All to Know About Pet Therapy

Your dog or cat may have some awfully bad habits that bothers you. Certified applied animal behaviorist Stephen L. Zawistowski, PhD, science adviser to the ASPCA says; “Ten to 15 percent of owners say that they have pet behavior issues.”

Your pet may need therapy if their behaviours puts him in danger and is a threat to others.

Dog behavior consultant Michael Shikashio said;

“Any time the safety or well-being of either the pet or human is in question, a professional should be brought in to determine the best course of action. It doesn’t have to be as severe as aggression. An animal exhibiting eccentric behavior like excessive tail-chasing could be suffering from underlying issues.”

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Shikashio added that a pet owner shouldn’t expect a quick fix to the behavioral issue.

These are some of the behavior issues common among cats and dogs:


A pet may become aggressive when he is protective of his home or family, possessive of his food, bed or toys, fearful, or just want to be dominant.

Signs of aggression in dogs include charging, showing teeth, growling, barking, nipping, snarling, biting, and snapping.

Going for a walk in the neighborhood provides so much stimulation in some dogs that it makes them feel more alert and aggressive. These are dogs that may benefit from “growl” classes, or reactive dog classes.

Behaviorists put together two to four dogs in a controlled situation, to teach them social skills, Zawistowski says. The dogs and their owners are under strict supervision and given plenty of space. Each dog is slowly trained to be able to get closer to the other dogs without showing signs of aggression. These classes can help your canine become more relaxed whenever other dogs or people are around. This will lead to more enjoyable walks for the dog, owner and others around.

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Signs of aggression in cats include growling, hissing, biting, swishing his tail, exposing teeth or claws, scratching, staring, flattening of his ears or howling.

Some cats don’t like being petted for long. They may let you know by whacking your hand away with a claw. Cats are territorial animals, and may not want certain people or animals in their areas. Mother cats may act aggressively if they think their kittens are threatened. Other cats practice “redirected aggression” — they may see another cat through a window, and scratch the people or animals that they can reach. Cats that are in pain, for any reason, can turn aggressive.

If your cat is showing aggression and you can’t figure out why, you should have her examined by your vet to see if something physical may be causing the behavior. If pain is ruled out, a behaviorist who works with cats may be able to help.


Some things that can upset your pets include being left alone, loud noises, or even a change in routine.

Animals can display anxiety in several ways. In case of a dog, he may show this by whining, panting or pacing. A cat may hide or meow. Both can also be destructive: relieving themselves where they shouldn’t, and destroying things around the house. Some pets lick themselves so hard that their fur comes off and their skin is raw.

Zawistowski stated that dogs are social animals, and if you live alone and work long hours, your absence could upset your dog.

“Animals who don’t have their mental and physical enrichment needs met can display undesirable behaviors,” Shikashio says.

If your dog is just bored, increasing walks and spending more time with him may help. But if he is truly afraid when you aren’t home, you may need to consult with a behaviorist.

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“Typical cat behavior issues can include litter box problems and clawing at personal belongings,” Shikashio says.

A cat may become upset if you’ve moved or changed the litter box. If you started dating someone new, this may also upset your cat.

Once the root of the problem is discovered, it’s easier to address.

“If you have a very high-anxiety dog or cat, it’s difficult to do behavior modification without the help of prescription anxiety medications used to relax the animals,” Zawistowski says.

The medication can help get the animals comfortable with the behavior changes, and they can later be weaned off after their behavior becomes normal.


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