How to Avoid Rottweiler Behavior Problems

Rottweilers have developed a bad reputation for being dangerous.

The Rottweiler has a reputation for being a dangerous attack dog, but that is not their true nature. To be vicious, they must be trained that way. With the proper training and socialization from puppyhood, a Rottweiler is an even-tempered, incredibly loyal dog that will protect his family fearlessly. That makes the Rottweiler a wonderful watchdog.

The American Rottweiler Club tells us that “owning a Rottweiler carries a great deal of responsibility and commitment. It is not a dog for everyone. They require a calm, stable, and firm ‘pack leader’ or they will assume that role for you. They need socialization, exercise, and stimulating mental challenges. With these things, you will have a wonderful companion.”

Rottweiler behavior problems happen when they are not properly trained and socialized from an early age. Without the right training, your Rottweiler could turn into a challenging pet. You must teach your Rottweiler from puppyhood that the human is the alpha in the relationship. Be your dog’s respected leader. Begin training as early as six weeks old to help your Rottweiler establish good behavior before any bad habits can form.

Training Your Rottweiler

Training your Rottweiler is an ongoing daily commitment. It takes time and patience. In addition to learning to follow your commands, it is important to make sure that your Rottweiler is comfortable with other people and other pets. Social contact with other people and other dogs will shape your Rottweiler puppy into the kind of dog he will become.

During your training, make sure that you reward your Rottweiler with a treat, a toy or praise. If you get frustrated during the training process, walk away and come back later. Never show frustration and anger. This causes the dog to become fearful and discourages them from learning the command.

The secret to training is consistency. Everything must be black and white with no shades of gray. Otherwise, the dog will test you. If you let things slide, your Rottweiler will try to get away with whatever he can. You must earn a Rottweiler’s respect by setting boundaries and teaching him that there are consequences for his actions. You need to show your dog that you are in charge.

Training your dog from puppyhood will reduce the possibility of any Rottweiler behavior problems. But that is not to say that you cannot adopt an adult Rottweiler without experiencing behavior problems.

Adopting an adult Rottweiler can be easier than dealing with training a puppy. Rescue dogs have already been trained, and their personalities have already been established. There is no guesswork here – what you see is what you get. As an adult dog, any Rottweiler behavior problems would be on full display for you to see. When you meet an adult Rottweiler, you will be able to see right away how they interact with people and with other pets. So adopting from a shelter or rescue organization is probably the safest way for families with children to add a Rottweiler to the family.

Rottweiler Behavior Problems

Rottweilers may look tough, but they are a very sensitive breed. They are highly intelligent and they form a very close attachment to their humans. That means they can be prone to separation anxiety. Rottweilers do not like being left alone for long periods of time. They prefer being in the company of their favorite humans. So, if you need to leave your dog alone for long periods of time, you may experience some behavior problems.

Boredom is another source of Rottweiler behavior problems. These energetic dogs need a lot of exercise as an outlet for their energy, and their intelligent minds need to be occupied with distractions like puzzle toys. This is especially true for young pups who are bursting with energy. Without an appropriate outlet for that energy, you may experience behavior problems like chewing furniture and pillows. The powerful jaws of a Rottweiler can cause a lot of damage in your home, even at a young age, so make sure to keep your Rottweiler occupied with safe, appropriate outlets for their energy.

Socializing your Rottweiler should also start at a young age. To determine your dog’s level of socialization, start by introducing him to new people and pets while on a leash and see how your Rottweiler will react.

If your dog was not properly socialized as a puppy, he may never be completely comfortable around strangers and other pets, but you can teach him not to act aggressively toward them.

Trazodone: A Reference Guide

If you have ever been depressed your doctor might have prescribed you an antidepressant called Trazodone. What you may not know is that this antidepressant can also be used for cats and dogs. That’s right – the pills used to balances our moods and make us feel better can also be used by our pets (when veterinarian prescribed. Never give your pet any medication that has not been prescribed to them by a licensed vet.)

Trazodone, also known as Oleptro® and Desyrel® is used to treat behavior disorders in pets. There is a difference between a behavior problem and a behavior disorder.  Trazodone is a medication used to treat disorders, not a solution to counteract behavior problems. Trazodone is categorized as a SARI which stands for Serotonin Antagonist Reuptake Inhibitor. What this means is that Trazodone regulates and increases the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is responsible for our pet’s mood, social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, and memory. Where your pets have an unbalanced level of serotonin, it can lead to irrational behavior such as lashing out and separation anxiety.

Anxiety Related Conditions that Trazodone Can Treat

  • Separation
  • Noise phobia (fireworks, thunderstorms, etc.)
  • Depression

Situations in Which Trazodone is Commonly Used

  • Veterinary visits
  • Hospitalization
  • Travel

Trazodone is also commonly used on pets post surgery to keep them calm while healing.

