All of us with animals in our lives occasionally witness behaviors which we hope never to see exhibited again. A deliberate indoor urination accident, digging up the freshly planted flower garden, and cribbing are often a means of acting out from frustration, anger, disappointment, boredom, or are a means of testing just exactly how much is going to be allowed.
When clients call with behavior related questions, I am careful to not jump to conclusions about the root cause of the issue. True, often there is an obvious disconnect between the human and animal in terms of strong leadership, enough exercise, or good ongoing training and reinforcement. Dogs and horses in particular need consistent training and leadership, but other animals also pick up on leadership qualities in their humans and will generally respond accordingly.
Many behaviors are deeper and may indicate other factors. If you begin to witness changes in your pet that you’ve never seen exhibited before, consider their age. For some aging animals, eyesight, loss of hearing, and loss of mobility due to arthritis may bring about changes. Stiff joints may reduce their ability to get outside or get into their litter box fast enough to avoid an accident. There may be ways to assist, like moving their favorite bed closer to the dog door or finding a litter box with lower sides for easier access. Skittishness, increased barking or yowling, and fear behaviors may accompany a loss of an animal’s sense of sight, hearing, or smell. The slow onset of senility can bring about these same types of changes in behavior. A gentle understanding and explanation of the changes can be helpful for both animal and humans in the household.
Changes in an animal’s environment can also bring about short-term or long-term behavioral changes. Loss of a loved one – animal or human – is devastating to our pets and they need time and support to work through their grief. Even short-term loss such as the departure of a teenager to a semester at college is confusing and your pet may mourn that loss of the daily interaction with their friend. You understand your student will return for weekends and holidays, but until a few cycles of departure and return are witnessed by your animals, it may not be clear to them.
Medical issues can cause changes in behaviors, and regular checkups are critical in your health care routine for your beloved companions. Some medical causes of behavioral changes may not be readily obvious and checking in with your pet through an animal communicator may provide answers and symptoms to help health care practitioners provide excellent care.
Daily observation goes a long way in understanding behaviors, but when causes of a shift in behavior is not obvious, check with your animal health practitioner and then determine if additional information from your pet through a professional communicator is appropriate.