that they will eventually grow out of, although rewarding them with a treat when they urinate outside can help the process. Other reasons your dog might have an accident are anxiety, submissiveness or a lack of proper house training. Building your dog's confidence by teaching them simple commands and rewarding them with treats can help with anxious or submissive urinating. Remember: yelling will only make the problem worse. If it persists, talk to your vet.
Dogs usually jump up to get your attention or assert their dominance. Not only can frequent jumping be annoying, but it can also be dangerous – especially when your dog is around small children. If your dog jumps, try to ignore them as acknowledging their behaviour rewards them with the attention they're craving.
It's hard to say no to those puppy dog eyes, but you should never reward your dog's begging with scraps. Allowing your dog to beg while you eat will also allow them to assert their dominance over you, and giving them scraps can be bad for their health. Teach your dog to sit and stay away from the table at mealtimes.
Aggression and biting
If your dog is showing signs of aggression, the first step is to take them to a vet to rule out any health problems as uncharacteristic aggression can be caused by pain. Puppies will sometimes chew and nip, and it's important to your puppies future to teach them not to do this. If your puppy starts to nip, stop the play session and ignore your puppy for a few minutes - this teaches your puppy that the fun stops as soon as they use their teeth. Do not scold your puppy, they will not understand and may think it is part of the game.
Other reasons for biting include fear or protecting something, such as food or a toy. Letting your dog interact with a wide range of other people and other dogs in a variety of situations while they are a puppy will build their confidence and get them accustomed to a range of environments and experiences, which should minimise the risk of biting through fear as they develop.
Always reward good behaviour, but don’t punish aggressive behaviour as the situation may escalate. It is very important to contact a qualified behaviourist if your dog becomes aggressive; it is important to have professional guidance to avoid making the problem any worse.
As with dogs, aggression in cats can be a sign that they're in pain, so always take them to the vet to get them checked out. Kittens may bite or scratch while playing, and need to be shown at an early age that this is not acceptable so that it doesn't become a habit. If your cat gets aggressive with new people or visitors, then the problem could be down to fear or anxiety, while some cats will lash out when they've had enough of being stroked. Whatever is causing your cat to swipe or bite should be trained out of him or her as soon as possible to avoid it becoming a permanent behaviour. Rewarding calm behaviour with treats and ignoring your cat when he or she becomes aggressive can help them associate calm behaviour with rewards.
If your cat is an outdoor cat, then hunting (and bringing 'gifts' of rodents and birds) is a natural instinct. But this can be quite distressing for animal lovers! If your cat is a regular hunter, then a collar with a bell should help to thwart his or her attempts to catch prey.
Animals, like humans, don't always get along. With cats, the reason that a fight will start is most likely down to either competition for a mate or a territory dispute. Neutering your cat can alleviate fighting that's caused by hormones, while if the argument is over territory, giving them separate food, water and litter trays can help. Rewarding your pets' behaviour when they get along will reinforce the benefits of friendlier interactions.
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vetfone™ is a 24/7 helpline that provides expert advice from nurses qualified with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. If your pet has a medical emergency, or you need reassurance on grooming, feeding or general advice, vetfone™ is there to help. vetfone™ is provided at no additional cost with all Tesco Bank Pet Insurance policies.
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Key product information
Tesco Bank Pet Insurance is arranged, administered and underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc.
Vetfone™ is provided by Vetsdirect Ltd.
Conditions that apply to your policy:
- No dog has been the cause of any accident or legal action (unless we agree to provide cover);
- No dog has had any complaints made about its behaviour (unless we agree to provide cover);
- No dog is trained to attack or used as a guard dog or for security purposes.