Animal Behavior

Trisha Consunji: 916-649-0599 (California Veterinary Medical Association)


Pet Misbehaving? Call a Veterinarian for Help

Sacramento, California – Bad behavior is the most common reason pets are surrendered by owners to other homes or shelters or, sadly, sometimes abused or euthanized, according to the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA). This may be because few animal owners realize experts uniquely qualified in pet behavior modification are ready to help.

Phil Johnson of Granite Bay, California didn’t know about board-certified veterinary behaviorists. He did a favor for a friend by taking in her pet puppy. Phil, his wife and their four young kids adopted four-month-old “Tucker,” a Labrador Retriever and Border Collie mix. They thought he would make a nice companion for their well-behaved 4-year-old Tibetan Terrier.

However, the Johnsons were forced to give up Tucker when they could no longer put up with the dog’s uncontrollable behavior. Following more than a thousand dollars in household repairs, Tucker now has a new home. “Tucker practically messed up everything he could get his paws on,” said Johnson, still reeling from paying all the hefty repair bills. “He chewed on and ruined my wife’s silk drapes, ate our chairs, messed all over our carpets and spotted our lawn. The last straw came when he dug up our water lines and chomped on all our pool equipment.”

Johnson and his wife grew up with dogs, employed the usual training techniques and tried everything with Tucker. They sought advice from friends but they didn’t know a veterinarian could help and were unaware there were board-certified veterinary behaviorists trained to remedy such problems.

“We urge pet owners to see a veterinarian first when bad behavior surfaces because a veterinarian can determine whether a medical problem is contributing to the behavior problem,” said CVMA past-president Ron Faoro, DVM. “Veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions and recommend proper treatment. In cases where there is not a contributing health factor, veterinarians may refer the pet owner to a board-certified veterinary behavior specialist for therapy.”

“Early intervention is key for a pet owner when it comes to preventing a dog or cat’s behavior problems,” added Melissa Bain, DVM, faculty at UC Davis’ Veterinary Medical Hospital and one of California’s six board-certified veterinary behaviorists. “Puppies need to be socialized and trained at an early age. After 14 weeks socialization becomes more difficult. For cats, litter training is also an important step in preventing problems.”

Dr. Bain cautions that anyone can call themselves an animal trainer or behaviorist and, while some may be good at what they do, she recommends pet owners seek a veterinarian first, particularly if a dog or cat becomes too aggressive, which could lead to harm.

She adds that pet owners should live up to their responsibilities as well by:

  • Selecting the right breed for the family’s lifestyle and environment.
  • Not confining animals to small places.
  • Avoiding rewarding anxious behaviors and instead reinforcing good and relaxed behaviors.
  • Helping dogs not to be anxious when alone by using a dog sitter or doggie day care.
  • Allowing dogs to view the world through a bright window.
  • Sheltering dogs from extreme heat or cold.
  • Being mindful of a dog’s behavior after a move or the absence of a dog’s favorite family member.


To access past CVMA press releases, visit the CVMA Media Center in the News Room at


The California Veterinary Medical Association is the largest state veterinary medical association in the United States, with more than 7,000 members. Founded in 1888, its mission is to serve its membership and community through innovative leadership and to improve animal and human health in an ethically and socially responsible manner.

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