Animal Management officers are regularly required to respond to animals showing a wide variety of behaviours but most common are barking and escaping.
Whilst these behaviours can be exhibited by fearful, anxious, and stressed dogs excessive or extreme problem behaviours may indicate a deeper problem.
Poor Training Vs Mental Health
Understanding the underlying cause of these behaviours and the difference between poor training and a potentially more serious mental health disorder is vital in being able to communicate effectively with animal owners, ensure the safety of the wider community, and help provide the best possible care for each individual animal.
For many animal owners an interaction with an Animal Management officer may be the first time anyone has raised the issue of their animal’s behaviour.
Being able to refer pet owners to the right support for their animal is vital in helping reduce the relinquishment rate of pets to shelters, pounds, and rescues, or using valuable resources in the ongoing handling of problem behaviours.
Recognising Training Problems
Generally training problems are behaviours that are entirely normal for a dog but socially unacceptable to either the animal owner or the community at large.
Problem behaviours can be excessive but can usually be eliminated or effectively managed by engaging a force-fee trainer.
Examples of behaviours considered a training problem include:
- Jumping or other ‘bad manners’
- Pulling on the lead
- Boisterous behaviour
- Barking (in some cases)
Recognising Potential Mental Health Disorders
Studies show between 1 in every 5 to 7 dogs and cats have a diagnosable mental health disorder (Kersti Seksel, 2011)
Often labelled simplistically as ‘anxiety’ mental health disorders in animals are a significant welfare issue and have serious implications on the way they interact with their owners as well as the community at large.
Unlike training problems dogs with a mental health disorder have a chemical imbalance in their brain which causes them to display behaviours that are abnormal, irrational, out of context, excessive, and/or inappropriate.
It’s common for dogs with a mental health disorder to waste excessive amounts of energy (maladaptive) or be detrimental to their own health and welfare or those around them. Their behaviours can be extremely disruptive to the household they live in or happen at an excessive level.
Examples of mental health disorders include:
- Separation anxiety
- Aggression towards people, other animals, or other dogs
- Phobias or an excessive response to noises, situations and thunderstorms
- Fearful behaviour
- Compulsive disorders such as tail chasing, flank sucking and shadow chasing
Animal Mental Health Disorders are a medical condition and as such require diagnosis and treatment by a Veterinarian, not solely a trainer.
Supporting Pet Owners
To ensure you do no harm with your advice we recommend you refer any significant or ongoing problem behaviours to a qualified Force-Free Trainer or Veterinarian to assess for training problems or a potential mental health disorder.
Our Animal Management Officer training program focuses on safe handling and management, including in depth information on understanding and assessing behaviours that may indicate a mental health condition or training problem.
Available as both an online program or in person training. Click HERE to find out more.