Studieshave shown that the use of Trazodone leads to a faster healing process post operation. Trazodone takes effect within 2 hours of oral consumption; injection is not recommended for Trazodone. Trazodone should not be taken without the direct consent of your pet’s veterinarian, additionally, make sure to tell your pet’s vet every medication that your pet is currently taking.

Trazodone may also be used in addition to other medications such as fluoxetine. Currently, Trazodone is not available in veterinary formulations; it is only available in human formulations such as Oleptro® and Desyrel®. Trazodone can be used in both cats and dogs. However, there has been more research conducted on the effects of this drug on cats than on dogs.

Possible Side Effects Of Trazodone

Some side effects are to be expected such as drowsiness and fatigue. If your pet experiences more serious side effects such as seizures, pale gums, difficulty breathing, tremors, or trouble walking call your vet immediately.

If your pet has accidentally ingested too much Trazodone, you should call you vet immediately. If you require additional information or if your vet is unavailable, try calling the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 (each incident will be charged a $59 fee). Additionally, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center can be reached at (888) 426-4435 for a fee of $65 per session.

Possible Side Effects

  • Sedation
  • Ataxia
  • The loss of full control of the bodily movements
  • GI effects
  • Vomiting, Diarrhea, etc.
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Agitation
  • Lightheadedness
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision


Research and Studies

If you would like further information regarding Trazodone and your pet, we recommend the following publications. Don’t be afraid to call your vet to inquire about Trazodone for your pet. Even if your pet hasn’t been prescribed Trazodone your vet will be more than happy to discuss this course of treatment with you. Also, check out our Trazodone information page for further info about all things Trazodone. Lastly, if you’re worried about your dog overdosing on Trazodone read our “What to Do if Your Dog Eats Trazodone® Medication?” blog.  If your pet ingests Trazodone without a perscription or accidently ingests too much Trazodone call your vet immediately. Depending on your situation your vet may ask you to induce vomiting in your pet or will urge you to bring your pet in for treatments and care.

  1. Efficacy of a single dose of trazodone hydrochloride given to cats prior to veterinary visits to reduce signs of transport- and examination-related anxiety.

    • Stevens, B. J., Frantz, E. M., Orlando, J. M., Griffith, E., Harden, L. B., Gruen, M. E., & Sherman, B. L. (2016). Efficacy of a single dose of trazodone hydrochloride given to cats prior to veterinary visits to reduce signs of transport- and examination-related anxiety. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 249(2), 202-207. doi:10.2460/javma.249.2.202

Thwarting the Alarm Clock Cat

Dealing with cats that wake you up before the alarm clock is frustrating, especially you want to sleep! Contrary to popular belief, cats are not nocturnal. The term “nocturnal” refers to the lifestyle of being awake at night instead of during the day, and that isn’t what cats do. They sleep at night as we do, just not for quite as long. Cats are “crepuscular,” which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. This is because their ancestors’ prey was most active at these times, so it made sense for them to adjust to that schedule. No creature in his or her right mind ran about during the heat of the day or in the middle of night when it was pitch black. Though cats’ night vision is very good, they can’t see without light. Instead, they sleep.

Thwarting the Alarm Clock Cat

Herein lies the problem of the chronic “alarm clock” cat. Two things combine to make this phenomenon possible:

1. Nature. Your cat’s internal clock and crepuscular nature tells her that it’s time to get up at around dawn. Depending on the time of sunrise, cats will become active sooner or later. During summer in lands of midnight sun, cats may not be triggered by the dawn. During the long, dark, sunless winters of the Antarctic, a cat would probably sleep till lunchtime everyday.

2. Training. This is where the cat’s owner comes in. Let’s say your cat becomes active first thing in the morning. She quickly becomes bored because there’s nothing going on. If you so much as look at this cat, rewarding her with your attention, you may well get more of the same in days to come. Worse still, if you assume that your cat is pacing around and scratching your furniture because she’s hungry, and you get up and feed her, then you have really made a bed upon which you must lie (awake).

At this stage, pretending to be asleep, yelling at the cat, rolling over, and other forms of stubborn resistance usually do not work. The cat continues her (no doubt) occasionally successful quests. And remember, occasional reward is a more powerful reinforcer than continuous reward (reference: the slot machines in Las Vegas). Some of the things you do may even amuse and entertain the bored cat and serve as reinforcers in their own right. You may, in effect, become a big squeaky toy for your cat.

