I know it sounds a little crazy. Do you really need a shrink for your pet? For the average pet, maybe not. But for pets with behavior problems and depression, it could save their lives. Think of all the pets that end up homeless and in shelters because their families couldn't cope with their behavior issues. Consider pet psychiatry as a means to prevent this. This new year, get a fresh start by helping your pet to be happier and improving your relationship.
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How can you tell if your pet needs help?
Does your pet seem depressed and sad? Does he not seem to have an appetite anymore? Maybe he barks or whines every time you leave and you come back to find that he destroyed everything he could get his paws on? Or maybe it's just his aggressive behavior makes him dangerous to you, your family or your visitors.
The first thing to do if you think there is something wrong with your pet's behavior is to take him to a vet. The vet can determine if there is a physical reason that your dog or cat is acting out or seems depressed. If the problem isn't physical, your vet may then be able to suggest a pet therapist or an animal behaviorist.
What kind of help will my pet get?
A pet therapist or behaviorist may suggest a variety of treatments. Animal behaviorists have a lot of hands on experience dealing with pets and may try different obedience exercises and pet socialization to aid with your pet's problems. Pet therapists may suggest anti-depression medications for dogs who are depressed. Remember to never self-medicate your pet and let a professional prescribe any necessary drugs.
Why is my pet depressed or acting out?
Living in a domestic environment, your pet may be confused about his role in your "pack." Dogs need to understand who the alpha is in their household to control their aggressive impulses. Cats need clearly defined territory within the household and may resent change. Pets that live in a house without other pets can become very attached to their human owners and feel separation anxiety when their human companions seem to leave the "pack" everyday. It's not your fault if you pet has these issues, but pet therapists and behaviorists can help you find resolutions to these problems.
Where can I find an animal behaviorist?
Look for Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAABs) in your area. These are pet therapists that have had hands on experience dealing with pet behavior issues and supervised training at a universities. You can look for them online or ask other pet owners in your area to refer one to you. Check out the website for Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists at www.certifiedanimalbehaviorist.com.