The results from a survey have just been published by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) looking at the reasons that vets are asked to euthanise healthy pets. Sadly over half (53%) of the vets that responded said it was not a rare occurrence and more shocking 98% of vets said the reason the guardians gave was their pets behaviour.
The first thing that sprung to my mind was that just imagine how the world would be if we took the same logic and applied it to children. I definitely wouldn’t be here now I am sure and many of my friends would not be either.
However when I think about consultations where the dog is trying to escape and bite me I am not as surprised as I was. Why? Because whilst the dog is trying to do this often the guardian is telling the dog it will be ok, is giving the dog loads of attention, and is cuddling the dog.
Maybe this would work for a child (or maybe not I don’t know humanz sorry!) however for a dog what this does is tell it that it is ok to bark, ok to try and escape, and ok to try and bite me. A dog doesn’t understand human language – a dog understands the tone of voice, the actions, the feelings of the guardians, and the cuddles as positive things. The dog then associates these positive things with the actions performed so next time the actions will be increased to get more attention.
This is why vets will often take your dog or cat back to a treatment room to have a nurse restrain them to carry out the procedure. Being calm and giving the right message along with reinforcing positive behaviour is going make the next visit easier.
Now if you consider this scenario, and how easy the wrong behaviour of the dog was encouraged with the vet you can imagine how easy it could be for a guardian to reinforce bad behaviour at home. Personally I believe that there is no such thing as a bad animal, it is the environment, socialisation and interaction with humans.
It’s almost like having two countries where in one they speak dog, and in the other they speak human. On my second day here in Slovakia I went to the supermarket, and here all ham is sold on the deli-counter. So I pointed at what I wanted, and the person working said something I didn’t understand, I said I didn’t understand and they said it louder. It ended up with them shouting at me. Now this made me think I was crazy to be in Slovakia, to not want to be there, and extremely frustrated as I wanted ham and I couldn’t get it.
So what is the solution? If we as humans take guardianship of an animal then it is our responsibility to find out how to communicate with them. It is our responsibility to realise what they are saying even is this is difficult.
I heard a story once of a dog that kept taking the guardian’s shoes – the dog associated the shoes with going outside as the guardian put them on every time they went out. So the dog wanted to go outside so took the shoes to the guardian so that they could go out.
If you have problems with a pet then you can get help – vets are learning more about behaviour and can help you – and there are plenty of behaviour experts that are available on vet referral to work with you as well. If you would like to find out more about behaviour in your pet then I would recommend visiting the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors here.