Pet Owner’s Complaints about Bad Behavior

We hear about many complaints about pet behavior from clients at our hospitals. Many behavioral problems with dogs and cats have an underlying issue that needs to be addressed so that behavior modification can be successful.

Talking to your veterinarian early can help increase the number of treatment options available and help prevent the behaviors from becoming worse. In severe cases, some of these behaviors can cause injury to you or your pet. Here are some tips to help get you through these trying times.

Excessive Barking

First and foremost, it’s important to identify the trigger(s) for barking. This can happen when there’s a knock on the door, someone or something passing by outside, or at meal times, etc. Once the trigger is found, try to minimize or control your pet’s exposure with methods like the ones below:

  • Keep your pet away from windows
  • Put your pet in another room while preparing his or her meal
  • Distract or keep your pet calm when you know the barking is about to happen
  • Give your pet a toy or a special treat; provide environmental enrichment
  • Teach your pet basic commands such as sit and stay
Barking can also be a result of anxiety, so the underlying cause should be addressed with your veterinarian.

Destructive behavior

Many damaging deeds can be caused by an underlying anxiety issue in dogs and cats, alike (e.g., separation anxiety, noise phobia). Much like barking, it’s important to find the trigger(s) and reduce stress as best as possible.

  • Keep your pet in a crate or small area of your home when you are unable to supervise it.
  • Replace an inappropriate object immediately with an appropriate toy.
  • Don’t discipline your pet after you find an area of destruction. Your pet won’t connect the discipline to the destructive behavior if time has lapsed.

Jumping up on people

Excitement is the usual cause of why your pet might jump up on someone. If you find yourself having to correct your pet more frequently in a new environment, or when guests visit your home, you’re not alone. Here are some basic ways to control your dog’s tendency to jump on people:

  • Provide environmental enrichment (e.g., play or exercise with your pet prior to your visitor’s arrival).
  • Use basic commands such as sit and stay when new people enter your home and allow contact to be initiated by your guest, but only when your pet is calm.
  • Keep your pet confined in a crate or another room until your guest is seated, and then only initiate contact when your pet is calm.


This behavior can lead to obesity, and more unfortunate consequences if left uncontrolled or not addressed. So, for your pet’s health and well-being, it’s important that this problematic behavior is nipped in the bud as early as possible. When you and your family are dining, you can control the situation by:

  • Putting your pet in another room or crate during meals.
  • Ignoring the begging behavior (all members of the household must be consistent with this).

Potty training

Understand that an underlying medical condition can interfere with your potty training efforts (e.g., urinary tract infection (UTI), lower urinary tract disease (LUTD), bladder stones, incontinence or a medical issue) as well as an anxiety component (e.g., separation anxiety). It is best to address these matters first.

  • Make sure your pet is confined when you are unable to directly supervise it.
  • Use the same area for potty training every time; praise or give your pet a treat when that area is used.
  • Don’t discipline your pet if you find soiled areas outside of the training area. Your pet won’t connect the discipline to the destructive behavior if time has lapsed.
  • Clean spots with an enzymatic-type cleaner to remove the scent.
  • Physically pick your pet up and immediately take to the appropriate area if you catch it soiling in an undesignated area.

Litter box

An underlying medical condition can interfere with your cat properly using the litter box (e.g., UTI, bladder stones, lower urinary tract disease (LUTD),  incontinence or a medical issue) so it’s important to address medical concerns first. And, if your cat can’t urinate, this can be an extremely serious and even fatal problem. If a medical problem has been ruled out:

  • Make sure the litter box is clean.
  • Have one more box than the number of cats you have in your household (two cats=three boxes).
  • Put the litter box in an area that is accessible to your cat.
  • Try different types of litter boxes and litter.
  • Use foil or plastic wrap on areas where your cat frequently goes. The change in texture can help to make going in that area uncomfortable.
  • Clean spots with an enzymatic-type cleaner to remove any scent.


The important thing to remember about aggression is that talking to your veterinarian early is key. Aggressive behavior is easier to treat early in the process instead of after it has become ingrained. If you can find the trigger for your pet’s aggression, all the better.

  • Use basic commands such as sit and stay, and control your pet with a leash to help manage the behavior.
  • Only initiate contact with your pet when it is calm.

Aggression can be a result of anxiety so the underlying cause should be addressed with your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian can work with you to find the underlying cause for the undesirable behaviors and design a treatment plan that is specific to your pet. Treatment may include medications, environmental enrichment and behavior modification.

An Optimum Wellness Plan Can Help

Knowing how to read your pet and spot red flags in their behavior is an important part of their preventive care. All of our Optimum Wellness Plans include unlimited office visits, so you can bring your pet in to discuss your behavior complaints with your local Banfield veterinarian.

Need More Information?

Visit our Behavior resource center or browse the selection of articles below for more information on preventing common behavior complaints.