5 Common Behaviour Disorders

Author: Amy Holloway

Did you enjoy your evening with JT? We certainly did! Well, what can we say, other than this week’s Dog Behaviour Event was amazing! We’ve had some absolutely fantastic feedback so far from attendees and we’re looking forward to working with many of them in the near future on their dog’s behavioural issues.

Many of the pets JT sees in practice have a very severe behavioural issue, mainly because it’s typically at this point when an owner seeks qualified professional help. We wanted to share some of JT’s knowledge and advice about dog behaviour so that owners are better able to spot behaviours that are and could become an issue earlier in their dog’s life, which can often make treatment more effective.

‘An evening with JT’ proved so popular with local residents that we had to move the venue to the St John’s School hall next door. 101 people registered for the event and we had well over 70 there on the night, a great mix of current clients and new faces.

Some of our feedback:
“A good overview of behavioural issues and traits. Good to include self-help ideas. Q&A session very interesting”

“Informative, very well organised, great and suitable venue. General topics covered – obviously very difficult to cover ALL issues in one short session. Informal and casual which created a good atmosphere. A great evening thankyou!”

JT began the evening with an upbeat presentation on what veterinary behavioural medicine is and how dogs are affected by behavioural disorders. As it is such a wide topic and JT’s presentation was so jam-packed, we’re going to share some valuable insights and tips with you over a series of articles, starting with:

The 5 most common behavioural disorders JT sees in practice:

Generalised anxiety

This is the most common underlying behaviour disorder seen in practice. These dogs are normally described by their owners as being ‘neurotic’, ‘nervous’ or ‘sensitive’ and are known for their inability to cope with changes or to learn new behaviours. These animals have an immense need for predictability and stability in their environments. Generalised anxiety is the most common underlying disorder and tends to lead to a variety of other behaviour displays.

Noise fear/phobia

Phobias are extreme and long-lasting fears that are disproportionate to the level of actual threat. Dogs with noise phobias show distressed behavioural signs that range from mild (panting, pacing, lip-licking, shaking fur, hiding) to very severe (like trembling, chewing furniture, self-trauma or loss of bladder/bowel control). Some dogs will try to escape by digging, breaking windows, scratching doors or even making holes in walls.

Aggression (towards people, animals, etc)

The vast majority of times, aggression problems are driven by anxiety/fear. This is primarily a ‘fight or flight’ response as dogs that display this behaviour are literally fearing for their survival. Aggressive behaviour is context and response-dependent and it is not a trait of personality. Most dogs tend to only show overt aggressive behaviour after trying (unsuccessfully) other milder forms of appeasement behaviour.

Separation-related anxiety/distress

This is a syndrome characterised by a dog’s inability to be either left alone or without a particular person/animal. The behavioural signs are very similar to the ones shown by dogs phobic of loud noises and could include destructive behaviour, indoor ‘accidents’, excessive barking or over attempts to escape and reunite with the owner. The causes of these behaviours are not yet completely understood, which might explain why some of these cases are very hard to manage.

Compulsive behaviours (similar to human OCD)

A compulsive behaviour is an abnormal, invariant, repetition of a behavioural pattern that serves no apparent function, although initially, it might serve as a coping mechanism to either conflicting emotions or frustration, inability to cope with a particular situation, or a central nervous system dysfunction. Some examples of compulsive behaviours in dogs are tail chasing, flank sucking and acral lick dermatitis (licking paws incessantly with no underlying skin condition). Behavioural signs consistent with compulsive disorders warrant a thorough veterinary check, as for example:

  • neurological signs may be due to partial (focal) seizures;
  • self-traumatic disorders may be due to food intolerance;
  • oral and ingestive behaviours may be caused by gastrointestinal diseases.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing more valuable information and tips from JT’s talk so keep checking back on our blog and Facebook pages. We’ll be running a similar event for cat owners in early 2018 too.