How to Prevent Early Awakenings

Highly Recommended

  • Understand your cat and don’t blame her for the way that nature designed her. Have some patience and forbearance as you try to realign her habits.
  • Fit thick, lightproof curtains in your bedroom and hallways so that your whole sleeping area is totally dark at night.
  • Do not respond (in any way) to your cat’s dawn-time demands … ever.
  • Feed your cat twice daily on a set schedule, but do not feed her first thing in the morning.
  • Keep the cat occupied during the day (exercise, games, toys, bring her to your place of work, etc.)

    Things That Might Help

  • Feed your cat her last meal of the day at bedtime, which may help her sleep (“as the blood rushes to her stomach”).
  • Get a cat for your cat so that you are no longer her sole source of entertainment.
  • Give your cat the internal-clock-resetting-hormone, melatonin at night to induce a lengthier period of sleep. Consult your veterinarian before giving this or any other medication.

    The most important things to remember about “early morning syndrome” is that it is a natural tendency for cats to rise and become active at dawn, and that owners can inadvertently feed into this tendency by responding with attention or food. If you are not careful, a cat that you feed at 6 a.m. will start jumping up on your bed at 5:45 a.m., trying to get a jump start on her day. If you respond to your cat’s 5:45 a.m. demands, next you will find yourself being woken up at 5:30 a.m., then 5:15 a.m., and so on, until eventually you’re being woken up in the wee hours.

    Because most cats are keen to bend the rules, especially where food is concerned, and are naturally quick studies, it is important to make acceptable house rules and stick to them. If you cave in under pressure, you will get more of whatever behavior you have just rewarded. That is to say, you can inadvertently train a cat to wake you up. The old proverb about “making your own bed and lying in it” really applies here, except that you won’t be doing much lying. If you do have a problem of this nature, you should avoid making any early morning activity rewarding to your cat. It may take weeks to accomplish what you set out to do, but it will finally dawn on the cat that sunrise doesn’t signal anything worth waking you for – and then you’ll be off the hook.

  • Aggressive Cats? Here’s How To Keep the Peace

    Considering their size, domestic cats can make formidable adversaries. Unlike dogs, cats have not one, but five attack weapons, including a widely opening mouth, well-appointed with penetrating teeth, and four dexterous paws bearing needle-sharp claws. The combination of these weapons, explosive speed, and the exquisite suppleness of a contortionist can make restraining aggressive cats more difficult than herding these independent creatures.

    Every veterinarian knows that it is far better to avoid a cat’s ire than it is to contend with it once the cat’s enraged. Thus, the soft-shoe approach of gentle handling and minimal physical restraint is the best one to adopt when handling aggressive cats. Once a cat’s anger has boiled over, it is best to give the cat a time out to calm down before proceeding with any necessary intervention. Or, if it’s absolutely necessary to proceed immediately, it’s best to resort to sedatives or full physical restraint.

    As with other species, there are several different ways of classifying aggression. One describes aggression as either instrumental (as a vehicle to achieve some desired goal), fear-induced, territorial, sexual, irritable, maternal, or predatory. This classification is commonly employed when discussing the different types of aggression in animals and is descriptive of purpose, as opposed to function. Furthermore, it has been added to over the years to include other terms such as petting-induced aggression, pain-induced aggression, and idiopathic aggression (of unknown cause).

    Alpha Cat Aggression

    Cats are supposed to be warm and friendly creatures, seeking owner approval, petting and cuddles and purring their way through peaceful evenings at home. But not all cats are this amiable or this compliant. Some have an agenda of their own and seemingly refuse to take no for an answer.

    These are “alpha cats.” They are natural leaders; they refuse to be led and attempt to take charge of practically every situation. These cats like their food when they want it and the way that they like it … or else. They may only let you touch them for short periods of time and then again, only on their terms. They rebel when admonished and demand attention, access, and assets — when the mood so takes them. You don’t own an alpha cat — he owns you, or at least, he thinks he does.

    When alphas don’t get their own way, they bully and pressure you into immediate action. They may bite your nose or toes to get you out of bed in the morning. They may shriek their demands for food until you are forced to give in. They may growl if approached while eating and some are protective of their toys and nap times. And watch out if you try to pick up your alpha cat or pet him when he’s not in the mood. He may bite or claw his negative message to you in no uncertain terms.

    Territorial Aggressive Cats

    Problems with territorial aggression are most common when a new cat is added to the household. If sudden introductions lead to aggression, this can set the stage for future battles and may not bode well for the future. The way to circumvent this problem is to gradually introduce unfamiliar cats to each other across a closed door. A gradual introduction of a new cat to the household may take two to three weeks. This said, if initial animosities are mild, they often resolve spontaneously over a period of four months, even without such precautionary measures.

