Pet Behaving Badly? Call Your Vet First

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When a dog and cat begin exhibiting habitual bad behavior — say, repeatedly relieving themselves on your pillow or shredding your sofa's upholstery — quick-fix, halfhearted efforts are doomed from the start. What you need is dedication, patience and help from (a) your veterinarian and then (b) a pet-behavior expert.

Start With Your Vet

The first rule of solving any behavioral problem is to make sure it's not a medical problem. Health issues that cause or contribute to misbehaving pets must first be accurately diagnosed and treated with the help of your veterinarian.

Get to the Root of the Rebellion

Once you know your pet is healthy, a trainer or behaviorist can help you work on resolving the problem. Consulting an expert can save time, money and aggravation. Time, because someone with experience in animal behavior can quickly determine the root of the problem, without the emotional baggage that a pet owner may bring to the situation. Money, because a consultation or two is much cheaper than replacing a chewed couch or blitzed landscaping. And aggravation? Anyone who has ever lived with a problem pet — and that's most of us, at one time or another — understands how annoying it can be.

Behavior experts are not "trainers" in the sense of offering group obedience classes to sharpen a pet's manners. Instead, they work one-on-one with you to solve a specific behavioral pattern. Some are veterinarians, some have academic credentials in other fields, and still others have learned their expertise in "the school of hard knocks." Ask your veterinarian for a referral.

Above all, don't put off getting the help you need. The sooner you get help, the more likely it is that you'll be able to solve the problem.

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