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Behavior

  • Lack of early positive environmental exposure during the socialization period can be as damaging as a traumatic or negative experience in a particular environment. Fear may be associated with unfamiliar sights, sounds, or even the odors of a particular location. Use of verbal reprimands, punishment, or correction in a specific environment may lead to fear and anxiety associated with that environment.

  • There are many reasons why dogs can develop a fear or phobic response toward people or other animals including lack of socialization, traumatic learning experiences, genetic predisposition, and medical conditions. Proper socialization is the cornerstone to raising a dog that is comfortable with people and animals. This exposure must begin before 3 months of age and continue throughout the first year. Dogs that are frightened may display fight, flight, freeze, or fidget/fret responses when afraid. Dogs that experience extreme fear and/or phobic behaviors need professional intervention. There are many behavioral medications that can be helpful for reducing fear or phobic responses in dogs.

  • Fear is an aversive emotional state with physiological, behavioral, and emotional reactions to stimuli which are perceived as an actual threat or danger. Fears may be rational or irrational; they may be adaptive or maladaptive. Fear may result in aggressive responses by pets. A phobia is a sudden, profound, or excessive fear response. Anxiety may be defined as diffuse generalized feelings of apprehension, unease, and/or nervousness regarding an imminent event, uncertain outcome, or an anticipated threat or danger. Fear can be the result of an early experience that was unpleasant or perceived by the pet as unpleasant but it does not always take an unpleasant experience for fear to develop. Any stimuli that a dog or cat has not been exposed to during its sensitive period of development, which is up to 3 months of age in dogs and 2 months of age in cats, may become a fear-evoking stimulus. Illness, pain, or the effects of aging may lead to an increase in fear or anxiety in situations where there was previously little or no problem. A good program of socialization and exposure to many new and novel situations while a pet is young and in a thoughtful and proactive manner can be helpful in preventing fears and phobias. Professional intervention can help to prevent the behavior from worsening.

  • Feather loss occurs either because the bird is truly losing feathers or because the bird, or its cage-mate, is picking out its feathers. Feather-picking is often a behavioral problem, especially in the larger species of birds (such as cockatoos, macaws, and African gray parrots). However, feather loss and feather-picking can also be caused by diseases that result in irritation or pain for the bird, or damage to, or inappropriate growth of feathers. Your veterinarian may have to many perform several diagnostic tests to rule out potential causes. Treatment of feather loss depends on the cause. Feather loss and feather-picking are complicated problems; for specific advice, your bird should have a thorough work-up by a veterinarian familiar with birds.

  • Cat food has been made so palatable that it can easily create gluttonous behavior. Meal feeding and portion control are important to prevent obesity. Owners should not give in to begging behavior. Cats that are still hungry after their meal can be supplemented with snacks such as green vegetables recommended by your veterinarian. Cats that eat too quickly can be fed creatively to slow down eating.

  • Dog food has been made so palatable that it can easily create gluttonous behavior. Meal feeding and portion control are important to prevent obesity. Owners should not give in to begging behavior. Dogs that are still hungry after their meal can be supplemented with snacks such as green vegetables recommended by your veterinarian. Dogs that eat too quickly can be fed creatively to slow down eating.

  • Some dogs continue to guard their food aggressively even after being worked with as puppies (see Handling and Food Bowl Exercises). Punitive attempts to change them, such as making the dog wait and perform numerous tasks for food, or factors that cause increased hunger might tend to exacerbate rather than diminish the behavior.

  • There are many breeds of miniature pigs, including the Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. In addition to pot-bellied pigs, the term mini-pig includes an additional 14 recognized breeds of small pigs including Julianas and KuneKunes. Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs can be as heavy as 200 pounds, reach a height of 14-20 inches at the shoulders and typically live for 14-21 years. Mini-pigs communicate both with sounds and with body language. Mini-pigs should never be left alone unsupervised with even the friendliest, potentially predatory, dogs and cats. Mini-pigs are very smart and can be trained to walk on a leash/harness and to sit, stay, come, and retrieve objects.

  • If you have your heart set on adding another dog to your family, take time to survey your existing “pack,” seek out another dog that will fit into your pack, and be diligent in making the pack one big happy family. Following a few simple steps can help welcome the new dog to your family a bit easier. 

  • When you bring a new puppy into your home there will inevitably be a period of adjustment. Your goals are to help your puppy to quickly bond to its new family, and to minimize the stress associated with leaving its mother, litter mates, and former home.