    Territorial aggression between cats in the same household tends to develop gradually. The more confident cat may begin to guard various resources and threaten its feline housemate over the slightest infraction. Gradually the threats may progress to attacks and the victim may become progressively more frightened. Depending on the victim’s temperament, he may choose to retaliate or hide, only making an appearance when the territorial cat is not around. Occasionally litter box problems may arise because the fearful cat is too afraid to leave his hiding place. Additional problems of spraying and other forms of marking may occur if both cats are of close to equal status.

    Aggressive Maternal Cats

    What self-respecting mother would not do all within her power to protect and defend her offspring? Not too many. But sometimes these feelings of protectiveness turn into something called “maternal aggression” that can make a once-friendly pet unapproachable.

    Some of this protectiveness arises out of affection and concern of a mother for her young. However, nature and alterations in brain chemistry both catalyze this response. The sight, sound, and smell of the newborn, as well as tactile signals received during nursing, cause the release of a “bonding hormone,” oxytocin, which seals the mother-infant bond (and has other mechanical effects on the uterus and other smooth muscle tissues). In addition to this change, blood levels of progesterone, the hormone of pregnancy, fall rapidly as estrogen levels climb. The calming effect of progesterone is lost and the activating effect of estrogen replaces it. Also, and perhaps most significantly, the rise and fall of the milk releasing hormone prolactin exactly parallels that of maternal aggression.

    Understanding Feline Behavior Problems

    Every pet owner knows that having pets come with a lot of responsibility. And when it comes to cats, understanding feline behavior problems can be difficult.

    It’s important to train your pets while they’re young so you can avoid many common behavior issues. With cats, learning not to exhibit feline behavior problems as kittens can make a huge difference in the long run.

    Older cats can be taught not to do things, but it can be more difficult to make good habits stick. When behavior problems do arise, how do you fix them?

    Understanding why your cat is behaving a certain way is the first step to determining how to correct bad behavior.

    Start Them Off Young

    Getting a kitten for the first time is an exciting experience, but some kittens can exhibit negative feline behavior problems. Your kitten is so cute and adorable — she could never do anything wrong. Or could she? Some kittens can be feline terrors, leading you to question your decision about bringing the kitten into your home. Before finding a new home or banishing your cat to the perilous outdoors, consider learning about the problem, how to deal with the behavior, and hoe to re-train your pet. With proper know-how, your cat can be a loving and playful member of the family, providing hours of amusement.

    The best way to deal with feline behavior problems is to avoid them in the first place. Learn the best way to socialize and introduce your new kitten to your home. If you are adopting an orphan kitten, be aware that they have their own set of issues.

    Behavioral or Medical?

    It’s possible that your cats’ unruly behavior could be the result of a medical issue. Make an appointment with your veterinarian so you can know for sure. Is your cat urinating outside the litter box because she’s upset at changes in the household, or because she has a urinary tract infection? Is she clawing up the furniture because she’s upset, or because she’s sick?

    Cats are incredibly sensitive to stress, and that sensitivity often translates into genuine medical problems, such as urinary tract and respiratory infections. What’s more, cats often hide signs of illness as part of their evolutionary defense against predators. That’s why behavior changes are often the only sign that something’s wrong, even for the most astute and attentive owners.

    On the other hand, sometimes a behavior problem actually is primarily a behavior problem. How can a pet owner know what’s really going on? At the 2016 NAVC Veterinary Conference, board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Debra Horwitz and board-certified veterinary internal medicine specialist Dr. Gary Oswald mapped out a path to guide veterinarians through that tangled terrain. Their advice will help frustrated cat owners too.

    The most important message for pet owners and vets alike is this: The first step when behavior changes are noted by the owner is to rule out all likely medical causes. This goes for changes in eating habits, grooming, meowing or other vocalization, or litterbox usage, as well as the onset of aggression toward people or other pets.

    Common Problems Mean Easy Fixes

    Cats have finally surpassed dogs in the race for America’s number one pet. It’s easy to see why in a fast-paced society like ours. Cats are more independent, do better when left alone and require less time-consuming care, like daily walks. But like their canine counterparts, domestic cats come with their own set of natural feline behaviorsthat can confuse and inconvenience owners.

    The most common cat owner complaints have to do with litter box habits, clawing furniture, and aggression toward other cats or people. Fortunately, most of these problems stem from normal feline behaviors and can be prevented or resolved. A little patience and understanding will allow you to see the situation from your cat’s point of view, and lead to a long, loving life with your feline friend.

    Leaping Into Trouble

    Do you struggle with keeping your cats off of your counters? This can be a frustrating behavior for many cat owners. Why do cats find counters so appealing? Take this quiz to find out:

    A. Because they’re there.

    B. Because cats naturally prefer a three-dimensional environment.

    C. Because cats occasionally find food morsels while patrolling counter tops.

    D. All of the above.

    Answer D is correct.

