When Good Behaviour Goes Bad

When it comes to pet behaviour, there's a saying we use in the veterinary world: "There's no such thing as bad behaviour, it's just normal behaviour in an inappropriate setting."

Put simply, this means what you may perceive as "bad behaviour" such as barking at the doorbell, is a normal response for a dog who is trying to alert you to the fact that someone is at the door (it's just not desirable from a human's point of view).

In some cases, 'bad behaviour' may actually be a symptom of something else that is wrong in your pet's world (such as a medical problem or pain).

When it comes to dealing with some of these issues, your vet is the best person to talk to. A behavioural consultation and exclusion of other medical issues are essential. Your vet will be able to put together a plan for your pet and make some recommendations to deal with inappropriate behaviour. Here are just a few of the more common behavioural problems in dogs and cats:


Barking: It's important to understand that barking is a normal way that dogs communicate. Dogs might bark to get attention, during play, hunting, territorial defence, and in fearful and anxious situations. Often finding the reason why your dog is barking is the best way to control it.

Destructive behaviour: Dogs do not destroy things vindictively and there are many other reasons your dog may be destructive including separation anxiety, boredom, inadequate exercise, investigation, fear or phobias. Often identifying the underlying cause for this behaviour is the key to fixing it.


Spraying: This problem is frequently reported by cat owners. It looks a bit weird but usually involves cats backing up against a vertical surface (such as curtains) and urinating. The behaviour is typically brought on by stress and territorial issues.

Scratching: Scratching is normal cat behaviour and is used to communicate or mark territory. It's something they must do and it can be easier to direct their scratching towards an acceptable surface, especially in the early stages, rather than trying to stop the damage later. 

Issues such as separation anxiety and stress can be big causes of behavioural issues in our pets and identifying root causes like these is sometimes the trickiest part. Sometimes the simplest answer is more time at the dog park, sometimes products such as Zylkene, Adaptil, Feliway and Complete Calm can make all the dfference. If you become stuck as to how to change these behaviours then we recommend making an appointment with your vet to rule out anything more serious.