Trauma in pets, part 1

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TRAUMA: Can have a lifelong impact on cats and dogs.

SOME cats and dogs have the best start in life but still grow up with behavioural concerns being fearful.

Others that missed out on critical socialisation experiences such as puppies or abandoned kittens which impacted their development.

But what about dogs who can have it worse? How does trauma impact our pets?

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Some of the cats and dogs we take into our homes don’t just come from neglectful pasts but have lived with outright abuse.

Sometimes this abuse has been due to mistreatment at the hands of a past owner, and sometimes it has happened in the current home despite the owner’s best intentions.

Trauma has a lifelong impact on many cats and dogs.

Dog Training is still an unregulated field, which means there are still many so-called trainers who use aversive training techniques to address behavioural problems.

This is the reason why there are many organisations for the premier experts in animal behaviour.

Although much progress has been made, many trainers and people have a position statement regarding the use of punishment in training.

Manufacturing fear or avoidance in an already panicked animal does not create an environment where critical learning can take place.

I have heard of trainers in this day and age using electrical collars on dogs who suffer from separation anxiety for barking, hanging dog-aggressive dogs by their neck when they lunged at others, and strapping electronic collars to dogs’ genitals in the name of behaviour modification.

Remember that you are your pet’s advocate. If something doesn’t seem right to you, it is up to you to put your foot down and protect your pet.

Even something as seemingly mild as squirting a reactive pet with a water bottle or gently placing a frightened cat or dog into a fear-inducing situation and preventing that cat or dog from leaving can have long-lasting consequences.

While you may have had the best intentions when you followed the advice of the trainer on TV or tried a technique that your ‘friend’ swears by, if your dog responded by panicking or shutting down and if you’ve noticed your dog’s behaviour has deteriorated since then, it’s possible that your dog could be experiencing a canine version of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS).

It is time to discuss this with your vet who might well refer you to a behaviour consultant.

More to follow…

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