    There are many good reasons why your cat should stay off the counter. Cats spend a fair amount of time each day in their litter box, scratching around and covering up their waste. Although they frequently “wash” their paws with their tongues, it is likely that some traces of urine and feces will remain on their paws to be deposited on your countertops in molecular concentrations. Not a great thought if you are about to prepare food.

    In the Doghouse: A Guide to Behavioral Problems in Dogs

    In the beginning, before the days of behavioral psychology, man intuitively knew that rewarding a dog’s desired behavior and punishing unwanted behavior would eventually encourage the dog to conform more closely to his wishes and expectations. And so, training was created. Learning about canine training and behavior can help you understand what underlies your dog’s behavioral problems and will help you acquire the patience and know-how necessary to work with him.

    Even after formal obedience training and as recipients of oodles of love, some dogs develop disagreeable habits or unwanted behaviors. So it’s imperative that you learn about the potential problems that may occur, how to curtail these behaviors, and how to re-train your pet. With proper know-how, your dog can become a loving, obedient, and enjoyable member of the family.

    Start Them Young

    The best way to deal with behavior problems is to avoid them in the first place. Keep an eye out for common issues such as inappropriate elimination, digging, chewing, separation anxiety, and fear. But there are several others, so be sure you’re aware of everything and watch out for warning signs.

    Once you understand what is behind the behavior, you are well on your way to correcting the problem.

    Special Circumstances for Rescue Dogs

    Rescuing a dog is a generous and rewarding action, which will provide an underprivileged dog with the love and care he craves, and you will be rewarded with a new best friend. Though there are endless positives to rescuing, there are also some common health and behavioral problems that may affect your new pal.

    The cause of their problems, if they have any at all, is often related to their former life, the care they received, and where you are acquiring the dog. A dog adopted from a shelter or rescue group should have fewer problems than a dog rescued directly from an abusive home. Abuse, neglect of medical care and preventative treatments, malnourishment, unsanitary living conditions, and close quarters with other dogs are some predisposing factors.

    Is Hypothyroidism the Issue?

    Hypothyroidism is a disorder of the thyroid gland — two butterfly-shaped lobes located in the neck just below the voice box. These glands are responsible for producing and secreting thyroid hormone (thyroxine), which affects nearly all body systems. Most significantly, the thyroid glands regulate your dog’s metabolic rate. In hypothyroidism, not enough thyroxine is produced and that causes metabolism to slow.

    Physically, dogs with hypothyroidism tend to gain weight, may have bouts of diarrhea or constipation, and may suffer from various skin problems (e.g. dry, flaky skin and excess shedding). They may have an increased susceptibility to infections, have a lowered tolerance for cold, and may tire easily.

    Dogs with classical hypothyroidism often seem lethargic and depressed. However, dogs with a “mild” or sub-clinical affliction may show a different set of behaviors. They may become anxious or fearful, become more aggressive, exhibit a compulsive disorder (e.g. excessive grooming or tail-chasing). Some dogs may also appear hyperactive and/or be slow learners.

    Assessing whether hypothyroidism is contributing to (or causing) a dog’s behavior problems is the first step.

    Compulsive Behavior

    Compulsive behaviors are repetitive sequences of behavior that are fairly consistent in their presentation. They do not appear to serve any obvious purpose, although some argue that they function to reduce a dog’s stress level. Compulsive behaviors may be time consuming, may result in physical injury to the dog, may significantly impair the dog’s ability to function normally, and may impair the dog’s relationship with his owner.

    Compulsive behavior frequently appears to be triggered by anxiety or stress. Conditions known to cause anxiety in susceptible dogs include a change in the social or physical environment or long periods of solitary confinement.

    Initially, a dog may only show the repetitive behavior when exposed to a situation that is stressful or increases his level of arousal. When a dog is repeatedly placed in a situation of conflict, the repetitive behavior exhibited may become ingrained. Once incorporated into the dog’s behavioral repertoire, compulsive behaviors will be performed even if the initiating stressors are removed. At this stage, the dog appears unable to control his own actions.


    Behavioral Problems and Your Cat: What You Need to Know

    Is your cat urinating outside the litterbox because she’s upset at changes in the household, or because she has a urinary tract infection? Is she clawing up the furniture because she’s upset, or because she’s sick?

    Cats are incredibly sensitive to stress, and that sensitivity often translates into genuine medical problems such as urinary tract and respiratory infections. What’s more, cats often hide signs of illness as part of their evolutionary defense against predators. That’s why behavior changes are often the only sign even the most attentive owner can pick up on that something’s wrong.

