Reinforcing Positive Behavior in Dogs from Adolescence and Beyond

Dog Behavior
Puppies typically enjoy playing with other puppies and may not demonstrate any problem behaviors toward any other dog.  Lange Animal Clinic veterinarians in Pekin, IL advise that in order to understand our dogs’ behavior toward other dogs, one must understand contributing factors toward the dog’s development from a puppy.  For example, a dog’s behavior will highly depend upon its environment- it may change depending on the circumstances and other individuals involved.

The reality is that the world is not divided into dogs who are “good with other dogs” and those who are “not good with other dogs”.  A particular dog can react aggressively if certain factors are present, just as any human can use verbal or physical aggression if instigated at various levels.  These interactions between dogs are determined by factors during upbringing such as the quantity of dogs involved/interacted with, the location, and the level of interactivity and the ages of the dogs.  Naturally, the behavior of each dog has an impact on all the others.

Lange Animal Clinic offers some guidelines to help adolescent/adult dogs behave and interact better with those around him/her:

  • Try to avoid overly-excessive play situations. It is the rare adolescent dog who can remain calm and play appropriately when surrounded by other young, excited dogs.  If your dog plays too roughly in these situations, remove him or her:  select quieter, less stressing surroundings for him.  Frequent the dog park only when fewer dogs are present, making sure that at least some of them are mature adults.  Well-socialized adult dogs are valuable park-buddies for “teen” dogs, as they can teach them appropriate behavior without causing harm.
  • Consistently provide interaction with your adolescent dog to well-behaved adult dogs. By definition, the phrase “well behaved” means the adult dog interacts well with young dogs but will interrupt unacceptable/rough behavior.  Adult dogs typically use eye contact and tall, still postures to discourage unwanted contact.  Interruptions normally consist of a quick, deep sound (not a confrontation) lasting several seconds.  If the adult dog does go after the adolescent, this is inappropriate and must be interrupted.
  • Continually enforce calm behavior. If you are taking a walk with your dog and are approaching a dog park or playgroup and your dog starts barking excessively, turn around and walk him/her away.  Leave the area or venue abruptly.  If your dog absolutely will not calm down, take him/her back home.  This may seem mean at first, but preventing your dog from this type of overly excited behavior will pay off in the long run.
  • Promote only desirable behavior with your dog. Keep in mind, behavior will strengthen with practice so be certain that your dog practices only positive behavior.  Dependent upon the activity, always question whether or not the behavior is helping or hindering your dog’s interaction with others.  Maybe going to the dog park is resulting in enjoyable and positive experiences in your dog or on the contrary- is it teaching Fido to chase and boss around every dog he or she sees?  Does leaving your dog in the backyard is permit him/her to bark at or motion aggressively toward people or other dogs walking by?  Be sure to choose new activities for your dog if his current ones are reinforcing bad habits.
  • Enforce calming techniques to your dog. Consider leashing your dog while you enjoy a movie and ignore him or her.  Should he or she jump on the couch into your lap, delicately move him or her away from you with the leash.   Wait until he settles quietly on the floor, then quietly praise him.  If he jumps up again, start over.  Practicing this “Settle” exercise regularly will teach your dog that calm behavior is the way to get your attention.

Reinforcing positive behavior in your dog at an early age will promote positive behavior later down the road.  Speak with a Lange Animal Clinic veterinarian for more ideas on how to help with behavioral training in your pets.


For over 45 years, Lange Animal Clinic has provided veterinary services in Pekin, IL and the surrounding areas for over three family generations. Our expert staff of Veterinarians, Veterinary Technicians, and Veterinary Assistants are trained to ensure the best quality medical care for your beloved pets-whether it be as a routine medical examination to more complicated surgical procedures. We are a small companion animal clinic providing services for dogs, cats, and exotic pets.

Dr. Colleen O’Rourke, owner and senior Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, takes great pride in making certain that every patient’s experience is handled with the utmost care, compassion, and economically in the best interests of our clients. Visit us at www.langeanimal.com.  

About Us 
Our Services
Setup an Appointment

Thunderstorms and Easing Your Pets’ Fear

tstorm

It is still relevantly unknown as to why some pets become afraid of noises such as thunderstorms.  This is a common problem in dogs, but less so in cats. The fear can soon become a phobia for a pet causing irrational fear response(s) and behavior issues. In the case of thunderstorms, pets may be fearful of storm-associated events such as a change in barometric pressure, lightning, electrostatic disturbances, and even smells associated with the storms. Noise phobias can include fear of thunder and severe gusts of wind knocking down larger outdoor items.

Some studies suggest that certain breeds of dogs have an above average risk of developing noise phobias. These include such breeds as: Collies, German Shepherds, Beagles, and Basset Hounds. A noise phobia may be traced to a particular bad experience of a noise, but often, no triggering event can be ascertained. In most cases, the fear of noises and storms can progressively worsen. Over time, a pet may become fearful of similar sounds or events associated with the noise.

