When Pets Go Bad

What can an owner do to change a pet's bad behavior? When is time to get rid of a pet?

Dr. Amy Marder, of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, explains to CBS News This Morning how to evaluate a pet's temperament, correct bad behavior and decide if it's time for a new pet.

Chronic bad behavior - barking, biting, chewing or soiling - can quickly test that unconditional love between owner and pet.


Aggression: The most common complaint from new dog owners is aggression, says Dr. Marder, who serves as the society's vice president of behavioral medicine.

"The dogs we have in the shelter have minor problems that are correctable - things like jumping up or not walking well on a leash," she adds.

These problems are very treatable, Dr. Marder says. Many breeds are predisposed to aggressive behavior; the variety of kinds of aggression require different sorts of treatment, she observes.

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    For serious problems, she says, surgery or neutering can be considered as well as drugs and avoidance therapy. The less often you elicit a behavior, the less a dog will do it.

    Separation anxiety: This trait is expressed in destruction, ripping up the house, excessive barking and soiling. But it is often misdiagnosed, says Dr. Marder.

    Some put their dogs in a cage, where they can break out and hurt themselves, she adds.

    Dr. Marder points out that separation anxiety is such a big problem that one drug company has licensed a drug for its treatment. "Dealing With Dog Anxiety" describes some cases.

    The drug Clomacon, however, "is not a miracle cure," she says. "It should always be used along with a behavior modification. "

    For example, give your dog something to do. Give it a favorite "calm toy," filled with peanut butter or dog treats, or take your dog for a long walk before you leave the house.

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    Litter box problems: This is the most common complaint of cat owners, yet it is easy to fix by cleaning the litter box every day, Dr. Marder says.

    Excessive playfulness: The best method of treatment for a cat that's too playful is getting a second cat, suggests Dr. Marder.

    But playing with your cat for 15 minutes three times a day is also something you can do, she adds.

    Giving Up on a Petcolor>

    If an owner feels like he or she has tried hard, contacted a qualified behavior consultant or vet, and there is nothing else to do, it may be time to give up, she says.

    If an animal is too aggressive, read "Dealing With A Dog Attack," some tips compiled in connection with a 48 Hours broadcast.

    Sometimes if the animal is dangerous, the best thing to do is to put it to sleep.

    But if you're getting rid of a dog or cat for other reasons, contact animal shelters or sanctuaries such as a farm or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It will take pure breeds, she says.

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