    On the other hand, sometimes a behavior problem actually is primarily a behavior problem. How can a pet owner know what’s really going on?

    Preemptive Care

    Your kitten is so cute and adorable — she could never do anything wrong. Or could she? Some kittens can be feline terrors, leading you to question your decision about bringing a kitten into your home. Before finding a new home or banishing your cat to the perilous outdoors, consider learning about the problem, how to deal with the behavior, and re-training your pet. With proper know-how, your cat can be a loving and playful member of the family, providing hours of amusement.

    The best way to deal with behavior problems is to avoid them in the first place. Learn the best way to socialize and introduce your new kitten to your home. If you are adopting an orphan kitten, be aware that they have their own set of issues.

    Dealing With Existing Issues

    Even though they have a reputation for being independent and self-sufficient, some cats develop behavior problems or bad habits that demand attention. Common behavioral problems include inappropriate elimination, aggression, fear, and separation anxiety. But those aren’t the only issues,, so you need to be aware of everything and watch out for warning signs.

    Once you understand what underlies your cat’s behavior and realize what is needed to correct the problem, you are well on your way to keeping your family intact.


    Compulsive Behavior

    Feline compulsive behaviors are based on natural behaviors that are somehow frustrated by management practices and/or restrictive environments. Compulsive behaviors may initially be expressed as displacement behaviors. For example, when a cat is torn between responding with aggression or running away, it may displace into a seemingly unrelated behavior, such as self-grooming, as a way of reducing emotional tension. If exposure to the anxiety-provoking stimulus continues, the cat may express the behavior repetitively and, finally, out of context.

    In the end-stage condition, even when the behavior has adverse consequences for the cat (i.e. pain), they will continue to engage in the behavior. The level of stimulation required to trigger the behavior decreases over time so that the behavior occurs in response to any level of arousal. Certain breeds seem prone to compulsive disorders, so genetic influences are likely involved. Genetics may determine which individuals display compulsive behaviors and what those compulsions are.

    Cat Scratch Fever

    Cats scratch to smooth out the rims of their claws, which gradually get frayed. Scratching is also an instinctive method of marking territory. Each scratch leaves secretions from glands in a cat’s feet, a scent that gets other cats’ attention.

    The cat’s retractable claws are also used for defense and add to the animal’s grace and acrobatic ability. But those claws can also rake a new sofa to shreds and lash a small child’s cheek during a playful encounter.

    Learn more about why cats scratch, and whether or not you should declaw your cat.

    Cats and Thunderstorms

    Few species — including humans — are happy to endure the sounds of a full-blown thunderstorm, complete with darkened skies, lightning, and crashing thunder. Some become extremely fearful to the point where they show a full-blown phobia.

    Before considering the specifics of thunderstorm phobia in cats, it is worth emphasizing that fear is a normal response to a fear-inducing situation or circumstance, whereas phobias are extreme and seemingly irrational fears in which the response has been magnified to the point of dysfunction. It is reasonable and biologically sensible to be a little uneasy during a lightning storm — to avoid open spaces and seek cover. But when an animal gets completely distraught at the first roll of thunder and harms himself to avoid the perceived mortal threat, then we are talking about phobia.

    Many cats, quite sensibly, tend to become nervous during storms and may remove themselves from the fray by hiding under a bed or in a cupboard. This self-preservation response qualifies as a fear. Unlike dogs, however, cats tend not to advance to the phobic stage, perhaps because their strategy of avoidance works. They hide; the storm passes; they emerge unscathed.

    When Longtime Feline Friends Turn Enemies

    If your formerly peaceable cats have started fighting, and things are looking serious, it’s probably not a situation that can be fixed.

    That’s the news from board certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Debra F. Horwitz at the 2016 NAVC Veterinary Conference in Orlando, Fla.

    What causes outbreaks of aggression between housemate cats? “Fights can occur between cats that have lived together for some time perhaps due to a change in social status or a traumatic event, fights may be the sequel to redirected aggressive behavior or another anxiety producing event, aggression may occur with the introduction of another cat, or due to illness or social changes within the home,” she said. “Fear, anxiety, and territorial responses all contribute to intercat aggression within a household.”

    First, the bad news: Dr. Horwitz said that severe territorial aggression between cats in a household has a poor prognosis, and even drug therapy is rarely curative. These cats will probably need to live entirely separately at all times and permanently, or one of the cats will need to be rehomed.

    In such cases, she said, “Cats may begin to fight when a young resident cat reaches social maturity (between 1 and 2 years of age), when an aging cat leaves the home or changes in their interactions with the other cats, another cat enters the home, or resident cats experience a shift is social relationships.”

