Behavioral Counseling

At Pet Connection Veterinary Clinic we know you love your pet and only want the best in their physical and behavioral health. When it comes to things like digging, barking and other behavioral issues, it can be easy to become overwhelmed.

With behavioral counseling at Pet Connection Veterinary Clinic we help you discover the steps and actions you can take to help your pet lead a happier, more balanced life. Click through the following articles to learn more about common behavioral issues your pet may be displaying.



Your cat has destroyed the sofa with his claws, and you have reached the end of your patience.How can you live with a cat and still have upholstery?
Cats scratch to mark their territory, not to sharpen their claws. In the wild, they choose one prominent tree, reach as high as they can, and drag their claws down the trunk. This leaves
visible grooves, but it also leaves a scent from the footpads. In order to prevent destructive clawing, you must provide a harmless outlet for this behavior.Scratching posts are easily available at any pet store, but cats often fail to use them. Partly this is due to the location where we choose to put the post. To the cat, it is important that the territorial
scratching post be placed in an obvious central point where it is obvious to visitors–the place where you enter the living room, for instance. (What? You already have your good couch
there? Imagine that.) But if you have a little patience, you could put the scratching post in that prominent corner for a while, and when your cat develops a liking for it, you could gradually
move it to a more convenient spot. Cats also like a surface upon which their claws can dig in for a nice, smooth, continuous drag, but the carpet on most scratching posts catches the claws and
makes for an unsatisfying experience.

In some cases, covering the carpet with a different type of fabric can increase the likelihood that the cat will use the post.Remember that scent is as important as feel. Rubbing your own palms thoroughly along the scratch post may stimulate some cats to use the post. Catnip has also been used to impart a tempting scent to the post.
Getting your cat to use a scratching post can help a lot since this territorial scratching is usually confined to a single object. But consider the reason your cat feels the need to mark territory.Perhaps the cat feels insecure because of other stresses, particularly from other cats inside the house or increased cat activity outside of the home. Anything that helps relieve this stress will reduce your cat’s need to leave his mark on your furniture.


Boys will be boys, or so proverbial wisdom says with a sigh. A corollary might be that dogs will be dogs, and activities that are normal dog behaviors are very difficult to eradicate by training,discipline, or punishment. When a dog’s natural behavior, such as digging or chewing, is inconvenient for the dog’s owner, it is much easier to redirect that behavior than it is to eliminate it. If the family canine is destroying the landscaping in his urge to excavate, the solution is to teach him to dig in a more suitable area.

DIGGING is a normal behavior for dogs, part of a hunting heritage in which unearthing prey from their burrows was a necessary part of procuring the daily meal. In the northern breeds,such as Huskies, Malamutes, Elkhounds, and Samoyeds, burrowing in the dirt can become a consuming passion. Digging can also be a sore point in the relationship between man and his
best friend.

PUNISHMENT for digging, however diabolical or ingenious, simply does not work to dissuade the earth-moving canine. At best, punishment may cause the dog to select a different part of the yard to destroy, spreading the doggie devastation equally over the yard. Proverbial wisdom also states that if you can’t lick ’em . . . well, maybe you don’t have to join ’em, but dog behavior specialists do recommend giving in a little and providing an approved area for your pet to vent his (or her) desire to dig. It is much easier to redirect the dog’s digging behavior to a small expendable area upon which you and your pet can agree than it is to try to eliminate the digging altogether.

CREATE A DIGGING PLAY AREA FOR YOUR DOG. TEACH him to dig, reward him for his efforts (as long as it is in the appropriate area), and then you can be back on speaking
terms with your “best friend”.TO CREATE A DIGGING AREA, select a spot in the yard where Fido’s burrowing will cause the least inconvenience. If digging out of a fence is the problem, it might not be wise to position the area adjacent to the fence. The designated space needs to be bordered, so that both you and your dog can agree on its limits. For small dogs, and area 4’x4′, bordered with 2″x4″s, should suffice. For the large dog with a large urge to excavate, make the area 6’x6′, and frame the area with landscape timbers. Spade the dirt within the play area so that it is enticingly dig-able, but avoid having any fresh dirt to the outside of your wood frame; it is best if the soil outside of the frame is covered with gravel, rocks, grass, or bark right up to the edge of the designated area.

TRAIN YOUR DOG TO USE HIS AREA: You may demonstrate that it is OK to dig by getting right down there and showing the dog how to dig, using your hands. Your dog will think
you’ve flipped and the neighbors will stare, but you can console yourself with the thought of not having to fill in endless holes under your back fence. Next take a few of your dog’s favorite
toys–a ball, a rawhide chew, bone, etc., and bury them so that they are partly visible. When the dog pulls them out of the ground, praise him in an enthusiastic tone of voice, play with him a
little, and then bury the items again a little deeper. Once the dog learns that he is rewarded for digging in this area and it becomes a game, he should show a preference toward digging there
rather than in your garden or under your shrubbery.

