Pets can’t talk to us, so their behaviour is their way of telling us if they are happy or not!

The experts at our Morningside store’s Just for Pets Pet Health Centre can help you to identify what your pet is trying to tell you and how you can help!

Many people don’t realise their pet’s annoying habits are not usually part of their personality and can be changed for the better if you know how! An informed and caring owner can help alleviate or stop behavioural issues. With good pet behaviour management techniques and tools you can help make both your pets and your lives happier.  

  • One of the most common reasons a dog wags its tail is because it’s either happy or nervous.
  • Punishing your pet by ‘rubbing its nose in it’ when it makes a toileting mistake will delay the learning process of toilet training.
  • Cats are clean by nature; provide a clean litter tray and they will use it.
  • Sometimes pain as a result of injury or joint issues can be the cause of behavioural issues
  • Boredom, loneliness, anxiety, pain, diet and genetic issues are common causes of behavioural issues in pets

Dogs and their behaviour

2 out of 5 households in Australia own one or more dogs.

Dogs thrive on companionship and need to engage in natural behaviours, ongoing socialisation and a nutritious diet to remain both physically and behaviourally healthy.

Dog breeds can also help determine some behavioural traits: terrier, working, sporting, hound, herding, toy and non-sporting.

Common behaviour problems in dogs

The most common behavioural problems seen in dogs are:

  • Pulling on lead
  • Excessive barking
  • Separation anxiety
  • Aggression towards people or other dogs
  • Resource guarding
  • Destructive behaviour
  • Disobedience
  • Toileting problems
  • Jumping up
  • Fears and phobias
  • Escaping from the yard
  • Begging at the table
  • Mounting and masturbation
  • Coprophagia (eating faeces)

Causes of behavioural problems in dogs

  • Poor or negative socialisation – provide your puppy or dog with positive, controlled exposure to other dogs, people and new experiences.
  • Not enough exercise – dogs need regular physical exercise to be happy.
  • Not enough mental stimulation – mental stimulation is essential for a well-balanced dog.
  • Health problems – health problems can cause behaviour issues.
  • Inconsistent environment – much like children, dogs need clear, kind and consistent instruction to learn appropriate behaviour.
  • Changes in routine – these can be stressful for your dog and cause it to feel insecure and act out.
  • Changes in diet – also like kids, this can have a huge influence on behaviour. Always feed your dog a high-quality diet. When changing foods, do so gradually over a week.
  • Genetic issues – behaviour issues can sometimes have genetic causes.

 Puppies and their behaviour – it’s normal for them but havoc for you!

Some of the ‘normal’ puppy behaviours include growling, biting or nipping, chewing, whining when alone, submissive urination and jumping up to lick faces.

These are perfectly normal for a dog but they can cause havoc in your home. Even though this problem puppy behaviour is ‘normal’ in the canine world, it doesn’t mean it’s okay or that you have to allow it.

Socialisation and healthy puppy development

Socialisation is extremely important for the healthy behavioural development of any puppy. The most critical socialisation period happens between 3-16 weeks of age and this lays a foundation for a well-balanced dog for life. If a puppy doesn’t receive proper socialisation during this period, it can grow up to be a shy, fearful or aggressive dog. Puppy school and obedience training are highly recommended. Even if you have trained your first puppy and now have your second,  attending socialisation classes and updating your own training with your second puppy is highly recommended.

Older dogs and their behaviour

As they age, dogs can suffer deterioration in their memory, ability to learn, awareness and senses of sight and hearing. This can:

  • Cause changes in their sleep-wake cycles, making them tired during the day but restless at night
  • Increase or decrease their activity level
  • Make them forget previously learned commands they once knew well
  • Increase their anxiety and propensity to react aggressively
  • Change their relationships with you and other pets you may have

Cats and their behaviour

Cats can experience behavioural challenges, and like dogs, there is usually a good reason for this.

Common behaviour problems in cats

  • Urine marking
  • Litter box problems
  • Destructive scratching
  • Aggression
  • Too much night time behaviour
  • Meowing and yowling
  • Suckling and licking people
  • Chewing, scratching or licking excessively
  • Biting
  • Stalking and predatory behaviour

Causes of behavioural problems in cats

  • Health issues and behaviour go together, so if your cat’s behaviour changes suddenly, it is time for a health check.
  • Fleas can cause your cat to chew, scratch, or lick itself incessantly.
  • A cat in heat is affectionate and vocal, alerting a potential mate of their fertile status.
  • A lack of cleanliness, especially in the litter box, can discourage a cat from relieving themselves there. Cats are clean animals by nature so make sure you clean the litter box clean. Have one litter tray per cat or a self-cleaning litter tray.
  • Unused energy may lead to your cat scratching at your furniture in order to play and work off energy. As well as providing toys you should always provide dedicated, size appropriate, cat scratching furniture or accessories.
  • Stress prompts health and emotional issues that result in changes of behaviour for your cat. Because cats use scent to calm themselves, a stressed-out cat often urinates around the house, or increases scratching behaviour.

Kittens

We all know kittens love to play. Through play, they improve their physical coordination and social skills. Kittens tend to have more energy than cats, so increased play helps your kitten (and you!) get a better night’s sleep. Lots of toys and climbing frames are available to help your kitten work off its energy!

Older cats

Older cats suffer a decline in cognitive and other functioning, with feline cognitive dysfunction, or FCD, affecting 1 in 2 cats aged 11 to 15 years and more than 4 out of 5 cats aged 16 to 20 years. This can:

  • Result in deterioration of memory, awareness, sight and hearing
  • Cause disturbances in sleeping patterns
  • Make cats forget learned habits they once knew well
  • Increase anxiety
  • Change their social relationships with you and with other pets in your home

How can we help?

Our pet experts can ask you questions about your pet and view your pet to see how they behave. We can review their lifestyle with you and talk to you about how to improve the common behavioural issues. We can also recommend excellent dog trainers or vets  if required.

The experts at our Morningside store’s Just for Pets Pet Health Centre can help you to identify what your pet is trying to tell you and how you can help!  Visit for a free 6 point pet health check today.