    Signs that suggest the dispute is about territory include:

    • The “aggressor” cat will usually chase the “victim” cat
    • One cat may restrict where they go to keep away from the aggressor
    • Vocalizing, hissing, growling, and yowling

    Owners often think the cat who is vocalizing is the aggressor, she said, but “most often it is the victim who is doing the vocalization.”

    Despite the poor prognosis in cases of extreme social and territorial aggression, there are steps that can be taken in less-severe situations.

    “Immediately after a fight, owners must separate the cats until they both calm down. The best way to calm an agitated cat is to put the cat in a darkened room with food, water, and litter box and leave it there,” Dr. Horwitz said. “Keep the cat in the dark until it is calm, which can take hours to several days. The owner can go in only to turn on the light, feed the cat, and then leave.”


    The sign the cat may be ready to rejoin the rest of the household is when he or she approaches the owner in a calm manner with a relaxed body posture. Rushing this step can prolong the aggressive stage and may make the problem worse.

    “Even after release of the aggressor cat, it may be necessary to create separate areas for food, resting places, and litter boxes for each cat,” Dr. Horwitz cautioned. “Do not cluster these materials together, but spread throughout the environment keeping in mind how the various cats access the space available to them. It also might be helpful for the aggressor to wear a quick release/elastic cat collar with a large bell that will forewarn the victim of their approach allowing escape.”

    Additional management and behavior modification approaches may be helpful. Cat owners experiencing these problems are encouraged to seek the help of a board-certified veterinary behaviorist before the intercat aggression is so severe it cannot be remedied.



    Dealing with a Fearful Dog

    Dealing with a Dogs with Fears 

    It’s heartbreaking to see an anxious dog respond to everyday events by trembling, cowering, balking on his leash – or even biting. If your dog seems generally uneasy, or is frightened by specific places or events, you’ll be happy to hear that he can learn to become more confident.

    Fear Can Be Good in Dogs

    Fear can be a useful emotion for your dog. It warns him that something potentially painful, threatening, or dangerous is on the horizon, which may motivate him to escape. Or, if some ominous creature is approaching, his fear may lead to self-defense, perhaps causing the threat to withdraw.

    Is Dog Fear Learned or Innate?

    Fear may be a learned behavior, or it may be an intrinsic part of your dog’s personality. Some dogs are simply predisposed to be anxious and jumpy, just as others are stoic and resilient. The former may react with fear even to ordinary situations. For example, if your dog’s last veterinary visit was a little upsetting, you may have to carry him in for his next visit. Alternatively, a relatively resilient dog may acquire his fear because of an overwhelming, unforgettable adverse circumstance or event. Some important reasons for learned fear (and its exaggerated partner, phobia) include physical punishment, improper crating or other close confinements, and loud noises. If pushed far enough, your fearful or anxious dog may attempt to escape (sometimes frantically), submissively urinate, or even bite.

    Treatment of Fearful Behavior in Dogs

    Regardless of its specific roots, there are some common denominators in treating fearful dogs. First, because fear is stressful, and because stress and anxiety interfere with behavior modification, some veterinarians believe anti-anxiety medication may sometimes be helpful. Medication can be used for short-term or long-term management of the problem. 

    Second, and especially if the cause of your dog’s fear is known, it helps to expose your dog to the feared situation incrementally while rewarding his calm behavior (a technique known as desensitization). For example, if your dog panics when a rollerblader whizzes by while you’re in the park, take him home and rehearse the basic commands “sit” and “stay,” using small food rewards. Then, take him back to the park and, working at a distance from the rollerbladers, rehearse the commands again there. Slowly inch toward the place where people are skating and continue to repeat the sit-stays at intervals, rewarding calm behavior and not catering to any mild apprehension. Your dog should never be allowed to become overtly fearful during the desensitization process. If he does, you have approached too quickly and should back off before starting again. As long as progress is made at each exposure, and your rewards are well timed, your dog will eventually be able to remain calm even when close to the skaters.

    Dealing with a Biting Dog

    Biting can be a troublesome outcome of fear. If your dog is aggressive through fear, your veterinarian can refer you to a behavior specialist for help with retraining. With patience and consistent effort, your dog may once again – or for the first time – become confident and calm in the face of what once was perceived by him as danger.

    Coprophagia (Eating Feces Behavior) in Dogs

    Dealing with Dogs that Eat Feces (Poop)

    Coprophagia is the practice of eating stool (feces). There’s nothing more disgusting to a dog owner than seeing their dog eat its own or another dog’s stool, and then to have the dog saunter up, tail wagging, looking for a kiss and a few kind words.

    “Why on earth would dogs do such a repulsive thing?” an owner might ask. What on earth is the attraction in this behavior? We may never know for sure but we do have an inkling about what initiates the behavior and can surmise how and why it continues.

