Dog Behavior Training: A Vet Tech Guide

Published on August 24, 2018 by

Have you stopped inviting over company because your dog jumps on people when they come to the house? Does your dog pull on its leash when you walk him? Don’t know why your dog barks so much. 3.9 million dogs are surrendered to animal shelters every year, according to The top reason for animals being surrendered to a shelter is bad behavior. As a pet owner it is important to take the time to forge a bond and a vet tech can help with this. A veterinary technician can learn how to educate the dog owner to train their dog with the Five-Step Positive Pro-Action Plan.

Five-Step Position Pro-Action Plan

Step 1 – Elicit & Reinforce – The easiest way to train a dog to behave well is to elicit a response, like getting them to sit or go to the bathroom in a specific location, and then reinforce this behavior. Start with a treat, something that is not their normal food and reinforce the positive behavior. Before long the dog will understand that doing the positive behavior will get a reward, even if it is just love from the dog owner.

Step 2 – Prevent and Minimize – If your dog pulls on their leash when you walk them, try to minimize and prevent this behavior. When the dog pulls immediately stop walking. When they let the leash loose begin to walk them until they start pulling on the lease. Eventually, the dog will associate a tight leash with the need to stop walking. If this doesn’t work right away, try using a halter lease that goes around the body. That way if the dog starts to pull on the leash they won’t choke themselves.

Step 3 – Meet Needs – Is your dog acting out because she is bored? Dogs that are left by themselves for long periods of time can get bored and you might find your favorite pair of shoes becomes the dog’s toy. If you leave your dog outside too much, they will drive your neighbors crazy with excessive barking. Make sure to give enough attention to your dog and supply them with toys. If you plan on leaving a dog at home every day, make sure they have another dog friend. The dogs will keep each other company and not get into any trouble while you are gone.

Step 4 – Use Take Away Method – If your dog jumps on everyone that enters your house, the best thing to do is to take away your attention. Try to ignore the dog when they get excited and as soon as they are not excited, try to teach them a command with a treat. No one should yell at the dog or even make eye contact but ignore the dog until it is relaxed.

Another situation that the take away method works is for barking dogs. The dog owner should not respond quickly to a barking dog, so they don’t associate the barking behavior with getting the owner’s attention. Dogs bark for many reasons including to play, to greet or as a warning. Barking can become a problem if too much attention is given to the dog while it is barking.

Step 5 – Minimize Discipline – Don’t get in a habit of using discipline for your dog as they may not directly associate the discipline with the bad action. Don’t yell or hurt the animal because this can only cause fear in the dog. A fearful dog experiencing even one traumatic event can cause the dog fear of a person or object. Focus on the elicit and response style of dog behavior training.

Causes of Bad Behavior in Dogs

As a veterinary technician, you will be working with dogs with bad behavior. It is important to get to the root of the behavior, so the dog owner can change it. Some dogs may exhibit bad behavior because of fear, anxiety and stress. Other reasons for bad behavior include cognitive dysfunction, conflict, fear, anxiety and stress, medical conditions, pain or territorial behavior. Regardless of the reason, a vet tech will need to work with the dog owner to identify the stimuli, reduce exposure to the stimuli and work to desensitize the dog from an item, event or place.

Cognitive Dysfunction – a syndrome that develops as a result of the aging brain in a dog. An aging dog may forget what they learned or have memory loss. Once decline happens in a dog it is irreversible. Dogs with cognitive dysfunction may become disoriented, decreased interaction with people and other pets, have a change in sleep cycles, forget that they are housetrained and have a change in activity level becoming either more or less active.

Conflict – aggression in dogs can come from wanting to be the alpha or dominant dog. Some aggression may arise between dogs when food is involved. The dog will use their survival instincts to guard and ward off attempts to take their food. Another case of conflict is the maternal instinct for female dogs that are guarding their offspring.

Fear, Anxiety & Stress – can cause a dog to exhibit bad behavior including barking, whining aggressive behavior, vomiting and diarrhea. Fear, anxiety and stress can cause weight loss or self-injury. Most fear in dogs is developed during adolescence when the dog needs to be socialized with both humans and dogs. The vet tech should help the dog owner identify the problem right away and work with them to minimize the fear. Fear and anxiety can worsen with each repeated experience. To reduce the dog’s fear, the dog owner should slowly desensitize the dog to the event or place to allow them to get over their fears.

Another reason for dogs to have anxiety is when they are separated from their owner. An anxious dog is not always noticeable as the dogs tend to just pace, pant, bark or whine. The veterinary technician should work with the dog owner before the dog does any major damage to furniture or other parts of the house and change the dog’s behavior through training.

Medical Condition – if the dog is sick they may be more likely to soil the house as they either have to go too often or are unable to hold it before they can get outside. Certain medical conditions can cause fear or pain, and this will cause the dog to change their behavior. A dog owner should take their dog to a veterinarian so that they can figure out a good course of action to diagnosis and treat the dog’s medical condition.

Pain – the dog will exhibit bad behavior when they are in pain to stop additional pain from happening or in anticipation of pain. A dog that fears getting a shot will show aggression even at the thought of the vet’s office.

Territorial Behavior – typically males or females in heat will mark their territory with urine. This can be overcome with complete housetraining to get the dog to break the habit and instinctual behavior of marking. The sudden marking by a neutered dog may be a result of a new animal in the house, an increase in stress or changes in the day-to-day routine. The vet tech can work with the dog owner to identify the reason for marking and try to re-housetrain the dog to stop marking.

Interested in learning more about dog behavior training? Ready to start working as a veterinary technician? With an associate degree in veterinary technology, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.


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