It seems like in the last few years the behaviour problems of pets have gained importance. But these situations have existed since humans and dogs started living together. In some cases they were considered normal, and dog owners used to accept them as such. But in other cases the situation has reached a point where changes in behaviour have turned into the main cause of pet abandonment, and worse: in many countries more animals are subject to euthanasia owing to behaviour problems than to medical causes. We are not talking about naughty or obsessed dogs, but rather about dogs with serious problems that affect them as well as their adoptive family.
The list of behavioural disorders is very long, but there are three problems that stand out. Aggressiveness, in any of its many forms, represents up to 50% of all cases. Going to the toilet in inappropriate places, 20%. Destructive conduct constitutes approximately 15% of the total.
Many of these problems appear because owners are unaware that dogs behave according to a “pack” mentality. Most owners do not realize how important it is for their pet to occupy a specific rank in the family hierarchy.
Dominance is the main aggressiveness problem. Dogs always have a dominant leader as their point of reference, an individual in the highest position to which the rest of the individuals in the group defer to in a linear way. Some owners think that they must win this position in the family environment through continuous rivalry with their dog, as if dominating their pet required constantly “beating him to a pulp.” Nothing further from the truth: the dominant hierarchical position is obtained through respect, not through confrontation between the two antagonists. Dogs occupy their lower rank as a way of being accepted.
On the other hand, when a family takes responsibility for a dog, it must above all apply constant and stable criteria for educating it. These criteria must be followed by all of the family members, without exception. Dogs will be calmer and happier knowing that their status is at the bottom of the pack than if they do not really know their place and have to try to gain a more privileged position, even if this might seem strange to us.
If you have any doubts about your dog’s behaviour, or if you think that the situation is getting out of hand, consult your veterinary surgeon.
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Colegio Oficial de Veterinarios de Alicante
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