    The Facts About Coprophagia and Dogs

    Coprophagia is not an abnormal behavior for canines in certain situations. Bitches naturally consume their own pup’s feces – presumably, to keep the nest clean. This behavior provides a survival benefit as it prevents unhygienic conditions from developing in the nest; a state of affairs that could lead to disease. The biological drive to eat feces, which is implanted as a survival instinct, compels nursing bitches to ingest their pups’ feces.

    In addition, many puppies go through an oral stage in which they explore everything with their mouths, sometimes ingesting a variety of non-food items, including feces.

    As time goes by, the majority of pups eventually learn that food tastes better than feces and they swear off the stool-eating habit for the rest of their lives. Some older puppies may continue to eat feces for a few months, but most grow out of the habit after the first year.

    Barring nursing bitches, the majority of “normal” adult dogs have absolutely no interest in eating feces.

    When Coprophagia Is a Problem for Dogs

    Slow learners, “oral retentives,” and pups in which habits are easily ingrained may continue to engage in coprophagia well beyond the accepted “norm” and may engage in it to excess. Such hard-core coprophagics continue the behavior long after their peers have developed new interests. Dogs like this, that seem addicted to the habit, may best be described as “compulsive.”

    Below is a list of possible contributing factors though more than one may be operating in any one case. 

  • The opportunity to observe the dam eating stool
  • High protein, low residue, puppy food
  • Irregular feeding schedule
  • Feeding inadequate amounts of food
  • Under-stimulating environment
  • Constant opportunity to ingest feces
  • Inadequate attention/supervision

    Diagnostic Tests for Dogs that Eat Stool

    Whether by nature, nurture, or a combination of factors, coprophagy rears its ugly head as a persistent and irritating habit that some long-suffering dog owners seem fated to endure. There are several different forms of coprophagy but, whatever form it takes, there are probably similar drives and predilections operating. Variations on the theme include:

  • Dogs that are partial only to their own stool
  • Dogs that eat only other dogs’ stool
  • Dogs that eat stool only in the winter if it is frozen solid (“poopsicles”)
  • Dogs that eat only the stool of various other species, often cats
  • Therapy for Dogs that Eat Stool

    There are some “home” remedies that have been practiced, but they rarely work. Here are a few:

  • Adding Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer® or Forbid®, commercially available preparations of pancreatic enzymes, to the dog’s food
  • Adding crushed breath mints to the diet
  • “Doctoring” each stool with Tabasco® in the hopes of discouraging the dog from the habit

    The following strategies have met with more success, though it is important to note that results vary:

  • Picking up all available stools (i.e. denying access)
  • Escorting the dog into a “picked up” area and walking him back inside the house immediately after he has successfully passed a bowel movement and before he even has a chance to investigate the fruits of his labor
  • Some dogs try to circumvent their owner’s control by eating the stool as it emerges and for these incorrigible few a muzzle may be necessary
  • Changing the dog’s diet and feeding schedule so that high fiber rations are fed frequently and perhaps by free choice. Hill’s r/d Prescription Diet®, a diet that contains 10 percent fiber is a good option. It may work by allowing the dog to eat to satiation without gaining weight, or it may alter the texture of the dog’s stool, making it less palatable. Dry food seems more effective than wet food in curtailing coprophagia
  • Lifestyle enrichment is also helpful. Make sure your dog has plenty of exercise and spends plenty of quality time with you each day. Some dogs respond when a “Get a job program” is implemented. Such a program is designed to encourage the dog to exercise his natural tendencies by means of activities like chasing, fetching, walking, pseudo-hunting, fly ball, agility training, etc.
  • Teach the LEAVE IT command 

    Although some of the above measures have occasionally been found effective on their own, it best to apply a whole program of prevention for at least six months to nip the behavior in the bud. If during this time, if the dog gets access to stool and ingests it, some ground will be lost. Hopefully, though, progress will eventually be made, even if it’s one step back for every two forward. 

    Despite all these modifications in environment and training, some dogs persist in the habit of coprophagia. For these dogs, the compulsive disorder diagnosis may be worth considering. Some obstinate cases respond to the judicious use of human anti-depressants. 

    Although controversial, the obsessive-compulsive disorder diagnosis seems to fill the bill, on occasion at least, and it meets a couple of the scientific criteria for diagnosis.

  • Face validity: The dog appears obsessed with eating stool and compelled to ingest it.
  • Predictive validity: Extreme, refractory, coprophagy should follow a genetic predilection, occurring more frequently in anxious breeds of dog. The latter appears to be true, as the condition seems to be more common in certain breeds (e.g. retrievers). Also, the condition should, and often does, respond to therapy with anti-obsessional drugs.