DISCIPLINING: Once the lesson has been taught that digging in the approved area is a good behavior, and then you can turn your attention back to disciplining whenever the digging occurs outside of the play area. Harsh punishment isn’t needed; simply bring the dog over to the area where the miscreant has mistakenly excavated, grasp the scruff of the neck and push the head down toward the hole with a gruff “bad dog”. Lead the dog over to the play area, change your voice to a cheery encouraging voice, and demonstrate again how fun it is to dig in his own play area.
Teaching your pet to use a play area for digging will help eliminate destructive digging in several ways. The urge to dig will be satisfied, and for many dogs this is a very strong urge. The
undesirable behavior can be redirected to a confined area; dogs often understand WHERE their owners would like them to do something than they understand WHAT their owners want them to do. It may take a week or two to teach this lesson, but just think of the flower beds that you can plant undisturbed next spring!

Ten Commandments For Maintaining Leadership In The Dog
Dogs are pack animals that need strong leadership. Many of the behavior problems of dogs stem from confusion and insecurity about who is in charge.The most common form of aggression in dogs is Dominance Aggression, in which the dog tries to take over the role of pack leader. The following suggestions are a must when dealing with the dominant aggression dog, but they may also be used to reassure the submissive dog of your strong leadership.
I. Make your dog earn everything good in life by obeying commands. Before greeting, petting, feeding, walking, or letting the dog outside, give a command that it knows (the “sit” is ideal), and insist on compliance before the dog is allowed to do anything pleasurable.
II. Do not let your dog on the bed or the furniture; Preferred sleeping spots are the right of the pack leader, and when your dog is allowed to rest in these areas he will feel that it means he is the boss.
III. Make your dog get out of your way when it stands or lays in your path.Walking around the dog is a sign of deference and may give your dog the idea that he has the right to be wherever he wants.
IV Make your dog sit before the dog greets anyone.
V. Do not let your dog go thru narrow openings (doorways) before you.Leading the way thru narrow openings is the role of the leader. If you put your dog’s leash on and let him bolt thru the door ahead of you to take his walk, it will not be surprising if the dog is hard to control during the walk,since in the dog’s mind he already established that he was in charge the minute he went out the door.
VI. Do not let your dog go up the stairs ahead of you. Not only does this give him the feeling of leading the way up a narrow passageway, but he also can turn around at the top of the stairs and get the feeling of being higher than you—essentially, he is playing “King of the Mountain” with you, and he is winning.
VII. Do not play tug-o-war with your dog. This reinforces his competitive urges, and if he wins, even briefly, this is a very potent ego booster to the dog.
VIII. Do not allow the dog to jump up on you. Even though he is being friendly, it makes him feel more powerful. Give sit command before he jumps up to prevent the behavior.
IX. Do not allow the dog to demand attention or force you to pet it. You must provide affection on your own terms, but not because the dog pushes his muzzle under your arm or barks at you to force petting. When this happens, simply ignore the dog or move away.
X. Adopt a confident leadership attitude toward your dog. Your attitude and body language should proclaim that you are the leader of the pack. A deep booming tone of voice, good posture, and looking directly at the dog with a downward stare are all things that your dog understands, and by sending these body-language signals you will reassure your dog that you are in command.


Barking is one of the most difficult dog behavior to control, in part because it is normal for dogs to bark. In addition, barking is often inadvertently rewarded and persists because it is a behavior that “works” for the dog. The dog in the yard that barks to be let in knows that it will eventually get what the dog wants: the owner (or neighbors) will become annoyed and give in to
the dog’s demands. When the dog proclaims his territory by barking at every passerby, the passerby eventually moves on and the dog thinks that his barking was responsible for this small victory. There are some helpful hints that can be given for problem barking.
1. Try to NEVER reward barking. If the dog barks in the yard, wait until a
brief moment of silence before opening the door and calling the dog in.Remember that negative attention is better than no attention at all; if you open the door to yell at the dog for barking, the dog may prefer the scolding to sitting in the yard alone and bored.
2. Avoid the things that cause barking. If the dog barks at dogs or people on the street, make an effort to block the dog’s view of the street. Many dogs that are problem barkers in the yard would be happier in the house,and this is a lifestyle choice that should be considered. Dogs are a highly social animal, and being isolated away from the other pack members (the human family) can be highly stressful to the dog.
3. Do not use an anti- barking shock collar. These increase the dog’s anxiety level, and they don’t work very well (nor do other punishments help).
4. The most effective method for controlling barking is to INTERRUPT the barking and then replace it with a different behavior. Bark collars that release a citrus scented spray when the dog barks are a form of this method. It helps if the interruption is not perceived as coming directly from the owner (which may be a response that encourages barking). A quick,light spraying with a garden hose or a quick blast of an air horn can be used to interrupt the barking, then call the dog to you and give a series of obedience commands for which the dog earns a reward.
5. Obedience commands (sit, down, roll over, etc ) are very helpful and should be used frequently during the day, even when the dog is not barking. The first reason for this is that it helps establish the person’s dominance over the dog; if the dog feels that his social position in the pack is lower, he will feel that the has less “right” to bark. Giving these commands also changes the dog’s focus from what HE wants to listening for what YOU want. And it is fun to perform commands, particularly when appropriate rewards are given frequently.
6. Some dogs bark excessively because of “separation anxiety”, a panicattack disorder that sometimes takes the form of EXTREMELY persistent barking when left alone. These dogs will sometimes bark for 8 hours straight, causing severe physical and emotional stress. Separation anxiety requires a completely different approach and should be treated with your veterinarian’s help.

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