Lange Animal Clinic veterinarians in Pekin, IL believe that an owner’s attitude can influence the severity of the fear. For instance, if owners themselves are nervous during storms, noise phobias in their pets may occur more often or become more severe. Similarly, if the owner attempts to overly comfort the animal, the animal interprets it as confirming there really is something to be afraid of. The over petting or comforting is really positive reinforcement of an undesirable behavior.

Signs or behaviors to watch for during Thunderstorms

Dogs or cats may display different signs of noise phobias which may include one or more of the following:

  • Hiding (most common sign in cats)
  • Urinating
  • Defecating
  • Chewing
  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Trying to escape (digging, jumping through windows or going through walls, running away)
  • Drooling
  • Seeking the owner
  • Expressing anal glands
  • Not eating
  • Not listening to commands
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Vocalizing (barking or meowing)

Consult with a Lange Animal Clinic veterinarian to help you address any animal behavior problems.  We will assist you in developing the appropriate treatment plan for your pet.

How do you treat noise phobia?

There are no guarantees that a noise phobia can be eliminated completely, but in most cases the fear can be effectively managed. The type of treatment and success levels depend on several factors including the severity of the phobia, how long your pet has had to deal with it, how often it is occurring, seasonality, and the amount of time you are willing to dedicate to correcting the behavior.

The first thing to remember is that you should refrain from giving excessive attention or punishment for fearful behavior. Continuous petting or coddling may be perceived by the pet as a reward for the fearful response. In the event of overcompensating comfort a dog during a storm, for example, it may signal to the pet that the storm really is something he should be afraid of. Similarly, the pet should not be punished for showing fear. This will only increase his anxiety level. Instead, emit confidence, and provide your dog attention in the form of playing, grooming, or other activities he or she enjoys.

The following are some techniques to use to help change the phobia of thunderstorms:

Change the surroundings
By changing the surroundings of the animal during the storm or noise, the anxiety level can be reduced. Changing the pet’s surroundings may reduce the volume level of the sound or help make the pet less aware of it.  “White noise,” such as running a fan or air conditioner may aid in blocking out some of the fear-producing noise. Playing a TV or radio can have a similar effect. Allowing the pet access to the basement or a room without outside walls or windows may decrease the noise level

Exercise your pet (and yourself too!)
The pet should receive consistent exercise on a daily basis, and more so on a day when the thunderous noise occur during storms. The exercise will help to wear down your animal, both mentally and physically, and may reduce the pet’s responsive to the noise. In addition, exercise has the effect of increasing natural serotonin levels, which can act as a sedative.

Create a safety zone for your pet
Pets may feel more comfortable and relaxed in a small space such as a crate or a small room like a bathroom (run the fan and leave the lights on). Some pets seek out the safety of the bathtub or shower during a storm. (Some have hypothesized that a pet may feel less static electricity if on tile or porcelain.) If the pet is comfortable in a crate, the crate can be covered with a blanket to add to the feeling of security. The door to the crate should be left open and the pet should not be confined to the crate, which could dramatically increase the stress level.

Maintain calm and composure
Pets can very easily pickup on the mental state of their owners. If you too are nervous because of the storm- this will only add to the dog or cat’s fear. Your pet will look to you for direction, so keep an “upbeat” and “in charge” attitude.

Maintain good health and nutrition
Health problems may increase the stress level of pets, and increase their anxiety. For instance, a dog in pain because of hip dysplasia may be more irritable and prone to other behavior changes. Diets too high in protein have been linked to some behavioral problems. Consult one of the Lange Animal Clinic veterinarians if you would like advice about changing your pet’s diet.

Special techniques can be used to help change the animal’s response to the noise.  We can offer guidance and suggestions to help.  Second level alternatives may include anti-anxiety medications but we strongly encourage following the above techniques first to identify whether or not success can be achieved using those methods before relying on medications.


For over 45 years, Lange Animal Clinic has provided veterinary services in Pekin, IL and the surrounding areas for over three family generations. Our expert staff of Veterinarians, Veterinary Technicians, and Veterinary Assistants are trained to ensure the best quality medical care for your beloved pets-whether it be as a routine medical examination to more complicated surgical procedures. We are a small companion animal clinic providing services for dogs, cats, and exotic pets.

Dr. Colleen O’Rourke, owner and senior Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, takes great pride in making certain that every patient’s experience is handled with the utmost care, compassion, and economically in the best interests of our clients. Visit us at www.langeanimal.com.  

About Us 
Our Services
Setup an Appointment

Aggression Between Cats

Aggression between Cats

Your cat’s best friend may not be another cat. Cats are very territorial creatures and often vehemently defend their turf. And even cats who have gotten along in the past may start to rub one another the wrong way. But you can help get their relationship back on track and the veterinarians at Lange Animal Clinic in Pekin, IL 61554 recommends some techniques to reduce aggression with cats.

Adding a another cat in the household

Many people adopt a second cat thinking that the resident cat will be appreciate the companionship. This can be a risky move. The fact that your cat is sweet and loving with you doesn’t mean he’s going to be sweet to another cat. Because cats are territorial, it’s not uncommon for the addition of a new cat to the household to create some inter-cat strife.

