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Behaviour problems: a brief guide

image of Behaviour problems: a brief guide
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Abstract

Behavioural problems may be a reason for presentation by the owner or may be noted during a consultation for another reason. In either event it is important to investigate them. As well as affecting the dog itself, behavioural problems can threaten the human-animal bond, and society itself: a behaviour problem in an otherwise healthy animal may result in rehoming or euthanasia of the dog, social stress for owners, and even injury to third parties. This chapter looks at canine body language, puppy development and behaviour, a clinical approach to behaviour problems and clinical approach to some common presentations.

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Figures

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12.1 Human dog perception of the interaction. The children were allowed to pet the dog in a friendly manner. However, the dog is signalling that it is not comfortable with this interaction. Unfortunately, people often miss such subtle canine communication or interpret it incorrectly. (© K Buysse)
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12.2 Disease or pain may impair communication and body language. This Malinois puppy has been hit by a car and is in pain. (© J Monteny)
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12.3 Children tend to approach and pet a dog that is lying down or sitting in a chair. This dog is feeling cornered in the chair and is emitting conflict avoiding signals, including averting its gaze and turning its head away. As the petting continues and the level of stress increases, the sclera becomes visible. (© M Vermeulen)
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12.4 Owners may believe that this dog is lying on its back to have its stomach rubbed, but this is not always the case. This dog is showing indications of tension and stress, including open eyes, dilated pupils, gazing at the perceived threat (i.e. the approaching person) and growling when being touched (see also Figure 12.14 ). Hence the importance of the correct interpretation of the message (‘please go away’). (© G Van Grembergen)
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12.5 Polite human greeting rituals involve eye contact, static encounters and often a handshake. Polite dog greetings involve dynamic encounters that are commonly characterized by curved approaches, avoidance of eye contact and reciprocally sniffing genital regions whilst moving around. (© H Blancke)
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12.7 Meeting an unknown dog when on a lead and standing still may change the dynamics of communication between the dogs. (© J Monteny)
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12.8 Behaviour should always be interpreted within a context. What signs (if any) may indicate stress or feeling threatened? What do you think the dog is communicating? The sclera are visible and the corners of the lips appear to be retracted backwards, revealing the teeth. This could have led to the assumption that the dog is bearing its teeth as an act of aggression. However, when considering the entire dog, it becomes clear that the puppy is completely relaxed and having an upside down nap. (© E Larmuseau)
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12.9 This type of signalling could lead humans to concluded that this is an aggressive dog. However, aggression is a strategy that dogs use when conflict avoiding signalling does not have a successful outcome. Thus, aggression should be considered a strategy and not a personality trait. (© J Monteny)
Image of Puppy classes should provide exercises where the puppy can explore different types of surfaces. (© A Van Menxsel)
Puppy classes should provide exercises where the puppy can explore different types of surfaces. (© A Van Menxsel) Puppy classes should provide exercises where the puppy can explore different types of surfaces. (© A Van Menxsel)
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12.12 A timeline can be helpful. In this example, green periods are problem-free and red indicates when problems occurred. The problem contexts are explored.
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12.13 Competition over resources, such as a bone, can be perceived as a threat and may lead to aggression. (© B Boerner)
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12.14 The canine ‘Ladder of Aggression’: how a dog reacts to stress or threat. It is important to note that dogs may not follow all steps on the ladder in a consecutive manner. The strategies employed depend on the individual animal and the context. (Reproduced from the )
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12.17 Early exposure to prey species helps to prevent predatory behaviour later in life and may even encourage social behaviour toward these individuals. (Courtesy of H Blancke and reproduced from the )
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12.18 Separation-related destruction related to self-control problems and separation anxiety. With self-control problems, destruction may start with object-related play or with gathering of objects and then destroying them. In these cases destruction can be seen as the result of high arousal and motoric activity. With separation anxiety, the destruction is chaotic and random, and is often accompanied by physiological signs of stress (salivation, urination and defecation). (a, © G Pyka; b, © A Vergauwen)
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12.19 Digging is normal canine behaviour, but may be unacceptable to the owner. (© J Monsieur)
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12.21 Comfort zone for a dog presenting with aggression towards unknown people entering the home. Visual protection prevents the dog from seeing visitors entering the home. (© T De Keuster)
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12.22 Treatment options for fear-related behaviour may include: providing mechanically protected safe zones, so that the dog has a predictable environment; and providing the dog with an area in which to relax. (© A Demunck)
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12.23 Destruction of potential escape locations by a dog with separation-related destruction noise sensitivity. (© R Van Hyfte)
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12.24 This location is subject to noise from kitchen appliances, family dining and children playing. Enclosing the noise-sensitive dog in a kennel here triggers vocalization and soiling and represents a welfare problem for the animal. (© R Van Hyfte)

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