Although you can increase the chances that they will get along or at least tolerate one another by making proper introductions, there’s no way to predict whether cats will get along with each other. Unfortunately, there’s no training method that can guarantee that they ever will. It’s very important to negotiate a truce.

Types of aggressive behaviors

First, let’s understand the different types of aggression and what causes them.

Territorial aggression

This occurs when a cat feels that an intruder has invaded her territory.

  • A cat may be aggressive toward one cat (usually the most passive), yet friendly and tolerant with another.
  • Problems often occur when a new cat is brought home, a young kitten reaches maturity, or a cat sees or encounters neighborhood cats outside.
  • Typical behavior includes stalking, chasing, ambushing, hissing, loud meowing, swatting, and preventing access to places (such as the litter box, bedroom, etc.)
  • Female cats can be just as territorial as males.

Inter-male aggression

Adult male cats may threaten, and sometimes fight with, other males. This is more common among unneutered cats. They may fight over a female, for a higher place in the pecking order, or to defend territory.

Cats stalk, stare, yowl, howl, and puff up their fur (picture the arched back of the Halloween cat) to threaten each other. If one does back down and walk away, the aggressor, having made his point, will usually walk away as well.

If no one backs down, cats may actually fight. They may roll around biting, kicking, swatting, and screaming, suddenly stop, resume posturing, fight again, or walk away. If you see signs that a fight may occur, distract the cats by clapping loudly, tossing a pillow nearby, or squirting them with water. These actions can also be used to break up a fight. Keep your distance, and never put body parts in the middle of a fight; you could be injured.

Defensive aggression in cats

Defensive aggression occurs when a cat tries to protect himself from an animal or human attacker he believes he can’t escape. Lange Animal Clinic veterinarians suggest this can happen in response to the following:

  • Punishment or the threat of punishment from a person
  • An attack or attempted attack from another cat
  • Any incident that makes the animal feel threatened or afraid

Defensive postures

  • Crouching with the legs and tail pulled in under the body
  • Flattening the ears against the head
  • Rolling slightly to the side

Approaching a cat in this posture is likely to cause an attack.

Redirected aggression

Cats direct this type of aggression toward another animal, or even a person, who didn’t initially provoke the behavior.For example, your cat is sitting in the window and sees an outdoor cat walk across the front yard. He gets very agitated because that cat is in his territory. You pet him; he turns and bites you. He doesn’t even know who you are at that point—he’s so worked up about the cat outside that he attacks the first thing that crosses his path. It’s important to respond to this redirected aggression in a way that will keep both you and your upset cat safe.

Consult with a Lange Animal Clinic veterinarian

Your first step should always be to contact one of our veterinarians for a thorough health examination. Cats often hide symptoms of illness until they’re seriously ill; your aggressive cat may be feeling sick and taking out his misery on others.

If your cat gets a clean bill of health, consult with one of our veterinarians or an animal behavior specialist for help. A behaviorist will advise you on what can be done. You may need to start the introduction process all over again, keep the cats in separate areas of your home, or even find one of the cats a new home if the aggression is extreme and can’t be resolved.

Consult with one of our veterinarians about dietary products that may help reduce stress or anxiety in your cat.  Or, one of our veterinarians may provide a recommendation for a prescription that may help.   Never medicate your cat on your own.

What to avoid

  • Don’t count on the cats to “work things out.” The more they fight, the worse the problem is likely to become. To stop a fight in progress, make a loud noise (like blowing a whistle), squirt the cats with water, or throw something soft at them.
  • Don’t touch them, or you might get seriously scratched or bitten. Seek medical attention if you’re injured.
  • Don’t punish the cats involved. Punishment could cause further aggression and fearful responses, which will only make the problem worse. You could even become a target for redirected aggression.
  • Don’t add more cats. Some cats are willing to share their house and territory with multiple cats, but the more cats who share the same territory, the more likely it is that some of your cats will not get along with each other.

Cat friendship is a feline mystery

Many factors determine how well cats will get along with one another, but even animal behavior experts don’t fully understand them.

We do know that cats who are well-socialized (those who had pleasant experiences with other cats during their younger years) will likely be more sociable than those who haven’t been around many other cats.

On the other hand, “street cats,” who are in the habit of fighting with other cats to defend their territory and food, might not do well in a multi-cat household.

For over 45 years, Lange Animal Clinic has provided veterinary services in Pekin, IL and the surrounding areas for over three family generations. Our expert staff of Veterinarians, Veterinary Technicians, and Veterinary Assistants are trained to ensure the best quality medical care for your beloved pets-whether it be as a routine medical examination to more complicated surgical procedures. We are a small companion animal clinic providing services for dogs, cats, and exotic pets.

Dr. Colleen O’Rourke, owner and senior Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, takes great pride in making certain that every patient’s experience is handled with the upmost care, compassion, and economically in the best interests of our clients. Visit us at www.langeanimal.com.  

About Us 
Our Services
Setup an Appointment